Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 242. Today we’ll be talking to Jeremy from TrainUp about the use case or business case for why his customers choose TrainUp.

TrainUp specializes in organizing custom in-person on-site and live remote training services.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William

Show length: 23 minutes


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Jeremy Tillman
HR Tech Innovator, Founder & CEO TrainUp

Jeremy is a husband, father and learning leader passionate about empowering growth through education and technology. Jeremy is an honors graduate of the University of Alabama Huntsville where he majored in Computer Science. Jeremy continued his education at SMU’s Cox School of Business entrepreneurship series. Jeremy’s first entrepreneurial venture was Solarchrome Systems a company he co-founded in college.

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Speaker 1: 00:02 Welcome to Recruiting Daily’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 in HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup: 00:25 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Jeremy on from TrainUp and we’ll be learning about the business case and the use case those customers and prospects have used to purchase TrainUp. So let’s just jump right into it. Jeremy, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and introduce TrainUp?

Jeremy Tillman: 00:49 Absolutely. William, thanks for having me on, it’s such a blast to join podcast and reach practitioners. I’m Jeremy Tillman, founder and CEO at trainup.com. I started trainup.com in 2004, so it’s been a lot of years. And I’m going to give you a quick snapshot of where we were, just where we’ve been historically and really where we’re headed post the pandemic, that’s been a really interesting time for our business. Historically speaking, trainup.com is the web’s largest training marketplace. So we connect training seekers to training opportunities. And when you think about Expedia, you have to think about us like an Expedia for training. And so historically we’ve had more than 60,000 companies purchase training from trainup.com for one or more people.

William Tincup: 01:37 Oh cool. Yeah.

Jeremy Tillman: 01:40 Everyone knows us for the place to go to find learning. And the training costs the same or less, that’s our guarantee at trainup.com, so it’s really no risk to use that core business service for individuals or training managers, individual learners at organizations. But behind the scenes, we’ve created some amazing HR tech and learning tech solutions out of our technology division that I can tell you about some of those, but it’s been a lot of that really cool stuff behind the scenes. And we’ve brought that to the forefront and we really feel like we’re finally reaching that vision of ours to shape the future of learning and really empower growth. And that’s really the heartbeat behind what it is that we do. Our goal is learning and really take having our customers best interest at heart whenever we’re helping them craft and shape learning solutions.

William Tincup: 02:34 I love that. What’s the consumption right now look like in terms of learning? What do you see? Because you’re going to looking across, obviously across industries, you’re looking across different job titles and things like that, but you can also see consumption. So what are people consuming? What do they seem to like there’s an appetite for?

Jeremy Tillman: 02:57 Absolutely. And we can speak to really that, I’d say this, I preface this. We focus on career training, over a hundred different categories and mostly 90, I’d say 95% of our registrations are paid for by corporation on behalf of one of their employees. And historically it’s the traditional things, it’s leadership, it’s management, it’s business skills, it’s soft skills, it’s Microsoft Office, it’s technology, certifications. Those type things have always historically been some of the top sellers. But obviously the pandemic just really shook the industry from a live instructor-led delivery standpoint pretty heavily. It shook us pretty heavily as well throughout that. So it changed a little bit of what people were focused on because it really got down to the bare essentials.

Jeremy Tillman: 03:50 And of course, being who we are at trainup.com, we’ve seen all of the spikes throughout the years. We’ve seen the craze that was Microsoft Office and then the certification revolution, and then how e-learning popping in there. And then we saw just an absolute explosion in sexual harassment type training in light of the MeToo movement. And a couple years back, I mean, DEI absolutely exploded as well. So we’ve seen lots of different trends over the years.

William Tincup: 04:16 So that’s it. Let’s unpack a couple of those with DEI training, let’s go there first because I still think it’s lip service. I’m going to go a little dark, right. To be a little jaded, I still think a little bit of his lip service training sounds great, at least we are spending money on training, that is great. What else? Like, what other is that you see on the training side of things if we think about DEI? Is there different levels? Like, are you starting, starting to unpack pronouns? Let’s say, so now we’re going to not just talk about diversity and inclusion in general, we’re now going to go deep into what trans and what’s the transition look like at work? Do you see some of the more nuanced, do you see us getting deeper into some of the more nuanced things part as an umbrella of DEI?

