HarperCollins’ Challenge

Ben Muzzell
Ben Muzzell
October 16, 2017
HarperCollins’ Challenge

“Three months in we had 80 percent of people viewing at least one piece of content on Looop. 80 percent of the business would never have taken part in face-to-face training; it might have been 30 or 40 percent in the old model. That increase is hugely significant.”

Jo Taylor, Learning and Development Consultant, HarperCollins

Embracing A Digital Learning Strategy

When it comes to adapting traditional business models to modern technology, HarperCollins are leaders – not followers.

As the second largest book publisher in the world, HarperCollins was the first trade publisher to digitise their content and create a global digital warehouse, now boasting a print and digital library of over 200,000 titles.

The company has made a push to adopt a strategy of keeping things simple, digital and affordable in order to compete over the long-term.

That’s why, upon review of the company’s learning and development programs, HarperCollins’ UK division saw a need to apply the same philosophy.

“The organization had been through a lot of change in terms of their business model. They were challenged to cut costs and improve the efficiency of their learning and development programs, which meant finding a new approach.”

Jo Taylor, HarperCollins Learning and Development Consultant.

“With our previous system, we were only able to reach a minority of our employees. The offering tool was too workshop based, it was not creating the community of learning we strove for.

“What we needed was a more bespoke digital and physical development platform that could reach our employees across multiple sites and provide a more on-demand L&D experience – like a YouTube of learning.”
John Athanasiou, Director of People, HarperCollins UK.

The challenge of reducing spend while improving engagement and retention was a daunting one, but Jo knew it could be possible if the company found the right approach and technology to put learning in the hands of staff when and where they needed it.

“We wanted to move our strategy away from analogue, face-to-face learning and towards a digital, self-directed mindset.”

Their method of face-to-face training was inefficient and heavily reliant on in-class sessions. Worse, the distribution of training depended on a permission-heavy process that slowed learning to a crawl.

“The old system was a simple online portal for booking sessions. There was no element of content at all – it was just a course booking system. It was very permission heavy. Employees had to ask permission to take a course, then wait to see if their manager approved it and then wait again until the course was full before it could be offered. It was incredibly time consuming and frustrating.”

To successfully transition HarperCollins to a digital learning strategy, Jo needed a partner who was willing to help her not only master the technology, but collaborate with her to create effective content for the online medium.

“I knew I needed to present a partner with the full package, somebody that was willing to truly partner with us. And I knew that was what we would get with Looop.”


Revamped Training With An ‘Inside-Out’ Approach

Jo approached David James (Looop Chief Learning Strategist) for his insight.

“I knew David from years ago when we were both with different organizations. I picked David’s brain about what was great out there in terms of learning and development and he introduced me to Looop”

After demoing Looop, Jo saw how the platform could help her client not only reduce spend, but improve the quality and accessibility of their training.

“Looop was very cost effective. The pipeline of innovation Looop brought to the table is something I wanted to be a part of. They offered the opportunity for the true partnership that I had been seeking.”

Jo was sold, but with a number of competing products under consideration, she needed to prove to her client that Looop was their best option.

To showcase exactly what Looop was capable of, David created a fully functional “test site” for John and the team at HarperCollins so they could experience the platform firsthand. John says:

“I loved that we can reach the entire company via the portal with the push messaging and that employees are able to create content and share it with the company.

I also really liked that Looop gave us the option of running closed groups. That feature has given us the ability to use Looop for our millennial program ‘Gen.HCUK’ to drive the cohots to blog to share their ideas with one another – whilst creating an experience for the guys on the program.”

Looop’s innovative ‘inside-out’ approach spoke directly to HarperCollins employees by highlighting the jobs they are doing and the jobs they want to be doing within the company, without any generic ‘learning’ content.

Ultimately, it was Looop’s ability to easily create customized content and accommodate multimedia such as video that won John and the other stakeholders over. Jo says:

“What stakeholders didn’t understand initially is that we were going to create and curate our own content on Looop that had a HarperCollins feel. Once John had played with the program and saw the videos we had shot on an iPhone, he got it – and he loved it. Now he’s as much as a user as anyone else. He’s the first to go searching for content. He’s very hands on, very authentic in that way.”

