Employing over 46,000 people, Mitchells & Butlers is the umbrella brand for over 1,700 pubs, restaurants and bars in the UK including All Bar One, Harvester and Browns.
A destination environment to pull learners in
Like many group businesses, Mitchells & Butlers’ employees don’t usually associate the group business as their place of employment, but rather a particular chain or local pub. However, being a part of the group is one of the unique value propositions and something few competitors can offer. They wanted a learning environment where everyone felt they were a part of one big family and also made it clear what’s great about working for the group. It needed to be inclusive, engaging and really pull their learners in.
The existing solution was far from achieving that. So Mitchells & Butlers approached Totara Partner Kineo to create more engaging content that was mobile responsive - but an initial investigation suggested their big challenge wasn’t the courses, it was the LMS. Mitchells & Butlers made the decision that what they really needed was to start afresh with a platform that was quicker to implement changes, was mobile responsive, and adapted to their needs.
A key element was to develop a solution that combined social elements seamlessly with a learning platform. Mitchells & Butlers already had a flourishing social network on tools like WhatsApp and Facebook groups. With the opportunity to reimagine their learning platform, they wanted social learning to be the central and leading force.
Mitchells & Butlers wanted their learning to:
- pull the learner in and facilitate collaboration
- be available whenever and wherever learners needed it and be truly responsive for mobile devices (with a mobile-first design philosophy)
- be interactive, spontaneous and intuitive
- promote learning at the point of need, to provide resources for performance support and be bite-sized for their learners to complete quickly in their fast-paced working environment.
A one-stop-shop learning platform with personality
Mitchells & Butlers’ learning solution is among the first of its kind. Partnering with Kineo and Totara to push boundaries, the solution harnesses the power of Totara Social and Totara Learn to create a seamless and interactive learner experience.
Though the vision was ambitious, Kineo was able to bring Mitchells & Butlers' ideas to life. The solution is designed to tap into the social nature of their learner demographic and industry by putting social learning front and centre.
The approach ensured it appeals to those who are both technologically averse and technologically apt by making the Mitchells & Butlers Learning Environment (MABLE) relatable. Mable, as the system is more affectionately known, is the heart and soul of their learning efforts and is personified as a feisty little old lady who loves hitting the gym more than Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the 80s.
Mable is all over the system – because she is the system
She takes learners from couch potato to gym instructor. When it comes to the training, Mable is sassy when she needs someone to complete compliance, but loveable and encouraging when people need support. For Mitchells & Butlers it was important that even the stuff people have to do is engaging and it’s Mable’s personality (plus a liberal sprinkling of points and badges) that pulls learners in.
The learning environment, put simply, is fun. Learners enter through Totara Social, where they are met with the latest feed of activities and a clear invitation to get involved. The solution was designed so all courses have likes and share functionality. Badges and learner scores have an algorithm to keep learners on their toes. This has incentivised learners to share their scores and discuss courses and their badges on the forums. When learners undertake new courses or are added to learning pathway, they are also added to relevant forums so they can get the support they need from people going through the same learning.
Extensive use of some sophisticated audience rules ensures that every learner sees the right collection of learning for them and the learning journeys are designed to provide a next step for those wishing to push themselves further.
The solution is an all-in-one for their learners – a one-stop shop. There is information on discounts, benefits of the group, and resources at the point of need. Mable is inclusive to everyone across the business, making it clear that being a part of the group business has perks the restaurant down the street can’t offer.
An innovative approach
Reflecting on when Mitchells & Butlers decided to partner with Kineo, Katie White, Learning Design and Programmes Manager, stated that Kineo was the only company that demonstrated innovation.
“We hadn’t allowed ourselves to be constrained by the realities of what was possible and had some really out-there ideas. Kineo were clued up about current thinking in learning and design and just as willing as us to get creative. They absolutely bought into what we were trying to achieve and and were really honest about what was possible now and in the future. It was their open, enthusiastic collaboration with us that helped to turn our wild ideas into an innovative reality”.
A massive culture shift and measurable results
Though the team thought Mable would be the icing on the cake, she has in many ways become the cake itself. She’s a sweet yet bossy persona that ‘could get away with murder’. The L&D team interacts with learners as Mable, and everyone in the business adores her and loves her encouragement, even going so far as to ask her for more learning. Mable, coupled with a great user journey and the interactive and social elements, has made the system an 'overwhelming success' for the L&D team.
As for business impact, there has been a massive culture shift and ROI. Digitising safety refresher training and taking the content design and system administration in-house has delivered meaningful material cost savings.
Compliance rates have reached 89% so learners are engaged in the content - but crucially the content is having an impact on key business measures too. For example, although norovirus incidents are on the increase, following refresher training Mitchells & Butlers saw minimal disruption to business in 2017/18.
Digitising menu training saw food quality scores increase by 5% across the board (compared to a traditional drop as teams become accustomed to a new menu) and this score is actually significantly higher in locations with high learning engagement levels.
With their new solution, learners are re-taking compliance training to get higher scores and a month into the system going live, several people had already done all available training in the system. Within the first week three-quarters of general managers had logged onto the system, and engagement has been driven from early adopters as word has spread.
In the first month, there were over 20,000 logins and 15,000 points issued to learners. In the first year there were 434,389 course completions, 23,2667 minutes of video watched, 19,749 connections made and 2276 forum posts made.
At the end of the first year course completion and social participation meant that Mable awarded over 370 million points. There are over 100 forum topics, 2276 forum posts and over 2,000 members in the open groups – which learners don’t have to join unless they want to comment. Access via mobile devices and tables is at 40% and learners are consuming content in bite-sized chunks, typically staying on Mable for eight minutes.
People are asking for more training, ways to earn higher scores, and are engaging with L&D in ways they never have before. Learners are sharing screen grabs of their scores and badges and learners are asking for more training.
“Engagement levels have been phenomenal and people are really getting into it. We are seeing some tangible, commercial results, but more importantly our learners are loving it. I have been asked on several occasions to ‘release more points’ because the learners have done all the learning they can find. We never thought that would happen, this means they are going beyond the mandatory learning assigned to their job and consuming all the developmental activity too. We are now trying to keep up with the demand for more content while encouraging our learners to create more of their own – it’s a nice problem to have”.