The COVID-19 lockdown might have halted a lot of things around the world, but it didn’t stop the Salvation Army Trading Company (SATCoL) from launching their new elearning training programme.
Admittedly it required a ‘soft’ launch rather than the large, interactive one they’d planned – but the results are just as good.
SATCoL The Salvation Army Training Company launched The Learning Booth (referencing The Salvation Army’s founder, William Booth) on 14 May, seven weeks after lockdown was introduced. It contains 24 published courses and has had over 19,200 enrolments already.
We approached their Training & HR Manager, Sarah Trivett, and Learning & Development Officer, Tracy Smith, to learn more about how they overcame the impact of COVID-19 and discover more about the ways Nimble has supported them through this process.
SATCoL, the organisation
Salvation Army Trading Company (SATCoL) was established in 1991 to help fund The Salvation Army’s vital work with vulnerable people in the UK. It encourages the reuse and recycling of donated clothing and other household items through its nationwide network of 8,000 clothing banks and over 250 charity shops and donation centres. With the support of the British public, SATCoL has donated over £76 million to The Salvation Army in the last ten years.
Their work extends to other markets through their numerous divisions; Salvationist Publishing & Supplies (SP&S), World of Brass, World of Sound, Studio Music and R Smith & Company. SATCoL operates a diverse workforce, employing over 870 paid colleagues and over 3,500 volunteers, working at multiple locations throughout the length and breadth of the UK.
SATCoL’s training and development needs reflects their diversity. The varying levels of IT skills meant course materials, and the platform that hosted them, needed to be carefully selected. Whilst elearning wasn’t entirely new, it offered cohesion and sustainability as well as a way to create bespoke courses relevant to the company’s needs.
Results from an employee engagement survey in 2019 showed a healthy appetite for increased learning and development. Prior to the launch of The Learning Booth, The Salvation Army kindly provided access for a small group of SATCoL employees to a limited range of courses, but with content that was not relevant to SATCoL and slightly difficult enrolment systems, SATCoL needed something more. Sarah Trivett, Training and HR Manager set out to find it. The solution needed to offer ways to tailor make courses to suit the workforce’s diversity, its geographical challenges and the need for a centralised and structured training hub.
It led to a thorough procurement process. According to Sarah, “What was most important to us was to have a product, which would allow us to not only create our own bespoke courses, but also adapt those that were available to us. Being a not-for-profit company, obviously price was a major factor, but also the people involved in the process and the values of the company were also extremely high on the list.”
Nimble came out as the preferred option. Another reason turned out to be the company’s Customer Success Programme. Here’s what Sarah said, “It may be an old adage, but I believe it’s true, ‘people buy people first’. Throughout the procurement process I found the Nimble team to be friendly, yet professional and also very patient!”
Sarah highlights the way Stacey, her Nimble Customer Success Manager, took time to understand their business and configure the best way for Nimble to achieve their goals. Nimble Customer Success Manager Stacey Jeffries says: “Supporting Tracy with her course development and launch plans has been an absolute pleasure. She was hired around the time that SATCoL signed up to Nimble, and Tracy took this on as her passion project. Her commitment, speed of development and high standards are second to none, and she’s made Sarah, me and I’m sure all the learners at SATCol very proud.”
A soft launch with a determined attitude
Appointed to manage the platform and generate their bespoke courses, Tracy had used another platform but quickly adapted to Nimble. Why? “The Nimble software is easy and simple to use, it allows you to create course content very quickly. We wanted to create our own course content and not rely on off-the-shelf course material. I particularly like the enrolment wizard and the useful reporting you can get from the course analytics.”
Within five months of being in her post, Tracy authored 30 courses. The next stage of plans involved delivering basic IT skills training and face-to-face support until COVID-19 scuppered everything. With 80% of staff furloughed, Sarah and Tracy recognised the importance of supporting their colleagues’ mental health. Reaching out to everyone to offer that support, maintain some normality and mental stimulation was essential.
Tracy created an ‘Introduction to Elearning’ course, complemented by a step-by-step guide to help everyone navigate their courses. It aimed to build confidence and encourage engagement in those people who were new to elearning.
They announced the ‘soft’ launch through the company communication platform, newsletters and WhatsApp groups. Team meetings promoted The Learning Booth and subject matter experts contributed to course content. Even the Managing Director got involved with a message in the company’s induction courses.
The results from the launch show enormous satisfaction from the workforce. It includes 40 enthusiastic comments, voluntarily expressed via email or left on the company’s blog.
Tracy provides visible and accessible support, with her contact information stored on all the courses. In addition, she produces weekly analyses of learner engagement.
The pandemic meant changing plans but arrangements for the future of SATCoL’s training and development programme continue to aim high. It includes:
- An L&D Directory within The Learning Booth where courses, labelled as either essential or desirable, offer choice alongside compliance
- Engagement of the volunteer workforce of 3,500 people
- Developing methods for learner feedback, including another employee engagement survey in 2021. This will focus on establishing the level of success of the elearning programme.
SATCoL’s story shows how determination and innovation can see you through huge challenges. In addition, there’s evidence here showing the importance of learner engagement and how important it is to establish elearning courses as a positive form of support and empowerment, as well as offering choice. Last, but not least, its further testimony to the importance Nimble places on partnership. Nimble are there to help establish learning and development requirements and understand a company’s goals. But they’re also there when events threaten to overwhelm, such as in a global pandemic. But let’s hope we don’t see any more of those!