Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 191. Today we have Nicole Wolfe on from Preply, to talk about the business case or the use case of their enterprise solution.
Nicole is the VP of Enterprise Sales & Account Management.
Preply is a language app where you learn real skills by taking private lessons with online tutors.
Show length: 26 minutes
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Music: Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. You are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Nicole on from Preply, to be learning about the business case. So the use case of Preply, especially their enterprise solution. So without any further ado, Nicole, would you do us favor and introduce yourself and Preply?
Nicole Wolfe: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on.
William Tincup: Sure.
Nicole Wolfe: I’m Nicole Wolfe, I am the VP of our enterprise sales function here at Preply. Preply started about 10 years ago as a bit of [C 00: 01: 02] product, helping people who needed support with language learning skills. Whether it was for personal use for professional use, maybe it was kids tutoring, and we have about a hundred thousand tutors across the globe. And it’s a really… COVID probably helped us accelerate that growth a bit more. And my focus over the last few months or so has really been on our enterprise business. And I know that’s what we’ll talk about here today. And we focus on supporting businesses who are looking for language solutions for their employees.
William Tincup: I love it. So when we talk about language solutions they could be… We can apply that in a number of different ways, especially like if we’re talking about certifications and things like that. So let’s unpack that for a business that’s looking at the enterprise solution and they have some language learning, I’d say difficulties, that’s not really the right word, but challenges that they’d like to overcome. How does the enterprise solution… How does Preply work with them?
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah, it’s interesting. So, as I mentioned, we were a consumer product for the last 10 years or so. And during COVID, we actually started getting quite a number of organic inbound interest from companies who were looking for solutions that allowed their employees to still maintain their language learning no matter where they were, right? People were working from home, they were moving all over the place. And so we quickly spun this up based on our… We already have such a broad network of tutors available online. We’re teaching in 50 different languages, they’re in 185 countries. So there’s really no shortage of options for these employees that are looking for different language solutions. So what we found is, there’s four different use cases within our solution that we find most of our companies are looking for.
So when we think about that, that means something like, “Hey, we really just need this as a benefit. Our employees want to be able to take language learning, they’re moving from one country to another, and they want to improve their speaking skills in Spanish for conversational purposes, more as a benefit.” But the other pieces that we started to see trends towards were these specific needs that businesses were looking for. So this could be, “We now have a team of engineers based in Poland, and we’re having challenges, communicating with our team in France. Can we help upskill the team so they can communicate better?” There’s also some interesting cases where a company maybe acquired another company in a different market, and it’s been very challenging for the teams to connect. And then there are other specific cases you can imagine you have a really strong performer based in a specific market. You think, “Great, we’re going to go replicate what he or she did in this market in a different market.”
And then they just fall flat because they don’t have a lot of the cultural or language nuances that might be needed in those markets. So we started to see a lot of these business cases and many of our companies are really using us as their main source of communication training across their employee base. So they may have, so maybe English is the main language and they have employees that might be conversational English speakers, but they don’t have that deep business language, right? If you’re an accountant, you may not have learned accounting English, for example. And so this allows people to take their language training to the next step in whatever need that might be. So it’s a really wide range of options and solutions based on what the company requires. But Preply is really a nice solution because we have such broad tutor bases, so many different languages that are supported, so many different subject areas that it really allows us to create a custom solution for those employers based on what those business needs might be.
William Tincup: Well, let’s start with the benefit one, because I think it’s the easiest for folks to understand because they’re trying to retain talent and they want to offer up benefits that just make sense for their employees. And I want to learn Spanish and that one I think is super easy. The community… The other three, those are really, really interesting to unpack, and probably more nuanced for the practitioner to understand how they could work with Preply. So let’s go through those. In any order that you’d like to.
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah. So I think it’s interesting too to think about this market by market, right?
William Tincup: Right.
Nicole Wolfe: If we’re thinking about this in the US, there language learning might not be a thing that comes to mind as your first priority when you’re thinking about your benefits package. But it does… We’ve seen this happening, especially during COVID where people are looking for ways to increase their knowledge, learn something new. Now’s the time to take up that new hobby or skill that they want to learn. And so we did see this really incredible explosion of language learning and people wanting to learn more languages. And it’s just proven that it’s much more effective when you have that one to one interaction with an individual tutor where you’re actually speaking live, as opposed to just typing in words into an app or something like that.
So, that’s really where the benefits piece came in. It was a nice to have for a lot of employers, they offered it as an option for employees if they wanted to take upon themselves to learn. The interesting part of that is many of those solutions that we were offering, we found that about a third of the people that were taking advantage of that learning option were actually using it to improve their communication skills for work. So-
William Tincup: Oh yeah.
