World of Nobu: Organizing an LMS for Success
Jason Bacaj | 7 min read
After bringing more than 250 clients onto our platform, we here at Wisetail fancy ourselves experts when it comes to launching learning management systems. So after watching Nobu build and roll out its LMS—called World of Nobu—over the summer, we couldn’t help but reach out to Stefanie Eigen, Nobu’s Corporate Training Director.
The reason we wanted to talk with Stefanie is because we believe the system she and her team created is a great example of how to successfully launch an organization’s first LMS, but also to position the platform to grow and scale with the organization over time.
Stefanie walked us through the World of Nobu in a webinar not long ago. It’s great for learning more about the how and the why behind the World of Nobu’s site and content organization—certainly recommended viewing.
For those without an hour to spare watching, we pulled five best practices Stefanie and her team employed for you to peruse and, hopefully, use.
Start Small, Then Scale
Launching an LMS across an entire organization is not unlike a thousand-mile journey. And, like the old proverb says, we recommend beginning with a single step. In this case, that means starting with a relatively small rollout.
In that spirit, the World of Nobu first went live to its U.S. restaurant locations, roughly a dozen. Stefanie says that plans are to extend the learning platform across all departments and all locations, more than 45 around the world. This approach of a limited rollout extended to the main users of the platform. Stefanie and her team decided to focus on preparing the site for front of house employees.
“It’s vital for their movement in the company,” she says.
One concern that Stefanie and her team had was around content. A few locations had the testing aspect of their training done online, so she wanted to make sure that the World of Nobu was a more robust experience for users, especially those in the front of house. That meant having quality content available on each page, in each department, location, homepage.
“The idea is to encompass the whole entire company, all the training for all departments,” Stefanie says. “For example, so the chefs get to see what’s happening for the front of house. They have that when we do a brand-new opening, but typically when someone comes in they’re just learning their area, their station.
“This is a way for people to really understand the entire restaurant as a whole.”
Breaking Down Silos
You might’ve guessed from that last quote, but a goal of Stefanie’s is to open up lines of communication and improve visibility across the company—translated into buzzwords: to break down information silos. Stefanie and her team are doing this through a few different techniques.
One is to allow all users access to all locations. This allows employees to see location-specific menu items. Signature dishes are consistent across locations, but each location sources ingredients from local farms, so there’s some variation.
“Guests are fans of Nobu and travel to our locations all around the world,” Stefanie says. “And we have people who are go-getters and they want to get on and get more information. I want to have that available for them.”
Now when a guest comes into a Nobu restaurant in New York and mentions a dish they loved in Malibu, for instance, the server can be conversant around the dish, and maybe even make suggestions for local dishes at that New York location.
Another somewhat indirect way Stefanie and her team are breaking down information silos is through gamification. Chefs can be a competitive lot, and at least one sushi chef in Houston logs on every day to poke around the platform looking for points to earn. Not only does that solidify the chef’s place atop the company leaderboard but it broadens the chef’s base of knowledge.
Nobu wants its LMS users to first visit their specific location’s page on the site. The team behind the World of Nobu designed the homepage so that locations are the primary focus. When a user logs onto the platform, they see their location and are drawn to that page.
Of course when you’re working to get people adjusted to a new system, it helps to reiterate until going through the motions becomes second nature. To that end, Stefanie and her team arranged the content library (called the ‘Learn’ page) to mimic the homepage, so that users remember and are drawn, once more, to their location pages.
“We want them to focus on finding their location, finding the exact criteria that they need… the information they need to specifically learn for themselves,” Stefanie says. “We put our locations right on the front so they have no question about where to go. And the different departments on the side, starting with their position as well.”
In another inspired touch, Stefanie mentioned that the World of Nobu is now set as the homepage for all company computers. It might seem heavy-handed, but when it comes to getting people used to a system, we recommend well-designed and consistent nudges.
Bring it On… line
Nobu already had plenty of training content when it launched the World of Nobu. The trick bringing that material, much of which was on PowerPoint, onto the digital learning platform. Stefanie says she could have simply embedded the slideshows into the side and let people go through the content on their own.
That technique wasn’t quite user-friendly enough for her and her team, however. Ultimately what they decided to do is turn each slide into its own image and insert those images into the relevant modules.
“The look is the look and it stays on brand,” Stefanie says. “I found this was the easiest way and the fastest way for my team to work in the site.”
The World of Nobu also serves as a document repository for the purchasing and marketing departments, as well. Rather than just link to PDF versions of the various documents, Stefanie and her team decided to make it more visually appealing.
They created images with brief identifiers to accompany the PDFs. This way a user can scroll through the page and see at a glance what documents are there and what they’re used for.
LMS as a Hub
When it comes to driving user adoption of a restaurant LMS you have to go beyond simply housing training and work documents. You need cultural pieces and aspects that speak to an employee’s lifecycle.
One cultural piece is the module “Where in the World is Nobu-san?” The co-founder and the restaurant’s namesake, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, travels over 10 months of the year. He’s great about updating his Instagram page with notes about where he is and what he’s doing, so the module includes a link to his social media.
“The idea is when people log into the site they think, ‘Oh yeah, where is Nobu-san?’” Stefanie says. “This is a fun way for people to sort of track him. That’ll always live on this homepage.”
Another technique Stefanie and her team have employed is posting internal job openings. Employees who have bought into the Nobu worldview and training style can look around and see if there are opportunities to advance up the ranks or maybe opportunities in cities they’ve always been curious about.
Still another tactic is to give people responsibility and agency on the platform. Stefanie and her team have delegated content management and responsibility for department pages to the departments themselves. Stefanie guesstimates that about 25 people have different content roles. She even gave the corporate purchasing department specific training so people there can build modules and keep information current and available.
Stefanie and her team have a firm sense of what they want and how it should work. We’re plenty confident that however the World of Nobu grows and develops over time that it’ll be interesting and informative to watch and keep tabs on.
“For us this is just scratching the surface,” Stefanie says.
BY JASON BACAJ
Jason is a content creator with Wisetail. Through research and interviews, he works to help L&D pros grow the breadth of their knowledge. He’s a recovering journalist fascinated with learning.