Creating a training routine for leaders at Freeletics

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The Challenge: Enabling people managers to become effective leaders

Creating effective training routines is something the people at Freeletics are well familiar with. 

In fact, their app-based AI coach helps people get into the shape of their life - free of the usual exercise barriers like having to go to the gym. 

Founded in 2013, “Europe’s number 1 fitness app” is now trusted by 52 million users. Their HQ is based in Munich with about 165 employees from all over the world. 

While the company’s mission to help people “become the greatest version of themselves” without a doubt held true on a physical level, it was time to translate it into the way their people development is done.

But, just like in fitness training, creating a holistic training program with lasting results is not that easy.

“The biggest challenge was that our people managers have a lot on their plate and they are always short in time”, Senior People Ops Manager Patrizia (short: Pati) remembers.

And even after taking the time to engage in training activities, daily business kicks in, priorities shift, and training gets deprioritized. 

"It was frustrating to see that the hype after a leadership training got lost so fast. People got back to business and there was not sufficient room to practice what they actually learned.“, Patrizia remembers.

"We did many ad hoc training initiatives in the past, but we always pictured a more flexible and holistic development approach. One that includes social interaction, flexibility, and long-term learning effects."

Patrizia Przybylski
Senior Consultant People Ops, Freeletics

And then, there was the challenge of getting newly promoted or hired leaders up to speed: Supporting them to understand internal processes, best practices, and how Freeletics pictures leadership.

Most of the limited time in 1:1 meetings between People Ops and new people managers in this onboarding phase would usually be spent looking at a screen and going through tools and internal processes. This took time away from having an actual conversation on topics which need personal exchange. “Trying to balance both was pretty stressful”, Pati adds.

Essentially, there were 3 big challenges Freeletics faced:

1. People lack the time to sit down and learn regularly.

2. After workshops, knowledge gets lost quickly without practice.

3. There is only little time for social interaction in 1:1s with new leaders as there are many internal processes discuss.

In short, Freeletics needed a smarter approach to transmit how they picture leadership at Freeletics - and one that supports people to internalize these principles without getting lost in endless meetings.

“Continuing as before could have led to frustrated people and a loss in productivity. Employees would be unhappy with their own leaders - and people managers would miss the much-desired guidance. Worst case, we might have lost people because of this. We need to provide our people with the right tools to continuously develop in our fast-changing world.”

The Solution: A blended learning program for every leader

“Straight from the beginning Zavvy supported us proactively with pragmatic solutions. Since then it is always a challenge to stay within time in our weekly meetings as there is so much inspiration and ideation happening.“

Everybody learns differently - and one format will never be optimal for everyone. The solution had to take that into account.

In close collaboration with Zavvy's learning experience team, Freeletics chose 3 distinct programs that tie into each other:

1. Microlearning - Short weekly nudges that are easy to consume. Small challenges and reminders motivate ongoing behavioral change. Every lesson is based on a practical framework.

2. People Manager Roundtable - A peer learning activity to discuss leadership challenges and share best practices. A step-by-step process helps facilitators prepare the sessions.

3. Leadership Onboarding - In-depth program that helps every new leader get up to speed on important processes, principles, and resources.

“We at Freeletics want to help our leaders grow personally and professionally. They are the key drivers of our organization. And we want to equip them with the right tools to be great at it. Together with Zavvy, we have created a mix of innovative learning formats to serve them best.”

Daniel Sobhani
CEO, Freeletics

Microlearning: Short, yet powerful nudges for weekly growth

The microlearning program for leaders is inspired by Google’s Whisper courses - a set of bite-sized lessons the tech giant uses to train its people managers. 

While the Google lessons are sent out via email, Zavvy's integrations allowed Freeletics to send the program out via Slack - a move that increases engagement by roughly 3x. 

Freeletics leadership microlessons via Slack

Zavvy microlearning lessons take about 5 minutes to complete. They are a weekly, interactive experience that introduces a framework and helps learners apply it.

4 main principles help make this experience especially powerful:

1. Interactivity: Every lesson contains interactive elements to increase engagement and knowledge retention.

2. Application: The focus lies on applying frameworks to actual problems, not mere theory.

3. Repetition: Spaced repetition helps maintain knowledge over time.

4. Community: Messages are pushed to the people manager Slack channel, so members can motivate each other and discuss content.

Examples for microlearning lessons at Freeletics for leadership
Examples for microlearning lessons (Topics: productivity, decision-making, prioritization)
“I am really looking forward to every Microlearning session as the content is very valuable and engaging. The questions push you to reflect on your own behavior, which creates a totally different reference to the learning content. “

People Manager Roundtable: A regular group activity where leaders learn from each other

People learn from people.

At the end of the day, our peers are our biggest source of practical knowledge and experience. The People Operations team at Freeletics knows this. That’s why they are hosting a regular leadership roundtable.

But every activity needs a frame. A routine. Someone to drive the conversation. And  who could do it better than the people managers themselves?  

The leadership roundtable brings together leaders from different departments every 6 weeks. For every group, 2 facilitators are chosen to pick a topic and prepare the session. To do so, they simply follow a step-by-step process on Zavvy.

Guidance on planning the leadership roundtable session

What makes this format so powerful is that it creates a structure for people to exchange their experiences and challenges. 

It’s a way to unlock internal knowledge and make it available to others - and solve current challenges. 

The fact that it’s a scheduled, live event makes sure people attend. And the guidance helps facilitators avoid overhead. 

Leadership Onboarding: Getting new leaders up to speed on principles, processes, and tools

leadership styles in Freeletics' leadership onboarding

In their Onboarding program, Freeletics defines and shares best practices of effective leadership. It leads new people managers through structured training both in terms of expectations and the tools to fulfill them. 

The program is broken down into smaller pieces that are sent out across multiple days to make the journey more manageable, engaging, and enjoyable.

The content is a mix of external knowledge, internal documentation, and how-tos - combining different types of media into one, diversified, experience. This way, every people manager is able to move through their onboarding experience individually and in their own pace. 

The Result: Weekly growth and clear leadership guidance

The unique combination of all 3 learning programs helps Freeletics increase leadership skills while reducing the manual effort. 

In-depth onboarding of new people managers is now a matter of clicking a button. Instead of spending hours talking about tools, Pati and her team can now spend their 1:1 time with people managers on what matters most: personal exchange on challenges and other topics.

And the current people managers are getting weekly learning nudges, which help them keep growing. Plus, they can discuss new content or challenges in a structured format during the roundtables.

“All initiatives will have a great impact on our organization”, Pati concludes. “We can already see that in our engagement tool: The scores for “mastery” and “personal growth” quickly went up since the launch.”

“On top of that, Zavvy will reduce a lot of manual work for us plus bring back the focus on personal exchange. We are positive that this will lead to better leaders, more informed employees, and a less stressed People Operations team ;).” 

Key Stats:

1. 40 people managers attending the Microlearning and People Manager Roundtables. 5 of them are currently in the onboarding journey.

2. A full-scale leadership program at the fraction of the cost of traditional workshops.

3. High return on time investment compared to traditional training and onboarding.

4. +11% sense of “Mastery” after 3 months.

5. 100 % of all people managers feel either supported or even strongly supported in their growth and development.

What’s next

What Pati likes most is the “outside-the-box” approach that questions the status quo and traditional formats. Leadership training was just the first step on this journey: 

The team is currently preparing further initiatives to support everyone at Freeletics to grow and develop. "Providing learning opportunities leads to higher engagement, performance and retention and we are excited for all new things to come with Zavvy."

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