Nicole Wolfe: … they may not have been a native English speaker, but they lived in the US and now really wanted to improve that language. So, that was an interesting… It wasn’t just a, “I want to go to Mexico and order food.” It was a lot more about what they needed. So that was an interesting by-product that [inaudible 00: 07: 23]
William Tincup: You know what’s funny, Nicole’s my first foray or understanding of this was working with some call center businesses [inaudible 00: 07: 33] the Philippines. And I was basically helping them find the VP of talent acquisition. And they said, “Well, we have to be English certified.” I said, “Tell me a little bit about that.”
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
William Tincup: Because I’m ignorant, I’m like, “Tell me a little bit about that.” Like, “Well, all of our folks have to, not just English as a second language, they have to be certified. They have to go through and actually pass a test. And everyone in our call center has to be certified.” And then I thought about it and I’m like, “Well, it makes sense.” But I didn’t know there was a test.
Nicole Wolfe: Right.
William Tincup: I didn’t know there’s a test involved and I’m sure you run into that or y’all run into that or something similar to that as well.
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s why a lot of people started using this for their own language improvement because they didn’t have those certifications. And so that is a big part of all of our programs, is progress testing, allowing employers to understand where their employees are currently testing at, in the start and how they improve across the length of the program. And it does take a long time to really progress across that spectrum of language testing. But yes, we do support all of that. And that is a big reason why we’re used so often. And it’s not just English either, right? We have so many different options for languages and solutions based on what that employer needs or their unique challenges of course.
But it is interesting because in the US, I think we don’t have as much of this awareness of the rest of the world. And I think in a lot of other markets, English is the common business language. And so getting people upskilled is so important, not only just for communication, but thinking about attracting entertaining talent, attrition, right? If you can’t communicate, well, you’re not going to want to stick around that long. So providing those support systems where people feel safe and comfortable, especially using a third party where they don’t feel like it’s their boss that they’re having to learn from, it really creates a nice win-win for that company and the employee.
William Tincup: Well, and I love the personalization with a coach and a teacher as opposed to an app just because… I mean, some people learn that way. And they can listen to a tape and they can do the bit, but most of the folks that I’ve known that have really actually transcended over into actually really understanding a language, have immersed themselves.
Nicole Wolfe: Yes, absolutely. And I think we also provide the solutions, vocab testing and all the things that you can do on your own as well to supplement that. But it’s really hard to swap out real conversation for anything else.
William Tincup: So take us into the communications, a part in training where now we have remote, hybrid, different work models, people are working from all over the world. And now… Again, we take it for granted here in the US about English being our national language, we do take it for granted a bit. We take it for granted that everyone else like, “Of course everyone knows English.” All of a sudden it turns out maybe not and that’s okay. But it also could impact the other team’s ability to get a job done.
Nicole Wolfe: [inaudible 00: 11: 12]
William Tincup: So where do you’ll step in and how’s Preply, how does the enterprise solution help there?
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah. So typically what we see is a lot of times it’s a business case specific need. So they come to us to start by saying, “Hey, we have this one department or this one office or this one location. And we really want this team to leverage properly.” And so we introduce it to a group of folks that are maybe in a specific market or specific region. And what we find is the company quickly realizes the impact that this is having on the team, because not only are they improving their skills for their own knowledge, right? They can now speak English better, or speak a different language in a different way, they feel more confident. But it also allows them to gain confidence within their team. So they have not only the one-on-one option, where they have a tutor, that’s helping them through conversations, but we’ve also introduced private group lessons.
So you can actually take… Based on your level, based on where you are, you end up in a private class with your coworkers. And it’s just a different level of bonding that comes with that, right? You’re all learning something new, you’re all in it together, you’re all at the same level. And it really creates a unique learning environment, that’s very different than anything else we’ve seen, right? We’ve seen that, maybe you have it on site, but having that connection point with somebody who’s maybe in a totally different office and learning this language together, really creates a different environment and a different connection point back to that individual contributor or that teammate that you may never have had that relationship with.
William Tincup: Well, I love the team concept just because it’s also… Some people are better individually and can become self starters and… But some, if it’s a team and there’s eight people and we’re all doing it together, we can also learn together. So I love that and you know, we…
Nicole Wolfe: And good accountability too.
William Tincup: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. “Jimmy you’re not learning your vocab.”
Nicole Wolfe: Yep, yep, yep.
William Tincup: We focused on the English side of things, but I was thinking about, there’s a lot of HR tech companies that actually have development offices elsewhere in Israel or Krakow is a great example. And learning Polish, learning actually having conversations or being able to talk with people, not just in English, but your teammates and even just learning how to converse with them in their language. It just seems that would just create just a stronger bond between-
Nicole Wolfe: Absolutely.