Jeremy Tillman: 05:20 Well, this is a great topic and I’m going to try not to spend all the time on this.

William Tincup: 05:23 No, no, we got it.

Jeremy Tillman: 05:27 It’s very near and deep into my heart, so I have to go into this. As an African-American business owner, this is interestingly unique for our industry. And let’s be honest, when things first started, it was not even just lip service, it was very much, we have to say the right thing…

William Tincup: 05:43 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 05:43 And not necessarily do the right thing.

William Tincup: 05:45 A hundred percent.

Jeremy Tillman: 05:46 So when organizations would come to us for training again, trainup.com was we were, when we were growing and things were just moving, sometimes we didn’t take the time to sit and pause and even analyze our own data because we collect feedback from all the courses and all the vendors. We don’t necessarily publish that out there, but we use that to help inspire our training providers. And when we’re putting together onsite solutions where we’re coming to a company’s office or we’re putting together a custom solution for them, we’re taking a lot of research into account and we were leveraging great DEI practitioners. But what we realized, and we realized this around all learning, not just DEI, was that we’re still creating learning silos, content alone is not enough to produce change.

William Tincup: 06:31 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 06:31 But yet companies are giving a lot of content to the employees. So DEI is one of those things where it’s much deeper than that because you’re dealing with emotions, you’re dealing with history, you’re dealing with preferences and you’re dealing with politics. And a lot of things that typically don’t mix in a business sense. And so we’ve been fortunate enough in the last couple of years to only partner with some of the best DEI practitioners in the world, but to develop our trainup.com training flow platform, which is geared around continuous learning. We like to say, no one became a great leader because they went to a one day leadership course, how do we become great leaders? You know, it’s over time, it’s through observation, all those things, but our learning wasn’t aligned that way.

Jeremy Tillman: 07:18 So we developed our training flow platform and process to help align that. And we applied that to DEI in some really unique ways. One of the things we wanted to do was that if you’re going to shape culture and really have impact, you need to create safe spaces for people to have dialogue around the things they’re learning and then celebrate when things are put into practice. And so our platform helps organizations not just do a one-off training because a one-off training isn’t going to be enough to make a company inclusive.

William Tincup: 07:49 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 07:50 And by the way, that’s our focus when we come to DEI, we believe that inclusion is greater than diversity.

William Tincup: 07:55 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 07:55 If you change your mix of recruiting and you bring in diverse candidates or people from different backgrounds and other things, and you bring them into an environment that’s not inclusive, likely they’re going to leave and they are going to be…

William Tincup: 08:08 A hundred percent.

Jeremy Tillman: 08:09 And you’re going to cause tension. So we encourage companies to focus on inclusion because inclusion is for everyone.

William Tincup: 08:16 You know, what’s interesting is, and first of all I hundred percent agree with you, but there’s another wrinkle to this though, I think is fascinating, is training it in and of itself as a business, as they think about buying training from a company like yourselves, like TrainUp, this is a way of actually thinking about inclusion. So, some folks might not have ever had access to this type of training. So if you want to ha be an inclusive workforce in a workplace, actually giving people access to training that they might not have ever had is a spoke. It’s not all of inclusion, but it’s a way of thinking of inclusion.

Jeremy Tillman: 09:08 [crosstalk 00:09:08]

William Tincup: 09:08 We can teach inclusion, but we also just by offering up training to people, we’re being more inclusive than we were before.

Jeremy Tillman: 09:16 Absolutely. We had a client in Australia that ran a steel factory that had around 75% market share of all the steel in Australia. And they bought it out of administration and the 9000 workers there had never had any soft skills training at all. They don’t even have computers and the first thing they said is that if we’re going to change things, not only do they need to change technology in the plant, we’re going to offer training to every single worker, not just a handful of people who have offices at the plant, but everyone. How do we transform conversations and how do we transform the culture and training is a part of that. And so you’re right, I mean, even making things available, leadership, sometimes we focus heavily on leadership development.

