Founded in 2016, by Erik van Vulpen and Nando Steinhuis, Netherlands based Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) has been successfully offering world-class, online education programs for HR professionals for the past three years with one mission-to make HR future-proof. The company wants to enable HR professionals who are committed to life-long learning to expand their skill set with relevant and in-demand skills by offering world-class, online education programs available anywhere, anytime.
Today, it boasts of more than 2500 ‘students’ from over 65 different countries. Most of them are HR Professionals working for organizations with more than 10,000 employees. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, co-founder Erik van Vulpen shares his thoughts on how exactly AIHR wants to secure the future of HR through learning.
What was the tipping point for starting AIHR?
The tipping point was that we saw a tremendous interest in HR analytics. After doing 50 interviews with HR managers in large corporate companies, we noticed that they were very interested in People Analytics. They asked questions like-what is it, how I can use it, what's the business case for analytics, and which tools do I need for it. During these interviews, we discovered this enormous knowledge gap and decided to start writing about it. That led to our first website - and later the e-learning platform!
How exactly does AIHR help HR professionals expand their skill set with more contemporary, digital skills so that they can keep up with the latest technologies?
The simple answer is: we teach them! At our AIHR Academy, HR professionals can learn the skills they need to be relevant in the 21st century. These skills are very different from the skills that we needed in the previous century.
I heard a recent talk by Jennifer Jordan, a professor in leadership at IMD. She was talking about the trait of successful digital leaders.
“She found in her research that leaders who had the right digital competencies far outperformed non-digital leaders. We want to bring these competencies to HR!”
We do this through online courses, consisting of video lessons, reading material, and assignments. The video lessons form the basis. They are used to explain the content. The reading material is recommended to take an even deeper dive into the subject matter and the assignments help to apply skills in daily life. All our material is very practical and can be applied in your job the next day.
How has the traction been for AIHR since its founding?
For us, traction has been above expectations. We’ve already had over 2,500,000 total visitors on our AIHR Analytics blog and our AIHR Digital platform, which is both mind-boggling and humbling. Shortly after founding, now three years ago, our users kept asking us for more information and courses on the topics we were writing about, so we decided to venture into online courses. This is now our core activity and we’ve already had over 2000 students on our AIHR Academy.
We have shown the same traction for our team. We started with two people, and now have a core team of 12, excluding 11 academy instructors and a few external contractors.
What differentiates AIHR from competitors that offer similar solutions?
When we started the AIHR Academy, we focused solely on People Analytics. This made us unique as no one was offering in-depth courses on the different functions of a People Analytics department. Our first course was aimed at the HR Analytics Leader, the second course was aimed at the HR Data Analyst, and so we continued our courses.
With the recent acquisition of Digital HR Tech, we’ve ventured beyond people analytics into the digital HR domain. This opens up a whole range of new courses, including our recently launched Digital HR Certificate program. This program contains over 10 hours of video material to learn and a lot of additional reading material for those who really want to know the nitty-gritty. No one in the world is offering this kind of depth on these very important topics.
What are your future plans as far as product and expansion are concerned?
As I already said, the next step for us is digital HR. With the Digital HR Certificate program, we’ve made a big step towards our goal there. At the same time, we recently launched an HR Analytics for HR Business Partner training as that is something our customers have been asking for, for a long time already. This has proven to be a really popular course as well.
The next step for us is to continue course production in the digital and general HR space, in which we will continue to push for a product depth and product quality that is currently unavailable in the HR e-learning space.
How much venture funding have you raised and from whom?
Until now, we have been entirely self-funded. I co-founded this business with my business partner Nando Steenhuis and so far, we’ve grown organically. We strongly believe that a good product and healthy revenue is the best way to build a viable and sustainable business – and that’s what we’ve been doing and hope to continue to do.
How does AIHR aim to make HR future-proof by offering world-class, online education programs available anywhere, anytime? What are some of the trends you foresee in this space?
Our mission is indeed to make HR future-proof by offering world-class, online education programs available anywhere, anytime. We will continue to share excellent content on our blogs and create top-quality courses. Our mission has always been to publicly share quality content that’s better than everyone else’s product – and then have a product that’s even more awesome.
“When we talk about trends, I think the need for learning will only increase.”
A recent report pointed out that 50% of working professionals need to be upskilled in digital skills. I think this number is even higher when it comes to HR professionals. This is what we will continue to focus on and help organizations with.