Service Partners is the single-largest distributor of insulation products and one of the largest building material distributors in the United States. The company prides itself on providing significant value to customers through exceptional service, reliability, and accessibility via their integrated national distribution network of over 75 locations across the country. Since opening its doors in 1998, the company attributes its growth to a driving mantra: Customers at the forefront.
The Service Partners business model is unique. While the organizational structure is relatively flat, they encourage an entrepreneurial spirit among employees at all levels. Leaders at Service Partners believe that their organizational success depends on individual employees thinking outside the box and making high-quality decisions in order to build strong customer partnerships. They understand that their people are the absolute front-line of the company, working with customers to solve their needs and deliver an outstanding experience.
Service Partners is committed to providing professional development for its people for two reasons. First, to demonstrate to employees that they are worth the investment and have opportunities to develop professionally and personally as a member of the team. Second, they found that there was a linear correlation between employee development to customer satisfaction to the overall success of the company. “When our customers grow, we grow,” says Chuck Lencheck, Sr. Vice President Channel Development.
“When [customers] turn to us to help them grow their businesses, we want our people to be a resource for them,” Lencheck explains. “If we don’t train our people, it’s difficult to offer that level of service to customers.”
But with operations in all 50 states and employees scattered across the US, Service Partners’ ability to train over 300 of their targeted employees in an economical and efficient manner was limited. The company’s experience in traditional learning had produced mixed results. Having employees sit in a conference room for a few days, diving into a topic with unpredictable reinforcement through the year, didn’t seem to result in as much information retention as they’d hoped. Additionally, the indirect costs of traditional learning for a company the size of Service Partners—the cost of flights, hotels, per diem, and time to gather employees in a centralized location—drew a large portion of budget away from the actual learning to the logistics of learning.
Then Service Partners found out about microlearning.
Microlearning “makes all the sense in the world for our business model,” says Lencheck. By providing employees with short bursts of information on a regular basis, Service Partners found that information was being retained at a much higher level. They also wanted the ease of selecting a year-long program with a diversity of professional development and business acumen content, which Blue Ocean Brain readily provides. “It gets folks out of the world of insulation and lets them think about good business principles in general,” says Lencheck. How do I work on a team? How do I engage with customers? How do I improve my leadership skills? All these types of lessons are broadly applicable to their diverse population of employees.
In addition to the off-the-shelf professional skills content delivered via the Blue Ocean Brain learning environment, Service Partners opted to include a space for custom content specific to their company. This allows Lencheck and his team to build lessons that are directly related to Service Partners’ learning initiatives.
Initially, Service Partners rolled out a Blue Ocean Brain solution that provided employees with three microlearning lessons a week. After an overwhelmingly positive response, learning leaders increased delivery of Blue Ocean Brain to four times a week, and added an option for employees to choose to receive a lesson every day. While the initial learner population was focused on their inside sales force, they quickly expanded their microlearning offerings to their outside sales teams and branch operations managers.
The driving force behind choosing Blue Ocean Brain as their microlearning provider can be distilled down to one word: flexibility. For leaders, that flexibility comes in the form of content customization options. Lencheck appreciates that they can select and review important lessons that Service Partners really wants to promote to their employees. For learners, the flexibility to consume microlearning wherever and whenever they want through the Blue Ocean Brain mobile app is a huge plus. With hundreds of employees working outside a traditional office work environment, providing lessons directly to people’s devices, ready to be read at their convenience, provided a level of accessibility Service Partners needed to be effective.
Lencheck couldn’t be happier with the service his company is receiving from Blue Ocean Brain. Thanks to Blue Ocean Brain’s reporting feature, learning leaders at Service Partners know that over 90% of their team are participating with the lessons they are receiving. “We don’t have to guess whether employees are liking it or not,” Lencheck says. The statistics are right there for him to view.
Learner traffic to their custom tile is close to 100%, so they feel confident they have direct access to their employees and now have an effective way to reach them with mission-critical training.
Lencheck believes that the style Blue Ocean Brain employs also plays a part in getting employee buy-in. “The writing is excellent—it’s an easy read, even on serious topics,” he says. “They’re written in a light-handed way, which makes them enjoyable.”
Service Partners employees also love the competitive nature of the leaderboard—while there are no external rewards for reading more lessons and moving up the board, the natural competitive nature of their employees drives them to want to learn more. Plus, Service Partners resets their board every quarter, meaning even employees far down the board have a chance to reach the top the next quarter.
“Blue Ocean Brain helps us reach our people with learning that looks at the broader world of business,” Lencheck says. “The messages are inspirational and aspirational. Blue Ocean Brain is an incredible value.”