Jeremy Tillman: 10:02 In most organizations, 10% of the people are being trained as leaders, yet 90% of the people who also have leadership responsibilities at some level. And so we’ve been helping companies with our new training flow platform to bring leadership training to more people at an affordable way, but also to capture stories because we’re going to learn best from each other and allow that the leadership stories and insights that happen internally to make its way to more people across the organizations that probably would never even meet.

William Tincup: 10:39 I love that. I love that. I love that. I love that. I love that. So what do you get is some of the objections, that used to be a hundred years ago, people would say, CFOs in particular would say, what if we train them and they leave? And then right after that, people would say, well, what if we train them and what if we don’t train them and they stay? Fair enough. So I don’t think we have that roadblock as much as we used to but you sit in the seat, so you see it firsthand. What are objection response stuff? What do you still get as some of the objections to training?

Jeremy Tillman: 11:16 Yeah, no, this is a great question and really we’re at a time where everyone’s looking at training differently. Believe it or not, at trainup.com, budget has never been an issue for the way that we go about doing business, because we’re seeking the training seeker. Someone who’s been told you need to get project management certified, when you make that directive budget typically isn’t an issue.

William Tincup: 11:40 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 11:41 When it comes to training at an organizational level and the inclusion you’re talking about, including more people, the factors are not only budget, but what is the return on investment? Everyone’s trying to figure out what return on investment we’re going to get from this. And so trainup.com takes a little bit different approach. We look at it and say, what impact are you looking for and how does it align to your business? For instance, we developed an amazing performance management system for Viacom MTV Network which is really large organization globally. And in about 2016, 2017, I realized that our systems are producing the same lagging indicators that everyone else’s systems are. If we’re developing our training programs based on performance data that’s six months or a year old, because no one was really doing continuous performance management either, so they didn’t have real time data.

Jeremy Tillman: 12:34 Then by the time you get your plans developed, you’re training people on what they needed last year. We really should be saying, where are we going to be as an organization, six months, nine months, a year from now. What skills do we need and who has those skills today and who might we need to develop to have those skills in the future. And when you start aligning your training to the things that are going to directly impact the business, you can overcome more.

William Tincup: 13:00 Oh, that’s nice. Looking at the skill gaps, I know you’re going to unpack this first, Jeremy, but how do managers get ahead of the skill gaps? Like who’s actually look at mapping skill gaps to training? And finish your thought before you get back to that.

Jeremy Tillman: 13:17 Yeah, no, that’s great. No, you’re taking me right where I wanted to go.

William Tincup: 13:20 Okay.

Jeremy Tillman: 13:22 One of the things that we did is when we had that revelation and I’ll give you another scenario where we had that same revelation, where if we keep going down the path we’re going down now, we’re going to create more problems and we’re not going to be innovative like we want to be. And so quick example, we had a major company call us and they said, “Hey, we have 27 high posts, high potentials that are coming together from 20 different countries to our corporate office and we want to do a day of design thinking training in a day of critical thinking and problem solving training. And these are important people and they’re going to take it back to their divisions and they’re going to use these skills.

Jeremy Tillman: 13:59 And at this time we were doing things the very traditional way. We would bring in an amazing design thinking instructor, amazing critical thinking and problem solving instructor. And they would spend a full day on each of those topics. And then they’re flying off somewhere else to teach someone else. How do we know that actually worked? Are they really going to become great at those things in one day of those topics? Well, of course not. So that got us thinking, what would we have to do if we wanted to really reimagine learning? And the results of that was part of this process where we said, if we were to do it all over, here’s how we would go about doing it and this is really what we built because of this scenario. First thing we realized is what do you think is going to happen when 27 people for 20 different countries get together in the room for the first time?

William Tincup: 14:43 They’re going to network and get to know each other.

Jeremy Tillman: 14:46 Right. They’re going to spend hours just that.

William Tincup: 14:48 Yeah, at least.