William Tincup: … the teammates.
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah. I think everybody… Well, even when you go traveling, if you can learn to say, “Hello” and “Thank you,” in that language, it makes such a difference in that communication. And I think that’s the other piece that we’ve found is that, we have these individuals instances where a high performing executive is doing really well in their home market. And they said, “Great, let’s go reapply this same exact thing in Poland,” For your example. And they have no ability to… They’re like, “Oh, everybody speaks English, so it’s fine.” But there’s that next step that really allows them. And it becomes also a vulnerability in a way, right? They can tell their team, “I’m learning this, I’m going to practice.” And it becomes way for people to connect on a different level and a way for them to feel more comfortable and at home and they understand where that person is. And they can build a connection in that way too.
William Tincup: I think it should be. I mean, [inaudible 00: 14: 50] be a little bit harsh to say, but I think it should be mandatory. If you’re going to another country and supervise a team in another country, you should at least try to learn the language.
Nicole Wolfe: Exactly. Exactly, yeah.
William Tincup: You might not succeed…
Nicole Wolfe: But at least learn how to order a coffee. Yeah.
William Tincup: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think most people, again, depending on the language, depending on the city and all that other stuff.
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah [inaudible 00: 15: 20]
William Tincup: But if people see you trying… Go ahead.
Nicole Wolfe: Yes, exactly. Exactly, it’s that vulnerability piece that I think adds a layer that it’s a way for you to be vulnerable without having to totally let your guard down as a leader. And I think people really appreciate that.
William Tincup: Who do y’all, on the enterprise side, who do you typically work with within either HR or employee communications? Who do you work with?
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah, we usually work with HR as our main point of contact. Or L&D is starting to come into the mix a bit more, where we have those specific use cases where it’s a leader of a specific team or department or office and they want to introduce this. Increasingly, especially in the US, this is starting to become a conversation around diversity and inclusion as well. And in terms of just being open and being willing to have the opportunity to learn something new and be open to colleagues who are maybe learning a different language as well. And that’s been another interesting angle that we’ve seen come to fruition over the last 12 months or so.
William Tincup: Well, what’s interesting about the diversity and inclusion part of it is, language is also… It’s tethered to culture in a lot of ways. And so you’re not just learning a language, you’re also learning the history of that language and you’re learning the history of the culture and culture is plural. And so that never works against you. Just learning that stuff, you start to appreciate.
Nicole Wolfe: Absolutely.
William Tincup: You can appreciate things. Outside of English, what’s the most desired language to learn?
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah, so we have a lot of Spanish, actually. And then we have the core European languages French, German, Dutch as well. And it’s interesting to see for example, it’s not just French and France. We have Canada that has-
William Tincup: Oh yeah.
Nicole Wolfe: … a good piece of their culture is French Canadian. And so ensuring it’s a requirement for many companies to have things in both French and English. And so that’s been another interesting discovery in terms of it’s… You think of just that one market, but there’s so many other areas of the world that can leverage this. And it’s interesting, as a business right now, we really core… We operate primarily in the Americas and Europe, but we are starting to see a lot of traction in APAC as well.
And I anticipate that will be, I mean, a bigger focus as the year comes forward. But we’re seeing, because we have so many native tutors in different markets, right? If you happen to be wanting to learn French, right? You can learn from somebody in France or you could learn from somebody in Canada or parts of Africa. And so there’s just a lot of that that comes into play too, based on where you are and what accents you want to learn. And those types of things that makes it a really compelling and unique product and a great way to build connection with somebody in a different part of the world, as well.
William Tincup: And just the difference in French Canadian and French and France, just for everybody that’s listening on both sides, I’ve been to Paris, I have been to Montreal and they will tell you, it is different. I of course couldn’t tell the difference, but they will tell you, it is completely different. As you mentioned your tutors, of course, I’m sure practitioners are going to be thinking about, “Okay, how do you accredit it?” Or “How do you certify?” Or “Manage quality with the tutors.” So how do y’all go about the acquisition of tutors and managing your tutors and making sure that they’re just great at their job.
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest success stories of Preply. Honestly is that, we are a marketplace. So we are… We allow people to… Obviously they have to have some level of certification to join. But we allow people really, to… Honestly, a lot of our tutors have changed their lives as a result of tutoring on Preply. They’ve been able to really readjust their own way of creating income for themselves, separating out, maybe not having to be tied to a physical location. So there’s a lot of that opportunity that comes with it as well. And we also allow them to set their own price. So if… It really does create a nice democratizing effect in a way based on what people need and where they are.
