How Your Learning Management Can Drive Culture

The Case of Einstein Noah and Caribou

A recent study by the Brandon Hall Group shows the Learning Management System (LMS) industry is expected to grow from $3.5 billion to more than $8 billion over the next two years. The report also revealed major turnover expected with close to 40 percent of companies actively looking to replace their current LMS. With that kind of explosive growth and change in the industry, it’s clear that businesses and organizations across the country are asking the question:

How do you choose an LMS? What are the best questions to ask when you’re determining which LMS is best for your company?

For many industries, a core question when it comes to the online delivery of training information is how to ensure your Learning Management System enhances your current efforts, instead of adding new layers of work. This is important, but from our perspective, an even more important question for businesses and organizations facing growth and change is to ask how an LMS can help adapt to and navigate those changes while maintaining the core culture that was foundational for success. In other words, how can your Learning Management System drive culture?

Case in point: Einstein Noah Restaurant Group and Caribou Coffee

In 2015, the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group and Caribou Coffee merged. As a result, the new organization doubled in size with more than 11,000 employees. Basically, there were two really great companies, each with strong and similar values and cultures independently. Yet, a merger like this presented challenges in terms of how to merge operational and process training under one umbrella. And, how to celebrate the unique DNA of each company while building an entirely new organizational culture.

We are proud of this story. The experience of Einstein & Caribou shows how an LMS can drive cultural change in a meaningful way.

Wisetail LMS clients Einstein Noah and Caribou and how they use their Wisetail LMS.

The Challenge (with a capital C)

There are always challenges that arrive when you marry two major organizations. Yes, they had to figure out how to bring together all 11,000 team members who were accustomed to two different systems all while forging a new path in a dynamic industry. For example, how would the new platform be branded to represent the new organization? We worked through all of that together. But for this case, it’s important to see how the values of both Einstein & Caribou drove the entire process and how implementing a new LMS became a vehicle for accomplishing a successful transition.

The Caribou Coffee logo is displayed over fresh coffee beans.
The Einstein Bros Bagels logo is displayed over a fresh batch of bagels.

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Culture and vision… with an LMS?

“We wanted to create a community where you love to work,” said Mike Rael Senior Program Manager of National Deployments and Internal Communications at Einstein Noah. He spearheaded the transition working directly with Wisetail throughout the process. Rael explains, “That desire to be a community where people love to work extends to our team members on the front line, our bakers, our baristas, our district managers and our CEO. How do we create that place where you love to work and how do we create a place that feeds their souls? How do we create a place where our team members are gaining personal development and connecting with customers in a meaningful way?”

Prior to Wisetail, Einstein Noah did not have a succinct pathway for helping team members access professional development and personalized learning. The transition presented a great opportunity for them to identify ways they could better capture the hearts of learners.

“The system we now use (Wisetail) allows us not only to listen to our team members, it allows us to reinforce and celebrate our values and tell stories. Our team members have a clear pathway for accessing personal development in a way that helps them take control of their own destinies,” said Rael.

What we’ve discovered time and time again at Wisetail is that being able to tell a story about who you are, where you come from and where you want to go is critical to building culture.

“Every module, every course, every communication from our CEO is a little story about where we’ve come from. where we’re going and how we can create a community that you can be involved in and you have a say in how it all works for you as an individual.”

Mike Rael, Senior Program Manager of National Deployments and Internal Communications at Einstein Noah

The Solutions

In the Co-Lab (a live two-day implementation training session) with us in Bozeman, Montana – a brand identity of their Wisetail system born to serve the mission which continued throughout the merger. The platform, Coffee & Bagel You (a clever play on the tired online “University” theme, replace the “U” with “You” to accentuate how the system really for the individual people), was developed to seamlessly manage how to distinguish employees from the different brands while also maintaining consistency in branding, content and coursework. Critical to the success of the new system was bringing together the marketing teams and instructional design teams from both the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group and Caribou Coffee. In addition, we made sure they could update current content, develop new content and get rid of anything outdated to better create a new, consistent, unique organizational culture.

Einstein Bagel Bros and Caribou Coffee employees share a meal after a meal after a Wisetail Co-Lab. Einstein Bros Bagels and Caribou Coffee use the Wisetail LMS to drive their LMS culture.


The same report we mentioned at the top of the article showed most companies are deeply dissatisfied with their LMS. Our guess is that this dissatisfaction largely stems from the challenge of using systems built for the old way of learning management centered around top-down and one-way communication. The old way simply does not work in a world where engaged learning communities need two-way communication and features for learners to contribute and communicate. If you are looking for a new LMS, we’d encourage you to think about how the new software on your radar can help you drive culture. The story of Einstein Noah and Caribou Coffee isn’t about Wisetail, it’s about how great places to work can use every tool at their disposal to engage their team members at every level thereby driving a deep sense of culture.