Southern Pipe needed to not only train thousands of employees across hundreds of locations, but keep them up-to-date on new products and new safety regulations. How could they keep everyone on the same page and keep their employees engaged?
Southern Pipe used BlueVolt to strengthen their culture of learning with training that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and assigned specifically to each user, and to find and maintain employees who value learning—even beyond assigned courses.
Southern Pipe and Supply Company, a wholesale distributor based out of Meridian, MS, has been around since the early twentieth century. The company has roughly 130 stores in seven states, and distributes plumbing, heating & air conditioning, industrial, water, and sewer products. The company is family-owned and oriented, and even today, employees are called “family members.”
According to Ron Black, the Director of Human Resources for Southern Pipe, they use BlueVolt for two main purposes: to train their employees and as an offered benefit.
“We use BlueVolt to train our family members from onboarding through their careers… all new family members to Southern Pipe are assigned a Training Track that's built in the Learning Center… based on their position and their experience level,” Black explained. “And then we use BlueVolt and the Learning Center to do ongoing training that is assigned based on need, based on what's going on in the company or in the world.”
This ongoing training includes everything from new product launches, to regulatory courses, to updated safety courses. Black explained being able to assign learners the legal and safety courses is especially helpful in making sure everyone is up to date—and if there were any issues, the company has proof of its due diligence.
Black also added that he’s seen many benefits from having up to date product training, especially as Southern Pipe sells products many people are not familiar with. “Product knowledge is very important, and important in our industry: it's potentially a differentiator in terms of us and some of our competition. So we think it's strategically important that our people have the most in-depth product knowledge,” Black said.
“We know without question that the quicker we bring our people up to speed, and the more in-depth product knowledge [they have], leads to superior customer service, [which] leads to greater sales.”
But Southern Pipe goes a step beyond providing basic training: they offer courses through BlueVolt as a benefit for family members’ own enrichment.
“As I like to say, [the Learning Center is] like a library—if you walk into a library, nobody tells you what book you can or can't read or check out. And we operate the Learning Center the same way: any course that we have in the Learning Center is available to any of our family members to engage in, whether there's a direct application to their job or not,” Black explained. “For example, if we have a warehouse family member that wants to learn the basics of PowerPoint or Excel—neither of [those] have anything to do with working in a warehouse, but if they want to learn it, they are more than welcome to enroll.”
Along those same lines, Black added, they partner with OpenSesame to provide courses that have nothing to do with business—from budgeting to health to stress management.
“This side of the training, we basically provide it because we feel that part of our culture—part of our business strategy—is to be a great place to work. And part of that formula is to attract and retain above-average people. They want the opportunity to grow, they want the opportunity to better themselves, both professionally and personally,” Black explained. “It is a huge part of our strategy to attract the best people and to retain those people.”
Learners don’t have to pay or get permission to take these courses, and they have 24/7 access to the course library. Not only is there no cost, but some courses even offer $BlueBucks as an incentive for self-betterment.
This case study is a strong example of how you can use BlueVolt to create a culture of learning at your company—not only are all of Southern Pipe’s employees trained on their products as well as safety & compliance, but they are also encouraged to learn more about their own interests and improve their skills, even those not directly related to their job.
The result? Employees who are confident in the product they are selling, feel safer at work, and know that their employer cares about them and their personal development.
“We've been with BlueVolt literally since shortly after they came into existence, and we're still with them over 20 years later,” Black said. “So I think that that says a lot.”