How LinkedIn Learning Perfectly Fit Levi’s Need for a Global Learning Solution

April 4, 2019

See Levis experience with LinkedIn Learning.

Levi Strauss & Co. was founded in 1853, at the peak of the Gold Rush, in the untamed west. To this day, their brand still reflects that, as a pair of Levi’s jeans symbolizes rugged individualism and a bias toward adventure.

Interestingly, as well as it being the brand story, it’s also the story behind the brand – Levi’s culture also rewards new ideas, individualism and gumption. Partly for that reason, in 2017 the company had no real centralized learning and development team, and there was no company-wide training program.

“We were kind of like the Old West,” said Micki Raubitschek, who became Levi’s first real head of L&D in 2017. “Everyone was on their own, trying to figure out how to make things work.”

There were a few challenges with this. They included:

  • If employees did get stuck, they were forced to find their own means (Google, YouTube, etc.) to figure it out.
  • While Levi’s has always valued internally mobility, there was no tool to help employees learn the skills they needed to advance to the next level.
  • Levi’s is an international company. With no single learning platform, employees across the globe were having wildly different learning experiences.

Raubitschek and her team wanted to change that by investing in an online learning solution that would solve all their needs – provide that just-in-time learning while also supporting those bigger employee goals, like taking the next step into management. And, they wanted something that could scale globally, so all employees would have the same opportunity.

So, they started researching. After looking at 20 platforms, Levi’s elected to go with LinkedIn Learning.

The results have been fantastic. The company rolled out the platform to all 5,200 salaried Levi employees on Oct. 8, 2018. As of Feb. 1, 50% of employees have activated their license, completing an astonishing 23,000+ videos. It’s also saved Levi’s a “significant amount of money” in certifications alone, according to Raubitschek.

“LinkedIn Learning is like having a trouble-solver in your pocket,” one Levi employee emailed to the L&D team. “Every time you need to learn something new, you just have to look for it and you will have a bunch of good options that you have never imagined.”

Why Levi’s Invested In LinkedIn Learning: The Tie to LinkedIn

So why did Levi’s choose LinkedIn Learning, over the 19 other learning platforms they researched?

Yes, it had the content. Raubitschek and her team were already familiar with and knew about the strong course library LinkedIn Learning offered.

But the deciding factor was that Levi employees already knew and used LinkedIn. Since their main goal as an L&D team was to get a learning platform people would actually use, it made sense to pick a tool that was connected to a platform (LinkedIn) employees were already using.

And therefore, they’d be much more likely to use LinkedIn Learning.

“Where are people gravitating to already?” Raubitschek said. “Google, YouTube and LinkedIn. So that makes it a really easy convergence; it’s a lot less challenging to get people to adopt it.”

How Levi’s Rolled Out LinkedIn Learning to 5,200 Employees: It Started with an Insight-Gathering Pilot

Levi’s made the decision to test LinkedIn Learning in mid-2018. But, they wanted to see if employees would really use it.

“I am a penny pincher,” Raubitschek said. “I firmly believe in not spending money if the company is not going to use it.”

So, they piloted it with 500 employees. And, to make it a true test, Raubitschek didn’t game the system. In fact, she intentionally piloted it with two employee sets – an IT group and a global merchandising group – that were both extremely busy and arguably the least likely to use it.

Levi’s L&D team also didn’t overly promote LinkedIn Learning during the pilot. They wanted to see if people would use it naturally, instead of “bribing” people to use it, Raubitschek said.

So, how did the pilot go?

“Crazy good,” Raubitschek said. “Within the first three days, we hit the benchmark for the first month in terms of activation.”

“We had the pilot scheduled for five months,” she added. “And we knew within the first two months it was a go.”

That made the decision easy to invest in LinkedIn Learning for all 5,200 Levi salaried employees. But the pilot provided another benefit as well – it helped inform best practices for the company-wide rollout.

