Elevation Awards case study: How Stein IAS won Gold for ‘Best employee engagement program’ for ‘Lean for your Life!’

Over the last two years, trailblazing B2B agency Stein IAS, has been successfully building a culture of constant improvement, with a highly-engaging internal initiative called ‘Learn for Your Life’ (LFYL). 

LFYL was launched with an online all-staff event, augmented by a home delivered direct mail, and a call to action to ‘find your learning spirit.’ And every Stein IAS member now has their unique learning spirit icon, on their personalized Learning Hub page.

The hub houses the Universal Knowledge Foundation (UKF) course. Ace every test to be a complete legend. Each module you pass, earns a league point for your learning team. 

Nominating a colleague for the Learning Spirit of the Month (LSOM) awards, also wins a point for your team, and might get your colleague a prize. 

Every quarter, a global all-staff meeting celebrates prize winners and legends, and stirs up competition between learning teams. 78% of Stein IAS people have engaged with the UKF. 60% have nominated their LSOM. 100% found their learning spirit.

This LFYL has helped to drive record business performance in 2021/22, with time spent on non-revenue-generating activities falling from 30% to 21.3%, 18% growth in turnover and 11% growth in operating profit. 

Strategy – broader business issues the company faced

Today, people judge their employer, and their jobs, on the development opportunities they are offered. People at Stein IAS saw learning as important, but in the cut and thrust of agency life, seldom saw learning work as their most urgent priority. 

A ‘one set of skills for life’ mentality holds sway in business, but historians believe that our ancient ancestors were more adaptable and learned throughout their lives. 

The Stein IAS strategy was to create an internal brand that positioned the company as a center of learning excellence, conveyed the urgency of learning work, and highlighted our innate need to adapt and learn. 

The challenge was defined as: “To put learning at the heart of everyone’s job, by putting the job of learning in everyone’s heart.”

Objectives of the campaign 

LFYL has ambitious macro-objectives: to raise awareness of training, personal development and knowledge gathering, massively increase engagement with learning and development work, and even to promote happiness. 

The primary measurable targets were: 

Achieve 100% engagement with the ‘find your learning spirit’ launch campaign.
Engage 66% of people with the Universal Knowledge Foundation course.
Achieve 50% total module completion for the Universal Knowledge Foundation course.
Engage 50% of people with the Learning Spirit of the Month awards.

The target audience 

This campaign was aimed at all of Stein IAS’ employees. 

To understand the learning and development challenge at Stein IAS, consider the insight of one lifetime employee, who says that working at the agency in 2010 was more similar to 1973, than to today. 

And the pace of change just keeps getting faster, so in digital B2B marketing, learning is the new competitive frontier. 

Most agencies hire in the skills they need – and turn over high numbers of staff. But Stein IAS has a culture of training and retaining people, keeping the feel of its family business roots. 

Stein IAS people come from all over the world, from many different cultures, and are predominantly under 30. The challenge here is to create a single unified culture, by appealing to a basic need shared by all people: the need to learn, progress and grow. 

Media, channels or techniques used 

Creating a new company value called LFYL shook the company up to realize that learning is an immediate and long-term business survival mechanism, it sounds like ‘run for your life’ and that’s deliberate.

The creative idea for the campaign was ‘Spirit of the Age,’ using imagery from ancient cultures famous for their spirit of accelerated learning. The idea recaptures the life-long learning spirit, eroded by the 20th Century ‘one skill for life’ mentality. 

The idea was launched with the company’s biggest ever internal event. The center-piece was a direct mail sent to homes, with instructions to open only at the big meeting. The box contained the LFYL manifesto, with personalized graphics based on each member’s face, and loads of awesome swag. As the meeting unfolded the box was opened and LFYL was unveiled piece by mind-blowing piece. 

The two-hour extravaganza included bespoke video content and three ‘leaders and their learning spirit’ presentations from the company’s biggest hitters, including the incredible story of an unexpected meeting with the pope. 

The meeting set everyone their first reflective work task: to find their Learning Spirit and the reasons why this spirit inspires their learning. 

Perhaps the biggest audience reaction was when everyone was assigned to join one of five learning teams: Egyptians, Macedonians, Olmecs, Polynesians and Sumerians, which compete in the annual Learning Teams championship. 

Since the original launch, there has been a LFYL all-staff meeting every three months. The second meeting launched the Learning Hub with the first modules of the Stein IAS Universal Knowledge Foundation Course (UKF). 

The UKF covers the must-have knowledge at Stein IAS. Each module includes a downloadable pdf, PowerPoint and overview video. Learning is assessed by an online module test.

Score 70% to become a ‘scholar’, 90% to become a ‘legend’. Ace every module and become a ‘complete legend’. Your personalized hub home page displays your progress. The modules were developed with the help of agency leaders and subject matter experts. 

Completing UKF modules is one way members can win points for their learning team. The other is to nominate a colleague for the Learning Spirit of the Month (LSOM) awards.

Each month, two members are rewarded with a cash prize for their outstanding learning. 

At each quarterly LFYL all-staff meeting, LSOMs are honored, along with UKF complete legends. New parts of the initiative are unveiled, and the latest standings in the Learning

Teams Championship are announced. 

Timescales of the campaign 

  • Planning stage: June 2020-September 2020.
  • Brand launch: September 2020.
  • Full implementation: March 2021-present.


The direct costs of the program have been limited to printing and launching meeting goodies, these have totaled around $2,000.


  • 78% (target 60%) of Stein IAS members have engaged with the UKF. 
  • 54% (target 50%) of modules have been completed in total. 
  • 60% (target 50%) have nominated their LSOM. 
  • 100% (target 100%) found their learning spirit. 
  • This LFYL has helped to drive record business performance in 2021/22, with time spent on non-revenue-generating activities falling from 30% to 21.3%, 18% growth in turnover and 11% growth in operating profit. 

“Learn for your life has driven genuine engagement, the numbers are amazing for a voluntary program in a busy agency, but it’s the buzz that sets it apart. People absolutely love this stuff"

Rob Morrice, CEO, Stein IAS

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