Jeremy Tillman: 14:51 And we did in the platform is we allow people to introduce themselves prior to the learning. So you get to upload a video.

William Tincup: 14:59 Oh, cool.

Jeremy Tillman: 14:59 One, two minute video, introducing yourself and telling us one unique thing about you, not what you do with the company, but something about you. And what that does is it allows everyone to realize I’m not the only one with an accent.

William Tincup: 15:11 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 15:12 There’s so much of the emotional elements that come into a great learning success. And then also we introduce those topics early. When you hear something for the first time is when you retain the least amount of information. So introducing them to these bigger topics before and allowing them to prepare, not only helps aids in the learning, but it gets people at a similar pace so you can go at a faster pace when you actually get together. And then afterwards, we look at the post community and we actually want to know stories of learning applied. How are they applying what they’ve learned successfully or unsuccessfully in the business. And then the continuous learning platform not only gives them additional learnings to reinforce those things, but they get to share in that experience together. They were already together in that unique experience. Now they can say, “I’m trying this and it didn’t work, what do you think?” And get input in feedback to aid in that overall learning experience.

Jeremy Tillman: 16:10 And so when you start thinking about ROI, when you get high, what you’ve learned to actual projects, then you can begin to see impact. And it’s going to take more data, more frequency of data for more sources to really understand the impact. And so we encourage organizations to tie their performance data, their all these competencies that we say we care about, how are you measuring those? When, I ask you who’s the most innovative person in your company, are you going to tell me because some manager or some smart 360 highly rated someone innovation? I want to know how they were innovative on a particular project and who’s consistently innovative on projects. Those are going to be tho those people. And so it takes a lot for organizations to be able to really pull those together. But if we’re focused on tying the learning and the training that we do to skills and projects, we’re going to be able to more closely align that to the ROI that company’s desire.

William Tincup: 17:07 I love it. Okay. Three things we could talk forever. However, I know you’ve got to get on and do a bunch of other things after this. So three things I want to go through. One is your demo and your favorite part of your demo. Second is customer stories, maybe your most recent customer story that you love, that just you’ve fallen in love with. And again, no names, no brands, none that stuff. And then questions you’d love from prospects. So we can go at any order you’d like.

Jeremy Tillman: 17:36 No, that’s great. So I think right now, one of the things that we’re really proud of is the move that we’re making with our training flow product, which is still publicly not really out there and it’s really been word of mouth. But we just had a global pilot for a DEI rollout and this organization has a hundred thousand plus employees and so their pilot was a thousand people. 250 in China, 250 in the UK, 250 in India and 250 in the US. And not only have they never approached training this way, they’ve never used tech and the people that are what were in this pilot, never engaged with others. You know, like when you’re working in the office in India is rare that you’re going to be interacting with someone in China, unless there’s some big cross project that you’re doing. And so when we do things around DEI, this is the approach that we took.

Jeremy Tillman: 18:37 And so this organization, we asked the same question inside the platform to all thousand of those people, we had over 680 detailed responses. And even if they wrote in a manager and the translations were there and everyone got to be together in this, and this happened before the training actually, and it was a series of training that we actually did over a month long period with this pilot. And the engagement was really off the charts. And the things that people shared, the stories that they told was transformational for the instructors as well so they could use those conversations in the training that was coming as well. And the result of this was this organization writing an article that says, “We now believe that inclusion is a skill. It’s something that we can teach. It’s something that people can learn and grow.” And they then committed to rolling this type of program out to everyone in their organization and that’s ballsy, so to speak for an organization with a hundred thousand plus employees. So we’re very proud to be a part of that.

William Tincup: 19:46 So favorite part of the demo. So I’m asking you your favorite job, but let’s…

Jeremy Tillman: 19:54 Right. Exactly. No, I think, for me, and this is funny, every time we do a demo for a company, I share my why, why it is that we do what we do. And I just started by saying that statistically speaking, I know I shouldn’t be here. I’m an African American whose parents divorced. My mom, highly educated, got her bachelor’s in business, was working on MBA before she developed a substance abuse addiction that landed us in public housing. My dad passed away. We’re on welfare food stamps the whole bit, and I’ve got three brothers and one sister. And in our neighborhood, we were eight times more likely to go to prison than to go to college.

