Learnings from launching our own learning initiative

Rob MacAllister Sep 28, 2018


In March, I wrote an article titled ‘How does a learning company launch a learning initiative’. In it I spoke about the launch of magpie, our own learning recommendation engine, to our entire staff.

To promote the launch we ran a campaign titled ‘Dogfood’, based on the idea in tech of using your own product, often called eating your own dog food. The c

ampaign name also tied in with the campaign strapline, “Do GF”. We called our product globalfilter (or gf for sort) internally. Therefore, #DOGF was born.

After 14 weeks, here’s an update on what we did, the results so far and most importantly what we’ve learnt from launching ‘Dogfood’.

I broke down my initial article into five sections, which I'm going to use again for easy comparison: Stop being boring, Harness existing communication channels, Incentivise Engagement, Schedule, Internal Champions.

First here’s some headline stats based on 14 weeks of the initiative:




1. Stop being boring

One thing that really helped us keep on our weekly schedule was inserting some fun into our communications. We sent out pun-laden emails every Friday to do with dogs initially and switched to birds (with the renaming to magpie).

We were excited to send them out each week just because coming up with new bird puns was clucking good fun. I don’t regret a single one of those puns, hearing staff chuckle 10 minutes after hitting send was always rewarding and our email open rates have continued to be sky high. (91.4%).




We’ve had great results throughout our initiative but not all weeks provided the results that we wanted. It’s easy to get bogged down when something doesn’t go exactly to plan but that little bit of fun ensured we always stayed on track.

2. Harness existing communication channels

Slack is pretty much Filtered’s religion, the average employee sent 1,492 messages in the last 30 days!

We’ve encouraged colleagues to share articles they’ve been recommended by posting content ourselves. We’ve also been heavily supported by our CEO who is easily the most prominent poster in the channel.

Slack’s been great at keeping momentum for our initiative and staff having really engaged with the content posted. Our learning channel, ‘#dogf’ is the second most popular company-wide channel with 27 staff members posting 316 messages in the last 30 days.


Slack has been great at driving conversation but we’ve found that email by far outstrips Slack for having an impact on engagement and getting staff into magpie and receiving their personalised recommendations.

As I mentioned in #1, we’ve been sending out weekly emails to all staff promoting articles and videos in magpie. However, we do also include external content if it ties into a team meeting or objective for the month. Interestingly, when we send an email that does not talk about an asset within magpie we get less than half the amount of learning within magpie the following week. When we bang the magpie drum, learning happens on the platform. When we don’t it happens but a lot less.




3. Incentivise Engagement

We’re still handing out £20 Amazon vouchers each month to the most ‘influential’ member of staff that’s either made a great recommendation, via our Slack channel, or sparked a debate about the product. To be honest, we’re not convinced that the incentives are the main driving force behind the engagement we’ve received from staff, it’s felt like a very natural process due to the company’s culture.

For example, in May we had the company’s longest Slack thread ever. It was about learning habits and how we could make both the content and product better. The person that started the thread ended up winning the £20 but I know that debate was sparked due to the passion of staff about what we do rather than £20. However, we do feel that the incentives have helped to reinforce positive behaviour and we plan to continue the rewards.

At the moment our usage stats are shaped like a pyramid, with senior staff accessing magpie the least and junior staff the most. I think this this is due to the level of the content within our version of magpie rather than lack of engagement but there is definitely room for improvement in engaging that segment of our team to access magpie and we’ll be thinking of incentives that to spur increased engagement.

Inevitably as usage slows down across our entire staff we’ll have to refresh our incentives to get people learning. But… what’s a better incentive than getting better at your job or learning a new skill?!




4. Schedule

We’ve done our very best to stick to our Friday email schedule but there have been one or two weeks where we haven’t had the time and we’ve had to send a Monday email instead. As I stated in point 2, sending this weekly email has consistently reminded staff to go back in and check out a few learning assets when they can.

One of the big pieces of feedback we’ve had from our staff is that they would like scheduled learning time. This is something that we’ve passed on to each department manager to discuss with their team and potentially roll out.

5. Internal Champions

Our CEO, Marc, has been our most prolific recommender of learning assets, That has been instrumental in developing a culture where spending 15 minutes watching a Ted talk is acceptable in the workplace.

However, our most impactful activity that drove staff to magpie, was a dedicated team meeting to discuss what we’ve all been learning via magpie and how we all found the experience so far. It was beneficial to both the customer success team to get honest feedback from staff, but also for our most engaged magpie users to share ideas on how they’re taking advantage of the platform.

The meeting spurred a 4x spike in asset launches on the platform and gave us our best performing week of learning after our launch week.

So what have we learnt?

  • We’re competing for people’s valuable time. We have to sell the benefits of what we’re offering and how it can directly help learners with their daily tasks otherwise we’ll be ignored.
  • As much as we like to think that everyone loves learning, you still need to push people along their personal journey and just because they accessed it once doesn’t mean they’ll come back.
  • The quantity of messages via channels like Slack and Yammer can become overwhelming so your communications can get lost in the noise. Work on striking the right balance for your company.
  • When you’re trying to spur someone into taking action, email absolutely rules.
  • Involve staff as much as possible to champion what they’re doing. Aim to make the initiative about them and the value they’ll receive by getting involved.
  • Staff love looking at stats and seeing their progress, we shared the link to our reporting dashboard in our weekly emails and we always had very high click through rates.
  • A little bit of fun goes a long way, for both your audience and yourself who’s doing the work.
  • Our staff prefer accessing learning via articles and videos rather than online courses. We’ll be updating our version of magpie with more assets of these types in the next few weeks.

If anyone has done something similar, I’d love to hear from you. Drop your comments into the box below or shoot me a message!


Tools we’ve used to get our staff to look at an average of 23 assets over 14 weeks, along with alternatives that your organisation might already be using:

  • magpie the magic that powers individuals’s personalised learning recommendations
  • LearningLocker - Providing our xAPI reporting feed and reporting dashboard
  • Microsoft Excel - For those nitty gritty data details (Alternatives - PowerBi, Tableau)
  • MailChimp - To create, send and report on our weekly dogfood newsletter (Alternatives - SendinBlue, ActiveCampaign or Customer.io)
  • Slack - To share learning recommendations and gain feedback from staff (Alternatives - Yammer, Jam Groups, Skype for Business, WhatsApp)

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Find other articles like this: This post is part of a series that my colleagues and I at Filtered are working on. It’s broadly about how recommendations help us to make sense of all the content clutter, especially in learning. Have a look at our other postshere.

New L&D community: We’ve recently launched a free new community for L&D professionals on Slack. Every Tuesday we’ll be holding live discussions at 4 PM GMT on topics including virtual classrooms, content curation, artificial intelligence and more.

Intelligent learning recommendations: Last year we launched a new tool to provide personalized learning experiences for L&D and HR professionals called magpie for L&D. It's an online recommendation engine with over 200 high-quality learning assets to read, watch, practice and apply for our industry. Click on the link above to try it out, or trial our version with 500+ assets for all professions here.

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