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LEO Learning Turns 5: Looking Back on Learning Innovation and Successes

This July, LEO Learning is celebrating its 5th birthday. Formed in 2014 through the merger of two well-established UK-based learning providers (Epic and LINE), we’ve come a long way since launching the LEO brand to the market—including winning Learning Company of the Year and Learning Designer of the Year in 2017, an expanded global presence, particularly in the US, and driving research and conversations around measuring the business impact of learning. Here, LEO Learning’s Managing Director, James Greenwood, and Chief Strategy Officer, Piers Lea, reflect on half a decade of learning innovation, milestones, and successes.

LEO Learning turns 5 in July 2019

What Makes LEO Learning a Great Place to Work?

James Greenwood: It’s the sheer professionalism, knowledge, and capability of our staff. Coming to LEO from a different industry, it was the first thing I noticed. Everyone is just really good at what they do, without exception. We have around 130 really creative people working at LEO and everyone in the organization feels like they drive and influence strategy and direction. We are a people business, and as such, our value rests in our people. We try to empower and encourage staff to look outwards at the world and bring their ideas to test them, which in turn helps people’s personal development.

Our output and client base are impressive, so people get to work on projects that genuinely make a difference to learners all over the world, which in turn drives the all-important inquisitiveness and learning innovation in the people here.

The fact that we’re still seen as innovative even though we’re one of the biggest players in the industry is testament to our approach to training: we have the mindset of a start-up but with the commercial acumen to plan and deliver large-scale projects.

And What About LEO’s Customers—What Keeps Them Happy?

James Greenwood: We demonstrate enormous value in the quality of work and in our capability to produce something that meets and exceeds clients’ expectations. This is often overlooked in our industry, in that often our clients say ‘I want something but don’t know what that is’, so we have to be good learning strategists, using our knowledge and expertise to help them find that innovative learning solution.

The organizations who choose to work with LEO get value for money because we get ‘under the skin’ of their problem. We’ve done it so often now that we’re able to challenge our clients—in a very constructive way—to help them find the learning solutions that they need, and then build a relationship while implementing it.

LEO Learning’s Patrick Thomas at a client workshop

What Have Been Some of Your Highlights Over the Past Five Years?

James Greenwood: Bringing together great learning with great strategic thinking is what LEO does better than anyone else in the world. We’ve successfully delivered thousands of hours of learning to great acclaim—and over 50 awards! I get excited when we take clients on a journey from them saying ‘We don’t know what to do or where to start’ to having a full three-year curriculum as part of a huge blended learning project with measurable results.

A major highlight over our five years was the Civil Service Learning (CSL) project, which we delivered as part of the KPMG learning consortium, which started in 2015 (when we were a relatively new team). The volume and scale of the project were incredible—probably no other learning company could accomplish that. At the time, it was a big evolution for us.

LEO’s Tabitha Joyner demonstrating a learning game at ATD 2019 in Washington DC

Let’s Rewind Five Years. How Did LEO Learning Form?

Piers Lea: LEO is the foundation stone of Learning Technologies Group (LTG) and is a result of Chief Executive, Jonathan Satchell, and I getting together after identifying a requirement in the market for a larger-scale modern-thinking learning company that can help multinational and government clients with scale, depth and breadth. We set out to assemble a group that has the capability in workplace learning to look at business issues and provide a solution to those issues, instead of just selling a platform or some services. LEO continues to pride itself on bringing in the right solution at the right time to solve whatever the client is looking for.

I actually started out in eLearning in the 1980s working for Epic, which LINE then merged with in 2014, so for me the heritage goes back a long way! LEO’s great reputation comes from bringing together these two organizations that both had learning innovation built into their DNA. After all, you don’t survive 25 years in the fast-changing world of learning technology without being able to innovate constantly. The essence of LEO is a constant desire and ability to innovate as the world moves—this is also baked into LTG as a whole, with LEO leading the charge.

LEO’s Rose Benedicks and Andrew Joly at their standing-room-only talk on learning innovation and trends at Learning Technologies 2018 in London

LEO’s Launch Must Have Been an Exciting Time. Any Stand-Out Moments?

Piers Lea: We announced the merger transaction in April 2014 and in just 10 weeks launched LEO as a whole new brand with a website. Ten weeks to launch a new brand of this scale is almost unheard of—but the resulting name and brand has both had a great impact in the market and stood the test of time very well.

After the merger, with teams across London, Brighton and Sheffield in the UK, we set about culturally moving everyone in the business forwards as a new organization with new thinking. Part of our next aim was to take on larger contracts, like the ground-breaking CSL contract partnered with KPMG. This was a significant and strategic win for us and has proven to be very successful.

By 2016, we had successfully executed the CSL project and moved into a new account model where we could partner and be strategic with our customers. This saw new, powerful levels of trust being built. LEO became more advisory in nature, with people coming to us because of our experience in not just building, but implementing, maintaining and measuring learning programs. We’re now leading the market in these areas.

It took us just three years from launching in 2014, to win Company of the Year at the Learning Technologies Awards, an accolade voted for by peers in the learning industry. In merger terms, this would be judged as a massive success, and we’ve continued that trajectory. We’re now growing in the US, with a great team there, and we’re continuing to work with new organizations all the time.

The LEO team and clients accepting the Learning Technologies Company of the Year award in 2017

What Do the Next Five Years Hold?

Piers Lea: The next five years is about growing on our substantial success as a learning provider that really drives business performance results and gives organizations a strategic footing to modernize learning in the workplace. We’re going to continue to lead the charge in this fast-changing and fascinating industry.

Research is showing that there’s now a consciousness in large organizations that scaling learning is super important to their future survival and competitiveness. LEO’s position and experience in helping large organizations to provide the most effective and efficient ways of keeping people at work up to speed… well, you could almost say the value is immeasurable if not for the fact that it can actually be measured! And we’re going to continue to apply data-driven thinking and design-by-data thinking to our solutions.

LEO’s Gareth Jones addresses the crowd at one of our measuring the business impact of learning workshops

LEO Learning Milestones: Our Top 10 Moments (So Far!)

  • 2014 LEO Learning announced and launched to the market in just 10 weeks
  • 2015 Winning Civil Service Learning (CSL) contract
  • 2016 Launched a Measuring Business Impact of Learning service and survey
  • 2016 Opening the US LEO office in Atlanta
  • 2016 Added in-house Moving Image and learning games capability
  • 2017 Winning Company of the Year
  • 2017 Winning Learning Designer of the Year
  • 2018 Winning DemoFest at DevLearn for the first time (and then winning again in 2019)
  • 2019 Measuring Business Impact of Learning survey in its 3rd year, benchmarking responses from 1,000 companies
  • 2020 Launch of the LEO Learning Transformation Model—more on this coming soon!

Thank You to Our Wonderful Clients

In closing, we’d like to say a big, hearty ‘thank you’ to all the organizations we’ve worked with over the years (there are too many to mention!), as well as the talented staff who work for us. Here’s to seeing what the next five years will bring.

LEO’s Ella Richardson trying out the latest VR at our sister company PRELOADED

Keen to explore some of LEO Learning’s strategic thinking, insights and thought leadership? Check out the resources section.

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