Jeremy Tillman: 20:36 And yet everyone in my household went to college. Not everyone graduated, but everyone went. And when I think about learning and I share this as part of our demo, I share my why, I believe that learning is the only thing that can take someone from where they are today and help them get to where they want to be tomorrow.

William Tincup: 20:51 Agreed.

Jeremy Tillman: 20:52 And that’s been my story going to the Alabama School of Math and Science and really getting into IT early. Education has been so critical and so I’ve dedicated trainup.com to empowering growth and shaping the future of learning through innovative training solutions. And I show a picture of my son holding a picture of all our brothers and sisters as a reminder. And I actually share that in all of our demos.

William Tincup: 21:15 Oh, I mean, first of all, that’s just, I mean, it’s great. And the whys are so important. You know, we skip through that. We get to features, benefits, and attribute to the product and the wow of a demo and some of the sexiness of the UI. But I think the emotional part of human to human contact of just saying, “Hey, this is why I’m here. Yes, I’d love for you to buy, I mean, check stated and covered, however, I want you to know why this is important to me, whether or not you buy or not. That’s cool.” This is the why I love that. First of all, I think I wish more leaders did that because there is a why. I mean, every entrepreneur that starts something, there is a why. It might not be that particular why, but there is a why.

William Tincup: 22:06 Questions you love hearing from practitioners, buying questions, because again, the show is trying to unpack and really help practitioners get better at asking great questions and better at buying software in particular. So what are questions that you just love that you’re like, “okay, they get it. They know where they want to go. They understand they’re asking great questions.” What’s something that you just love hearing from practitioner?

Jeremy Tillman: 22:36 I think it’s so critical for practitioners to think about how they would apply what they’re buying to their problems and the things that they’re trying to solve. I get so frustrated when we get invited to an RFP, it’s almost like this fixed process of checklist that has no room for innovation.

William Tincup: 22:57 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 23:00 And what I also encourage is that get your purchasing people and the business people together at some level, so that both sides understand a little bit of what they’re asking for because a lot of times, purchasing wants to lead the way, but they really aren’t necessarily connected to the business or the business really wants something and they’re not nuanced in all the purchasing processes. But if we get people thinking about how this can impact our business and the outcomes that we want, irrespective of the technology and not just solving the checklist, you start having better conversations and that can lead to better results. And I think eliminate some of the purchases that happen that don’t fit the bill.

William Tincup: 23:44 Right.

Jeremy Tillman: 23:45 And so you want to, not every vendor who’s trying to… So our company isn’t very salesy, so to speak, we’re so focused on solution and implementation that we’re going to ask our clients and potential clients tough questions about fit and impact and results because if we don’t have the measure of success, we don’t even know how to propose something to you, because we want to propose something that works and at trainup.com, when people are looking for training, we ask them, where are you going? Where do you see, how will you know it’s been successful? And when they can come to us and tell us what their success metrics are and they can ask us, how will you help us meet these successes?

William Tincup: 24:30 Because then you know that their house is in order. So, and again, RFPs, if I could wave a wand and just get rid of all RFPs, I would do it in a minute because I think they’re just horrible. I mean, I know why they’re there. I get why procurement likes them to see column by column, et cetera. But it just, it squeezes out all innovation and a lot of great things just get lost in RFP, get lost in Excel. So Jeremy, thank you so much for carving out time for us and carving out time for the audience.

Jeremy Tillman: 25:10 Thank you. It’s been wonderful. Thanks for having me on and just can’t thank you enough for what you’re doing in this space to try to inform and let people know about what’s happening out there. And so trainup.com, the knowledge flow we’re excited to be on here. So thanks again.

William Tincup: 25:24 Thanks Jeremy. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast until next time.

Speaker 1: 25:31 You’ve been listening to recruiting Daily’s Use Case Podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform and hit us up at recruitingdaily.com.

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

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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