Aligning Autonomous Team Members Across The World
January 12, 2021
African Leadership University (ALU) is a fully-accredited degree program. And they're on a mission to develop 3M entrepreneurial leaders across Africa by 2035.
Currently, they have 2 campuses, located in Mauritius and Rwanda. But both currently operate online due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Over the last 5 years, they’ve produced 2k undergrads. Many of whom have built profitable ventures, joined global companies like Google, or earned MBAs since graduating from ALU.
But to reach that 3M goal, they need to overcome their biggest operational challenge - managing an autonomous workforce - so it can continue to scale their programs.
Operating with a decentralized team
Justin MacDonald, CMO at ALU, explained that their decentralized team includes interns, volunteers, and full-time employees. All of them working from different parts of the world. Several countries across Africa, the United States, several countries in Europe, India, and the United Arab Emirates included.
"Somebody is awake 24 hours a day, working on the business,” Justin told us. “So, we needed a tool to manage collaboration, communication, and synchronization for an asynchronized team.”
Because of these time differences, the ALU team only works if people are autonomous. Meaning, each person owns their part - and can make decisions all on their own. Otherwise, the work would never get done.
Justin also mentioned that their team is always growing and contracting. It flexes based on seasonal needs and the number of active interns and volunteers. But the #1 responsibility is always the same: recruit and admit more students.
“No matter where [someone is] in the student-making machine, they need to understand what we're doing, the game we're playing, and how we align everything with the student journey.”
So, Justin started looking for an onboarding tool that was quick and effective. But more importantly, one that automated the training process so new team members could get themselves up to speed.
Finding a tool that supports people
Thanks to a shared connection in Arizona, Justin chatted with Trainual CEO Chris Ronzio way before joining ALU. But it wasn't until years later, when he saw that lack of alignment in his own team, that he really started to think about what Chris was building.
He remembered Chris talking about his codebase for Trainual, one that built your business playbook for you. And he decided to look into whatever became of that.
Justin told us that it didn’t take long to decide that it was the tool ALU was missing. The centralized access to information was ideal for aligning an autonomous team. And it even helped clarify the unique roles and specific goals within ALU.
But most notably, it showcased the information in a digestible way - while also looking polished and professional. Making Trainual ideal for new, inexperienced team members who had never worked within an organization before.
Building a playbook for autonomy
Once Justin signed up for Trainual, he used material from an ALU kickoff event as a starting point.
“We wanted every new person - who would never have the opportunity to attend the kickoff - to have access to the same information,” he shared. “That way, they can understand who we are, how we operate, our culture, and ultimately the KPIs.”
Once that was documented, he buttoned up the playbook with missing information and rolled it out to their global team. So far, he says it has been incredibly successful in aligning their team members.
Thanks to Trainual, Justin can now house every how-to and need-to-know. And because it’s available 24/7 to the ALU team, any and every answer can be found in seconds, regardless of who's online at the time.
Supporting young, inexperienced interns
ALU depends on the efforts of interns. Meaning, they often work with young and inexperienced professionals. So Trainual acts as a sort of training wheels for these team members. It clarifies the job, shows them how to win, and keeps them on track.
With recruiting and admissions top of mind, Trainual walks ALU team members through the best way to do both processes. That way, it doesn't matter if they've been doing it for months or only a few days - the work gets done right every time.
As a result, Justin proudly explained that he's already seen Trainual accelerate the student-making machine. “We've 5 X’d and 10 X’d some of the things we're doing at ALU.”
Retaining interns with high-quality content
In addition to uniting an autonomous team, Justin says their Trainual also inspires interns to stay longer. Before, they would move on after a few months. But now, they stick around long after their volunteering ends.
“Our Trainual teaches everyone how to lead, how to organize, and how to communicate,” Justin told us. “The experience makes individuals want to extend the 3-month internship and just join the team.”
Meaning, ALU now scales and grows its loyal team faster than ever. Plus, Justin and the rest of the leadership team can stop wasting time and money chasing new volunteers. And focus 100% of their energy on retaining and developing current team members instead.
Updating Trainual to refresh and refocus
With the fast-growing team, Justin says he plans to refresh and refocus their Trainual.
“All of the core components are still true,” he explained. “But there are new positions that didn't exist before. There are also a few new alignments and new KPIs.” So Justin plans to create new subjects, update existing content, and invite employees to contribute to the Trainual.
“Ultimately, we want to invite our individual teams and our managers to create their own content inside of Trainual. So the owner of the role creates a pathway [for new team members].”
And with the latest Subject Owner feature, Justin can now hold someone on his team accountable for building a Subject and have them help keep it up to date. And he's no longer responsible for building it all out himself.
Plus, when updates are made, Trainual automatically notifies everyone assigned to the content. That way, employees go back through the training again and are always aligned with the bigger picture.
As for the future, Justin looks forward to using Trainual to support their student-making machine. Because when everyone is aligned and inspired, ALU can reach more recruits, admit more students, and get one student closer to 3M entrepreneurs by 2035.