Growth is part of life at a tech startup, however, how it’s managed makes a big difference. Over the past few years, my company Ellation (formerly Crunchyroll), a digital media startup, tripled its headcount.

Along the way, we acquired a few companies abroad and discovered that trying to mesh these teams posed a new challenge for our People Ops & Talent team. Not surprisingly, our company culture was the first to feel the impact of these changes, and this fast growth caused employee engagement to take a dive.

To address the issues head on, we rolled up our sleeves and turned to learning & development as a key tactic to help ease our growing pains.

Using training to enable collaboration

Ellation builds next-generation video experiences and brings great content like anime to passionate audiences on the platforms that matter. Our mission is to create experiences for passionate communities to connect through the content they love! We firmly believe that we can help to redefine the next wave of media interaction and consumption.

In order to take our video streaming platform to the next level, we acquired a development firm based out of ​Chisinau,​ Moldova in Eastern Europe, because we wanted to augment front-end and web development. In addition, we wanted greater capabilities for QA/QE and felt that the Moldova team would complement our efforts well since this was also a function they were able to help Ellation with pre-acquisition.

The newly acquired team had proficient and skilled engineers. They used tools like Jira that we were using extensively. However, they did not share the same coding languages nor used tools the same way we did. This presented an opportunity to close a gap between processes and ways of working so the teams could contribute in full force towards product and engineering goals. To integrate the two teams, we not only needed to sensitize teams to their specific ways of working but provide a path to merge into a new way of delivering results while bridging gaps in hard skills.

As a first step, we provided access to Udemy for all our Engineering teams. This allowed motivated employees to self-learn. We then worked with Engineering managers to identify technical courses that best bridged the gap between the current competency and what skills were needed to keep the business running. We actively leveraged​ ​Udemy for Business courses in Golang, MySQL, Jira and Amazon Web Services to further build competencies of our Moldova and San Francisco teams with key back-end languages and tools, making it possible for our engineering teams to collaborate more effectively together.​

Listening and acting on what your employees say they need

While declining engagement isn’t surprising when a company grows rapidly within a short period of time, we wanted to get ahead of the engagement issue and find a way to boost employee happiness. So we asked our employees: what would help improve engagement at Ellation? Overwhelmingly, people wanted more learning and development opportunities to help them grow.

That’s when we launched Udemy for Business (in 2015) as our online learning platform. Udemy offers a great way for employees to acquire new skills to complete a project, develop their expertise, and advance their careers. We chose Udemy because we felt the content on Udemy was advancing at a faster pace than other learning platforms we had evaluated and provided more diverse and up-to-date learning content in the technical areas that matter most to us.

Since bringing on Udemy, we’ve come across some great employee success stories. The people at Ellation who learned on Udemy were able to acquire new skills and grow horizontally into new roles or take on more challenging projects. For example, Robert Avellar, a customer service rep turned iOS developer, is one of these great stories.

How Robert used learning to go from service rep to iOS developer

Robert had always been interested in software development, but never knew where or how to start. This all changed when we brought Udemy to Ellation. He explained, “Through Udemy, I was able to learn how to code with literally no technical knowledge. After learning iOS development, I helped with the Ellation iOS redesign, which is now being used by millions of people. It’s incredibly fulfilling to build skills in a field I’ve always been interested in and see its impact through my projects at work.”

These are the kinds of heartwarming stories that make us on the People Ops & Talent team excited to come to work every day. Our goal is to have this kind of impact with as many employees as we can.

Our engagement metrics went up

After introducing learning opportunities through Udemy, our employee engagement score improved by 18% over a two-year period. What’s more our employee NPS score jumped from -18 in 2016 to +8 in 2017. Because our engineering teams are the primary users of Udemy, it’s not surprising that they enjoyed the highest engagement scores across our entire company.

The proven business value of L&D

Investing in learning and development has made a huge difference in easing our growing pains at Ellation. We understand the important role L&D plays in a number of critical business initiatives including integrating teams, fostering collaboration, addressing key skills gaps, and boosting employee NPS and engagement. Over the next few years, we’re excited to invest more resources into our L&D programs and continue to use Udemy to help prepare our workforce for the many new challenges ahead.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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