WHSmith – Shifting Learning Culture

WHSmith is the UK’s most recognisable Bookseller, Stationer and Newsagent with over 600 stores on the British high street and a further 600 at airports, train stations, hospitals and motorway service stations.

The first store in the Smith family name opened in 1792 and the company, WHSmith, was created in 1928. Although Upskill People hasn’t been working with WHSmith that long, we are incredibly proud to partner with such a renowned brand and develop their ability to offer online learning to all employees.

The partnership with Upskill People began with changing the WHSmith culture to online learning. Next steps include implementing a new induction process and driving sales and service.

Changing culture to online learning

A company with the heritage and history of WHSmith has established patterns and ways of working. With numerous outlets and employing approximately 13,000 staff, WHSmith had to be sure that new ways of learning would meet the needs of their employees as well as integrating with their existing technology and systems. Undertaking the move to online learning had to be carefully considered in terms of what was right for the business today and in the future.

The HR team started a thorough investigation of the market assessing all options for delivering learning, and all different suppliers. Anthony Lawrence, Group HR Director at WHSmith, says,

“We assessed different suppliers and options. We even looked at building courses ourselves but soon recognised that we didn’t have the required expertise and time to handle internally. We were referred to Upskill People and they stood out with their expertise in superb content and their platform that could deliver a solution that was just right for us. This included creating bespoke learning and tailoring Upskill People’s off-the-shelf courses.”

Courses were also adapted for different legislation for the different countries in the United Kingdom and Ireland so all outlets could be covered.

The Learning Platform

Upskill People’s learning platform is robust, responsive and can integrate with existing technologies and systems. With every client having different systems in place, a planned and proactive implementation process is essential to take an online learning system live.

“A good partner is one that not only delivers a great solution but works hard to overcome issues. At times we had some challenges with our technology but Upskill People were always there and very proactive in providing solutions. Today, we have a robust system that simply works.”

Meeting the needs of employees

Any online learning system ultimately has to deliver real benefits. Anthony says,

“Shifting the way that people learn is a culture change. We had to move from a reactive learning culture to one where the store managers took ownership of their team’s learning. We now have a culture where our learning is instantly accessible, faster to complete, easy to analyse and completely auditable. Our people can see the results of their effort in learning and that’s incredibly rewarding and motivational.”

Facts & Stats

In the previous 12 months over 686,000 minutes of learning have been delivered, with courses completed in an average time of less than 30 minutes.

Post course surveys demonstrate that online learning is now embedded in the culture of WHSmith:

  • 81% of WHSmith employees enjoyed learning in this way
  • 87% said they learned knowledge and skills from the courses they could use
  • 89% commented that the courses were easy to use