With John on board, the real work began.

Together, Jo and David discussed a strategy that revolved around creating content for five customized content “hubs” specific to HarperCollins – Transmedia, Leadership, Innovation and Careers.

“I ran through my plan with him and he gave me feedback on where he thought I was missing something. He even looked at the content in each of the hubs – his feedback made a massive impact.”

This digital learning strategy ensured that employees could quickly find the exact information they needed, empowering them to direct their own learning in a way that was not previously possible.

For HarperCollins’ staff, it was a huge change from the permission-heavy training process of the past.

“We’ve made it more pick and mix: if you’re not interested in developing your career then you don’t need to go on the career hub; if you want to know what’s going on in editorial, there’s a whole hub for that. It’s very much built in the model of making sure that the skills, behaviours and attitudes are realized within the organization – helping the bottom line as well as the values.”

Jo could rely on David’s expertise when creating the digital learning content, especially as she worked to make customized multimedia elements a larger part of the company’s program.

“David was very helpful in terms of walking us through how to create content, giving us great examples as well as being on hand if we got stuck. He came over and gave us an online tutorial on how to create content. He helped me break down how to have conversations with each hub to get the most out of them.”

David wasn’t the only member of the Looop team willing to step in and lend a hand. CEO Ben Muzzell also proved help to Jo as she was transitioning.

“Ben was great on the back end and liaising with the technical aspects and uploading the data. Looop really supported us through the entire process: they said they would and they did. They were always available when I called.”

Looop acted as both consultants and collaborators, not just platform providers, and that made a tremendous difference as Jo led HarperCollins’ transition into digital learning.


A More Engaged Staff At A Much Lower Cost

Looop’s platform has allowed HarperCollins to transition from 100 percent face-to-face training to 60 percent digital.

Most importantly, HarperCollins employees responded extremely well to the change in delivery and accessibility. John says:

“Now with Looop and iDevelop we can reach about 80% of our employee base. Our employees are now able to learn anytime, anyplace, on any device/medium.

“Eighty percent of the business would never have taken part in face-to-face training, it might have been 30 or 40 percent in the old model. The increase is hugely significant,” continues Jo.

“Looop has totally transformed our learning experience. We have gone from 20th to 21st century learning with a more modest budget and better ROI,” John adds.

With such impressive initial numbers Jo anticipated a drop-off in use in the months that followed. To her delight, usage remained remarkably consistent during the second quarter – a telltale sign that Looop had struck the right cord with learners.

“We’ve retained 93 percent of our initial users. Of the initial 80 percent of our employee base who were using Looop, 76 percent have continued after six months. I was expecting a much more significant drop. I’m quite proud of that; it shows that Looop is definitely working.”

Jo attributes sustained employment engagement to Looop’s innovative “inside-out” approach to training and development.

“The thing that has really worked at HarperCollins is bringing learning inside out – generating content internally, rather than curating content externally. I thought we’d be sourcing much more content externally, but we’ve flipped it around, which is why I think we’ve managed to sustain our numbers.”

Jo hopes to take user engagement to another level next quarter by introducing a new hub which will allow users to create and share their own content.

“We are hoping over time that we will be able to have more and more people within HarperCollins creating content, starting with the Gen.hc.uk hub early next year.”

Looop’s ability to enable HarperCollins to create their own content has made such an impact on learning and development that their offices outside of the UK have begun to take notice.

“I think some of the stuff we are doing is cutting edge. The ability to create content in Looop has been a differentiating feature for us. It’s something John is now looking to introduce to HarperCollins worldwide, not just the UK.”

Having found the ideal partner in Looop, Jo is excited for the future of learning and development at HarperCollins.

“With Looop I feel like I have a real partnership. They support me and I feel invested in. Looop helped learning and development become something that people value beyond just something they think they should have. It’s agile, forward focused and really easy to maintain and navigate. It feels 21st century.”

Looop helps leading brands achieve better business results. To talk to an expert about your digital learning strategy, book a demo today.

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