Think Human Resources is boring? You haven't been inside the Academy to Innovate HR

Featured in this Story of Awesome: AIHR Academy

Launched April 2018

Launched
April 2018

3000+ Members

3000+
Members

Paid Community <br>and Courses

Paid Community
and Courses

Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) is a paid online learning community that gives HR professionals the tools to expand their skill set and boost their careers.

The Spark: After creating a couple of courses aimed at HR professionals and trying to make a course community work on WordPress, Erik and Nando decided their members deserved better than a no-frills forum.

Their Mighty Moment: We really believe that there’s a lot more that people can learn from each other, even after completing our training courses. And being able to have a dedicated space for community enables them to do that.”

When Erik van Vulpen and Nando Steenhuis met working at a venture builder in the Netherlands, just a few months after graduation, they had no idea where their collegiality would take them.

Part of the reason? Their backgrounds were totally different. Erik had studied Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Nando had just finished coursework in Entrepreneurship and New Business Venturing. And yet, this unlikely pair put their expertise together to tackle an equally unlikely field: the business of Human Resources.

Expanding beyond a basic forum

After six months of putting in hours at the venture builder, Erik and Nando decided to strike out on their own, together. Erik started a blog focusing on the ins and outs of HR Analytics—then a “hot and happening” topic in the world of HR. Meanwhile, Nando got to work building a business around Erik’s content, setting up a WordPress website and creating smart email capture mechanisms to build out their email list.

After a few months, the pair realized they had struck gold. As it turned out, people were getting good concepts from the Analytics in HR blog—and they really wanted to learn more. And according to their current Support Operations Lead, Neal Travis, the pair—along with their growing team—quickly obliged:

“We had so many people asking us, ‘Do you guys train? Are you guys teaching the skills that you’re writing about?’ And that’s when we decided to begin offering courses and certifications.”

Erik, Nando, and their team started expanding their offerings. They also started rethinking how to deliver them.

As their number of course members grew, they found that they wanted to offer their trainees an opportunity to interact with each other—something that was basically impossible with WordPress:

“Our Wordpress didn’t have a good social element to it. We were looking to create a central community for the people taking our courses, and a basic forum is just not equipped to do that.”

Soon after, someone in their professional circle sent Erik and Nando a link to Mighty Networks. They decided almost immediately to move to the platform.

With a Mighty Network, Erik and Nando could create a unique experience for their course members, enabling them to communicate and share ideas, no matter where they were located. And by choosing Mighty Pro, they would also get native branded apps,  making their courses and community readily available to members on every platform.

With everything in place, the team migrated the Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) to its new home.

Human Resources for the digital age

Today, The Academy to Innovate HR has over 3,000 members. And while their programs are mainly focused towards HR professionals looking to boost their analytical skills, gain a more strategic advantage within their organization, or boost their personal profile, they’ve been able to maintain a wide variety of members, from students to CHROs (Chief Human Resource Officers).

Their biggest surprise yet? The Academy to Innovate HR has been growing rapidly, despite the current pandemic. As it turns out, a lot of people are using the downtime to brush up on their skills:

“We’re actually seeing quite a bit of growth. More people are interested in or looking into online learning, and we just happen to be an online learning platform.”

So what does that online learning platform look like?

The majority of AIHR’s content falls under two categories: training courses and certificate programs. Both courses and certificates are bundled with a year’s worth of access to the AIHR community. Once a member has completed their coursework, they’re invited to a monthly subscription, starting at $97 per year, that allows them to keep their place in the community:

“We really believe that there’s a lot more that people can learn from each other, even after completing our training courses. And being able to have a dedicated space for community enables them to do that.”

When it comes to those training courses, members have a lot of options to choose from. The Academy has 16 self-paced courses, ranging in price from $397 to $697, that help members gain specialization in a certain field of HR. Topics range from Digital HR Strategy—which teaches the tools to build and implement a solid HR strategy in the digital age—to Natural Language Processing—which gives members the tools to analyze surveys and performance reviews and turn them into valuable insights.

The Academy to Innovate HR has globally recognized Certification Programs help HR professionals expand their skill sets and gain specialization in certain disciplines over the span of twelve months. Each certificate, priced at a one-time fee of $997, includes two to three courses, and members must also complete a capstone project in order to pass the program.

  • People in Analytics enables members to make data-driven decisions that benefit both their organizations and its employees.
  • Digital HR teaches practical digital strategy skills and prepares members to leverage technology to make HR more effective.
  • HR Business Partner 2.0 teaches skills like consulting, business partnering, data literacy, and employee experience techniques.
  • HR Metrics & Reporting helps members master powerful reporting skills and enables them to implement essential HR metrics.
  • Learning & Development coaches members on training, engaging, and retaining employees.
  • Talent Acquisition offers a blueprint for successful recruiting techniques in the digital era.

In addition to the above, The Academy to Innovate HR also offers the All You Can Learn bundle, priced at a one-time fee of $1,797. It offers members access to all courses and certifications over the course of 18 months, plus any new ones that are released.

Neal says the hope is for students to try a course or a certification to get a handle of the network before committing fully to the All You Can Learn package:

“The continuous journey of learning and self-development is a very big thing in the human resources space, and we very much believe in those concepts. So we’ve been focusing on building that foundation, so that if they upgrade to All You Can Learn, they can continue to develop those skills in the long term.”

A "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" for the future

While the The Academy to Innovate HR is pretty course-heavy, the community offers other resources within their Mighty Network too: there’s a job board, a career center, and in the future they’re hoping to take advantage of Mighty Network’s upcoming Events Feature Update to host live seminars too.

They’ve got a BHAG—a Big Hairy Audacious Goal—as well: to be the number one training site for HR professionals:

“By 2025, we want to be continuously training a hundred thousand HR professionals. That’s the ultimate goal. So we’re really focusing on growth and creating new courses and trainings.”

And while AIHR’s goal might be “audacious,” it’s certainly not farfetched:

“We’re scaling up. We’re building a lot of foundations for the future. We’re creating a support system. And we’ve already seen so much growth.”

3 key takeaways from the Academy to Innovate HR's Story of Awesome

  1. Course and community is a powerful combination. Most of AIHR’s members come for the courses. But by offering them a way to connect with fellow HR professionals worldwide, Erik and Nando have given them the incentive to stay in the AIHR community even after their courses are through.
  2. Give members the opportunity to sample a course before they commit to a bundle. Because of the way that AIHR sets up its courses and content, new members can try a one-off course and see if it’s a good fit before making a pricier commitment. It’s a lot easier to convert members to investing in a more expensive package if they already know what they can look forward to.
  3. You can create a journey for people to master a topic together, even in difficult times. Despite the pandemic, AIHR has seen growth because people are using this as a time to brush up on their skills. It’s a good reminder that communities—especially digital ones—are more important than ever during times of uncertainty.

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