Now on the enterprise side, we obviously have another level of requirements. So they understand the needs of the business. They have another level of training and certification. They’ve gone through the Preply training curriculums. So they have that understanding. And then there could be specific instances where, for example, we need a team to be able to… Or we need a tutor to be able to teach a team of accountants in French, for example. So you need to find those specific nuances where it’s somebody who has not only the language requirement, but also the business acumen of that specific application. So they can actually go and speak to that team based on what that business need is.
And we’re finding that, that’s been another interesting part of this is that, our tutors are not just fluent or in language training, right? They also have these specific business trainings that they’ve done in the past. And so there’s also applications where you could think about, perhaps a native English speaker actually needs to work on their presentation skills, right? We have tutors that can also support that. So there’s a lot of things that we’ve been able to create out of this incredible tutor network that aren’t… It isn’t just about conversational Spanish or whatever it might be, right? There’s all of these additional layers that you can start to dig into based on the needs of the individual student, as well as the company.
William Tincup: I love that. I love that. You mentioned marketplace and so now let’s pivot over to the software side of things. When you show people Preply for the first time, what do they fall in love with? What’s the… Because it’s a different category for a lot of HR practitioners. There is just going to be something when they listen to the show, they’re going to be like, “I hadn’t even thought about this [crosstalk 00: 21: 52] or even considered this.”
Nicole Wolfe: Exactly yeah.
William Tincup: Which is why the podcast exists by the way. So tell us a little bit about the marketplace and the demo when you show people the software.
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah, absolutely. I think that is one unique thing about Preply, is we’re not just showing you another piece of software, we’re also teaching you about the language learning business and why this is important for employees. So there’s so many layers to it, but I think the reason people get excited about Preply is because of the variety of choice and the ability for… There’s other programs out there where, and especially in the past, right? You would have… Okay, you have your team of 10 people that are doing language training. We have one language trainer that we’ve brought in house, and that’s the one person you can work with. But it’s like going back to school, right? You may have hated your seventh grade Spanish teacher, but you were stuck. You had to go through with it. So the intention here is allowing…
William Tincup: Sounds very specific, Nicole. Just FYI.
Nicole Wolfe: Hopefully they’re not listening now. But this gives the employees the ability to find a tutor that really matches their style and what they’re looking for. And even though the teaching is foundation is the same, there are so many different styles of the way people communicate. And so that’s been a really big piece of this is, despite the freedom of choice for a lot of these individual employees to pick their tutor, because they all have that same foundation, they’re learning at the same speed and they’re learning at their own ability and their pace. But they’re making progress and probably better progress, because they’re actually working with somebody that connects with them and understands them.
And I think that’s our biggest… Selling point there is that a lot of these employers are thrilled to be able to provide qualified tutors and allow their employees to pick the one that works best for them and the environment that they’re in. And then of course, there’s all the great reporting tools and administrative dashboards and all of the things that you can actually track aggregate level progress for your employees, from an HR perspective. But yeah, that marketplace choice and then just it’s a really very intuitive and fun platform for people to learn on as well.
William Tincup: I can see for the L&D people, I can see the progress being very important to them to be able to show they started here, they’re now here, this is where they’re tracking, et cetera. I can see that being very important to them. Pivoting to buying questions, what do you love to hear, once you’ve shown somebody the marketplace, you’ve shown them demo of the software, what it does, how it does it, et cetera. What questions should practitioners ask you? What are the questions that you love hearing from them?
Nicole Wolfe: Yeah. I mean, I think when people start to ask those specific questions about, “So we have one employee in this place,” or “We have this one team… ” And they already start to think about it from their teams and dynamic, and they can start to sense like, “Oh, this could really work for so and so,” or “This particular market or region.” And that’s where you start to see that they’re already understanding those dynamics. I think the same side of it, as you were saying, the progress is really important, not only for the HR teams and L&D teams, but also the individual students, right? It makes it… You want to get to that next level and see that progress. And so I think that’s another area where they’re excited about seeing not only… Yes, the HR team wants to see progress, but the students also want to see progress that they’re making. And I think there’s some gamification and fun that comes with that.
So I think, the questions we get is it’s very much about, “How does this fit into my team?” Or “We have a specific use case. We need this, we need that. How does this work?” And they start to get into the nuts and bolts of the product. I think that’s when it starts to click for them and how it could work. And then the questions around, how long does it take for somebody to get from a level, A1 to a B1, right? And it’s providing those consultative approaches where we can look at the data of our teams and show what we’ve seen from our other partners. And we can have a really broad conversation around how we can help them get from A to B and where they need to go.
William Tincup: I love that. I love that. Nicole, thank you so much for coming on to Use Case Podcast. This has been great.
Nicole Wolfe: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It was fun chatting with you
William Tincup: And thanks for everyone listening to Use Case Podcast, until next time.
The Use Case Podcast
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
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