Recorded Books:
Inhouse team

Recruiting, onboarding and upskilling internal teams to create a cost-effective, constantly available technical resource.

Services: Technology & Web Development | UX & Web Design

Sector: Publishing

Recorded Books Team

As we’d already improved its website, the world’s largest independent wholesale audiobook retailer asked us to recruit, onboard and upskill its own internal team to optimise the new platform.

Having this new dedicated inhouse team not only saved money, it also gave the retailer constant access to the complete technical resource required to continue selling books across the world.

Upskilling internal teams to create an autonomous resource

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”, so the adage goes. For Recorded Books, it’s an entirely relevant way to describe our role in the creation of its own internal digital team.

As the largest independent wholesale audiobook retailer in the world, Recorded Books sells a vast range of audiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, movies, learning programmes and more into libraries, military bases, private libraries across the world, as well as to leading B2C retailers such as Audible and audiobooks.com.

Reducing costs, increasing access

Being a retailer, reducing costs wherever possible has a massive impact on Recorded Books’ bottom-line. And being a largely online business means Recorded Books’ technology platforms need to be constantly managed, maintained and optimised.

The problem was twofold. First, paying digital agencies for ongoing technical support was simply costing too much. Second was the issue of availability. The feeling was that a skilled internal digital team would provide the constant, readily available and agile technical support the business really needed, minute by minute, hour by hour.

Replacing ourselves with something sustainable

It felt a little odd to be handed this brief, because we were essentially being charged with replacing ourselves. But you can never do too much for a good client, so we began by establishing a structure for the new internal team, developing the new processes and training programmes that would deliver the knowledge and skills to maintain and improve the Recorded Books platform in the future.

Recruiting, onboarding and training

From the outset it was a challenge working across different time zones from the UK to the US. A few well-timed trips across the Atlantic and lots of carefully planned online workshops enabled us to engage with prospects and new recruits in a natural and easy manner. But this was no quick and easy fix. Recruiting, onboarding and upskilling the internal digital team proved to be a two-year long process. And during all that time, at the back of our minds was the fact that this was essentially a long goodbye.

Recorded Books_Inhouse team_Distinction collaboration

In it together

Engaging everyone all the time

We learned valuable lessons along the way. Recognising the value of sharing the more exciting tasks required in maintaining the platform – focusing on the intellectual aspects like R&D and strategy, rather than just the donkey work – we engaged people early. By sharing all the tasks across the new internal team, both dull and interesting, we helped improve work satisfaction and reduced staff turnover.

Saying goodbye happily

We found that rather than struggling to stay motivated, we found a strange sort of pride instead. Seeing the increasing number of individuals successfully bedding into the new internal team was a source of great satisfaction. A valuable lesson we took from this project is one of trust. It’s never good when one business relies too much on another, and we discovered it’s natural to say goodbye sometimes.

Recorded Books_Inhouse team_Recruitment

Recruiting, onboarding and upskilling the internal digital team

Building trust for the future

Where most client/agency relationships end in what amounts to a divorce, this particular relationship ended when both parties were still happy and successfully working together. And the outcome of this lesson? We provide consultancy services to Recorded Books. Thanks to the trust we built in our approach to what was essentially replacing ourselves with something that would work better for Recorded Books, we’re still in the frame for future big projects. It became very much a case of “Thanks for all your hard work, goodbye, we’ll speak again soon.”

Delivering lasting benefits

As well as a positive future with Recorded Books, the people we onboarded, upskilled and nurtured will inevitably move on some day and, we hope, think favourably of us as a supplier in their new venture. Because more than anything, seeing Recorded Books’ internal digital team thrive was a source of great satisfaction and pride at a job well done. They felt like our team in so many ways, and it was hugely rewarding to see them succeed, and continue to succeed to this day.

So while there is no such thing as a client for life anymore, we like to think that by delivering on our promise, and by doing the right thing in giving Recorded Books and its new internal digital team a long and sustainable life, the future looks brighter for everyone involved.

Outcome

The impact of creating a self-sufficient client by helping them recruit, onboard and train their inhouse team was as huge for us as it was for Recorded Books, resulting in a mutually beneficial and long lasting relationship.

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Kick-start inhouse teams

Kick-starting new projects before handing over to internal teams

From early on in the project, Distinction simultaneously worked to plan and execute our roadmap whilst educating our team. The plan was always for us to be self-sufficient, and we realised that aim more quickly than expected thanks to their impact.

Mike Pyland

CTO, Recorded Books, Inc.