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Behind the scenes: Story House Early Learning launches Reward Gateway to achieve rapid engagement and increased eNPS

Story House Early Learning is an early education provider that provides safe, supportive environments for children to grow and learn. The organisation operates approximately 40 sites throughout the east coast of Australia, employing over 1,200 staff in total – 97% of whom are offline workers, and largely women under 40.

We sat down with Craig Alchin (COO) and Kate Ludwig (Head of People & Culture) to discuss Story House's initial challenges and how it built a strategy to reach, engage and retain a very specific workforce demographic.

RG: The childcare sector has experienced a number of challenges over the past few years, none bigger than talent attraction and retention. Would you say this was a key driver behind your decision to invest in reward and recognition at Story House?

Craig Alchin: Yes, retention is a high priority for us, so we needed to find effective ways to minimise staff turnover and hang onto our talent. Story House has gone through a period of rapid growth in recent years, and we’d jumped from 10 to 20 to 30 locations in a short space of time. We noticed a few concerns among staff that we were becoming a ‘big business’ and at risk of losing the personal connection between leadership, management and frontline workers delivering our services.

That’s when Kate and I started looking for a solution that would appeal to our demographic of mainly IT-savvy millennials. In our industry, I really believe the currency of recognition, appreciation and community is just as important as financial reward. Our workforce is completely dispersed too, so that gave us another raft of issues in terms of uniting different locations and creating a culture that everyone could buy into.

Story House Early Learning Platform mockup

Did you have a vision for the type of workplace culture you wanted to create, or were there any gaps within your reward and recognition offering that you needed to fill? 

Kate Ludwig: We wanted to build a culture based on our core values, while also making sure it wasn’t just a poster on a wall or the back of a toilet door!

Before we partnered with Reward Gateway, it felt like there was a lack of connection to our full Employee Value Proposition. The platform has given us the opportunity to share all the amazing educational and pedagogical successes that are happening everyday throughout our organisation. The visibility is great because it allows our educators to learn from one another and share experiences and practical tips.

We often talk about giving children a sense of belonging through our services, but our team members didn’t really have a place to share that same community feeling.

They needed somewhere to go for personal recognition, development and a sense of belonging. We’ve got a big dispersed workforce, so we needed to make sure we could keep sparking positive, personal relationships as it continues growing.

Your platform is called ‘Main Street,’ and you’ve done a great job matching your employer brand to make it feel vibrant, colourful and fun. What was your thinking around the types of priorities and initiatives you wanted staff to engage with?

Kate: The name came from Craig, actually, so well done to him! Story House is on Main Street, so it signifies that this is our hub and a place for everyone to meet together and connect.

Story House Early Learning eCards

Initially, our two priorities were recognition and internal communications. We wanted to give people the chance to celebrate each other’s successes and highlight the extraordinary efforts that our staff make. Things like video content and bite-sized pieces have been really well received – again, because it appeals directly to our younger workforce demographic.

The eCard system has proven very popular too; we’ve had over 1,300 recognitions sent, all linked to our values.

There’s been over $100k spent through our discounts offering, mainly because it covers such a wide range of retailers that are relevant to our staff.

Craig: I’d also add it’s a huge advantage to have a centralised hub that puts everything in one place, while also seamlessly linking to the other systems and information staff rely on as part of their everyday jobs. Even though the vast majority of our people don’t use a laptop at work, they’re now choosing to log into the mobile app on their lunch break or in their own personal time.

We’ve also been impressed by some of your creative ideas to boost engagement around your launch. Can you talk us through the TikTok competition you ran that helped to engage staff early on?

Kate: The idea was to create an engaging campaign that would appeal to our demographic enough to get them signed up and comfortable with sharing things on the platform. The TikTok challenge took our catchy Story House theme song and used it as a backdrop for videos of fun activities and moments recorded by our frontline staff. We then incentivised them to share their TikToks on Main Street. 

It worked incredibly well, and turned out to be a great way to celebrate our culture, embedding values and building team camaraderie across different locations. It encouraged people to sign up and start browsing everything else that the hub has to offer. Over 90% of staff are already active users.

Since then we’ve had around 300 blogs, 17,000 views, 1,300 reactions and over 400 comments posted, which is just fantastic engagement across the board.

Finally, it’d be great to touch on your approach to measuring success. Have you seen any notable impact from your engagement surveys since launching Main Street?

Craig: Yes, we have. For context, we run a full staff survey that goes out to all of our 1,200 or so employees three times a year. It’s completely anonymised, and we encourage people to write with total honesty. After launching the platform, one of the first things we noticed was a big uplift in our response rate. To me, that shows that more of our people actually want to interact with us as an employer and trust us more than they did before.

Kate: We also saw quick increases in our eNPS rating only three months or so after launch. Staff happiness rose by 4%, effective communication by 6% and staff recognition by 11%. It’s clear the biggest factor in the increases has been the new platform. Honestly, I don’t think we would’ve achieved those results without Main Street.

I speak for Craig, myself and other leaders within the business when I say we feel more connected to our teams out in the field than we ever have before. We get an instant, transparent sense of what’s going on every time we log in. It’s become the barometer for culture that we always wanted.


Want to know more about how Reward Gateway can create a thriving culture for your business? Get in touch with our team to discover more ways to connect your people.

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Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones is a frequent contributor to Reward Gateway's thought leadership library. When he's not scribbling down thoughts about modern life and work, you'll probably find him watching old Westerns or trying to persuade people to go to karaoke.

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