For example, some people were unsure how to get started on LinkedIn Learning, so the Levi L&D team created a video on where to start with the platform. The L&D team also learned about what courses best resonated to whom, which helped sharpen their course recommendations.

Then came the rollout to all 5,200 employees. While Raubitschek is a big believer in letting things happen organically, the L&D team (and others) did market LinkedIn Learning in these creative ways:

  • A themed newsletter, with learner success stories. Each month, Levi Talent Coordinator Caley Van Brunt sends out a learning newsletter to all employees. Two standout components of her newsletter:
    • There’s a theme. Each month, the learning offerings in the newsletter unite under one theme. For example, January is review season, so the newsletter features LinkedIn Learning courses and videos on how to set great goals.
    • Learner success stories. Along with learning offerings, Van Brunt often interviews an early adopter of LinkedIn Learning and puts their story in her newsletter. She asks them, among other questions, how they fit learning into their day and the value they’ve gotten from LinkedIn Learning.
  • Using it in lieu of expensive in-person training for certifications. Many members of the Levi’s IT team wanted to either earn or maintain their PMP® certification for project management. But that used to mean sending them to in-person courses, which is expensive to the company and inconvenient to the employee. Now, with LinkedIn Learning offering PMP® courses, the IT staff can earn their continuing education units around their schedule, for a fraction of the cost. “That is like a gift-with-purchase with LinkedIn Learning,” Raubitschek said. “We saved significant amounts of money just in the certification area alone.”
  • For the LATAM team, a particularly clever “learning passport” program. Talk about gamification. To promote LinkedIn Learning, Senior HR Advisor Rene Carranza created and delivered a physical “learning passport” to each employee in the Mexico office and distribution center. Then, when an employee finishes a course, they get a stamp in their passport (similar to a real passport, where you get a stamp for each new country you visit). This has gotten competitive among employees and has driven strong adoption of LinkedIn Learning.

The Results: One Centralized Learning Platform People Actually Use, a More Agile L&D Team and a Reinforcement of the Levi Culture

What are the results of LinkedIn Learning so far?

It starts with the engagement. The usage of LinkedIn Learning at Levi’s is far above industry benchmarks for activation and engagement at this point for any learning tool, as employees are flocking to the platform.

What does that mean?

Raubitschek talks about LinkedIn Learning solving for those two needs for employees globally – the “oh crap” moments where someone has to learn something at the moment, and the bigger career development pushes where people learn over the long term.

Interviews with Levi employees speak to both being served through their experience with LinkedIn Learning. Here are three unvarnished emails from employees to the Levi L&D team:

  • “LinkedIn Learning is especially nice to have when you don’t necessarily have the time or can meet the schedule for a traditional class. Continual learning is a great way to keep the brain young.”
  • “(LinkedIn Learning) is invaluable! I love having access to so much content for both professional and personal development and it’s all free to me to use.”
  • “It is great to have such a powerful tool with such a large list of courses that cover a range so wide of application fields. It is great to have them available from everywhere, including the mobile. And also great for our personal development.”

There’s a third benefit as well – LinkedIn Learning has empowered Levi’s L&D team to be more agile. Instead of hearing of a need and spending weeks developing a course, the Levi L&D team can now quickly create a collection of courses and immediately fill it.

That also gives the L&D team more time to focus on more strategic ventures, too. Like continuing to develop world-class managers, a focus for the organization as a whole.

“It’s helped unlock the L&D team to do more,” Raubitschek said. “It enables us to be more agile.”

Bottom line, Levi’s culture still maintains the Wild West attitude instilled by its founder Levi Strauss, where individualism and risk-taking are encouraged. LinkedIn Learning has only further bolstered that, as it provides a means for employees to learn the skills they need to accomplish the truly remarkable.

“One of the biggest learnings in my career is not to force people to learn what I think they should learn, but instead ask myself how do I help be a conduit and let them follow their natural path,” Raubitschek said. “And help shape it slightly, but let it emerge the right way. That’s how you truly build a learning culture.”