"Weekly reflections have given everyone the opportunity to say what is going well, what is a challenge, and where we are at. With Koan, we have brought everyone together and we now have everyone pulling in the same direction."
COO of Upskill People
Upskill People is an e-learning and reporting platform that is used by companies to train their employees on essential skills to help them succeed. Founded in 1994 and based in the United Kingdom, Upskill People enables individuals to excel at what they do with hundreds of elearning courses on everything from health and safety, food handling, and compliance best practices to customer service, sales, leadership, and management skills. In addition to their courses, they also offer ways for companies to create and customize video training courses specific to their organization.
Upskill People’s mission is to unlock people’s potential to make them shine through online education, and they do this at a large scale. With roughly 250,000 active learners across the globe, they deliver about 4 million courses per year offered in over 30 different languages and at any given time.
The Upskill People team turned to the OKR methodology in 2019 when preparing for a major business pivot. Upskill People was in the process of developing Managing People, what would later become their flagship premium product and would operate as a pioneer in a blue ocean. Upskill People’s COO, Les Thomas, was looking into ways to align his team amidst this transition when he and his team read the book Measure what Matters by John Doerr.
After learning about OKRs, Les and the team began to use the methodology and started using an OKR software tool; however, they still struggled with creating outcome-focused OKRs and the tool they were using was making their OKR process more challenging, rather than simplifying it. Searching for some guidance, Les then began to work with the OKR expert consultants at There Be Giants, who helped the organization to hone its OKRs strategy and create a sustainable routine around reporting on goals. After they established a foundation and implemented their OKR strategy, There Be Giants suggested that Upskill People use Koan to bolster their OKR management and tracking capabilities while also simplifying their reporting process.
As soon as the Upskill People team switched from the previous OKR software tool to Koan, they noticed huge improvements to their OKR program. Not only helping to simplify the process, Koan also helped to create a routine around goal collaboration and reporting. In contrast, they immediately found value in Koan’s built-in status tool, Reflections, which enabled the team to review and discuss goals at a weekly cadence, ultimately functioning as a driving force behind the team’s alignment.
Prior to adopting Koan, alignment was a big challenge for Upskill People. Split between two offices based on departmental function, the team not only faced the challenge of a geographic divide, but it also had a functional divide that made organizational communication and visibility difficult.
We have a basic split between the creative and the delivery side of the business --not just a geographical split, but also a skill set division. The two groups are completely different, and it was a real mixture to try to bring together.
Les explained that this divide made it challenging for team members to work together because in addition to working remotely, employees didn’t have a full understanding of their colleagues’ roles and they didn’t know what other departmental goals were.
Koan’s Company Homepage and Reflections features have helped to mend this divide by giving the whole team a view into the company’s high-level goals and progress. Koan’s Company Homepage, which centralizes the organization’s mission, strategy, and high-level OKRs, gave the team a better understanding of what their top priorities were and how their collective efforts pushed those goals forward. The Reflections feature also enabled the team’s visibility by asynchronously allowing team members to share what they are working on and to offer support.
Weekly reflections have given everyone the opportunity to say what is going well, what is a challenge, and where we are at. With Koan, we have brought everyone together and we now have everyone pulling in the same direction.
The Upskill People team completes their weekly reflections on Friday afternoon, reads each other’s reflections on Monday morning, and then they discuss any priorities or concerns at the company meeting on Monday. This process increases the quality of company meetings by highlighting essential discussion points before beginning the meeting so that the team can focus their time together on what really matters.
Weekly meetings and Reflections bring everyone together and now the team is more aligned. We are all focused on the same OKRs and people will now say that they understand what other people in the company are doing.
As noted by Les, in addition to bringing alignment and understanding to the team around goals and priorities, discussions around Reflections also function to increase focus by helping individuals to sort out priorities. These discussions don’t only increase productivity for the upcoming week, but they also give the team an opportunity to proactively identify and solve for roadblocks early-on.
In addition to aligning the Upskill People team, Koan has also helped individuals and their departments to focus on their priorities and measure their success. Les explained that departments such as customer success, sales, and project management have all directly benefited from Koan by having clearly articulated targets with due dates that are updated on a weekly basis. Koan’s Confidence Ratings feature has also been a major asset for Upskill People’s performance because it provides insights into potential issues on progress ahead of time.
Confidence Ratings are a good measure to give us visibility and early warnings if we are struggling. As long as we know about a problem, we can manage it and work our way around it.
By providing the Upskill People team with a means to articulate and measure company goals, share progress, identify and solve problems, and celebrate wins, Koan has helped to increase the organization’s overall focus and alignment, ultimately driving the business to higher achievement.
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