According to Charles Jennings, traditional roles in L&D must change and I couldn’t agree more. Quite rightly, he talks about our need for learning architects and master builders, game changers and performance trackers. But one role that he doesn’t mention, that I can certainly see a need for, is marketing.
You know yourself that the first place you probably go to when you want to learn anything is Google. The second thing you will do is ask someone you know. Eventually, and probably only if you have drawn a blank elsewhere, you may go onto your company’s intranet to see what they have to offer, but rarely do you go there first.
That is of course a tragedy: most of the clients I work with have fantastic learning and development (L&D) solutions, ones that really address organisational issues, that will improve people’s performance. More and more often these solutions are genuinely engaging and worthwhile. Why don’t they appreciate us?!
Well the reality is that our learners often don’t make the connection with how to get their jobs done and the L&D solutions on offer. If you asked them about L&D, they’d probably see it as a big investment of their time for some longer term intangible gain – or worse, something that has to be done to tick someone else’s box. Add to that a heavy workload and an unsupportive (inexperienced) manager and it’s no wonder they don’t see the connection. We can protest as much as we like but that is the harsh reality.
That’s why we need to learn some valuable lessons from marketing. If we are to really engage with our learners we need to cut through the noise, appeal to them directly and galvanise them into action. To do that we need a plan!
I’m in the privileged position of working in L&D for an advertising and marketing business. From talking to my colleagues, I’ve realised that there are key lessons we in L&D can learn from advertising and marketing to ensure we engage our learners more effectively. They may have sophisticated tools at their disposal, and use extensive research to help shape their ideas that we don’t have access to, but even so there are key steps each one of us can take to harness our own inner marketer and capture our audience.
Embracing your inner marketer, follow these five steps and significantly improve your engagement:
- Know your brand. Your organisation will have its own brand, but what is your L&D brand? What do you stand for and what sort of L&D provision do you provide? Are you a luxury brand, consulting with the business and providing bespoke solutions, or a high street brand, providing optimum solutions that meet the needs of the majority of the learners most of the time? It doesn’t matter what your brand is but you do need to know it and live it and of course it needs to support you organisational brand.
- Understand your audience. We in L&D are brilliant at understanding the needs of our learners, but do we really know what makes them tick? Are you clear about why they turn up at work each day and what they get out of the relationship? The clearer you are about your audience the better able you are to decide what your messages are and how to deliver those messages.
- Have a really clear message. Why should learners engage with your solutions? What’s in it for them? The more work you can do on knowing your brand and understanding your audience, the easier it will be to craft your message. Perhaps it’s about ‘being the best’ or making their job easier, or you may have a number of key themes that you want to promote. Whatever it is, make sure it taps into your audience’s key drivers.
- What’s in your marketing mix? You cannot just have a landing page on your intranet and think ‘job done’. To really promote L&D and engage your learners you need a good marketing mix. What else could you do? Posters might seem old fashioned but a strategically placed poster with a great message can work wonders e.g. how good was that meeting, get the results you wanted? No? Sign up for our Influential Meetings programme.
There are many other things you could consider adding to your mix, e.g. taster sessions, storytelling, and using social media.
- Take a campaign approach. Marketing is never a one hit activity. Start to think at least about the next quarter, preferably further ahead. What key skill, topic or challenge do you want to address in the next quarter? Perhaps it’s improving meetings – how could you offer a range of solutions and have a marketing mix that promotes that over a longer period of time? Remember hardly anyone buys first time, you need to whet their appetites until they sign up. Evaluation is key here. When you have a campaign approach you need to evaluate each stage to establish what is working well and what might need changing next time.
Just do one small thing in each of these areas, and prepare yourself for that deluge of learners!
About Stephanie Morgan
Stephanie Morgan is the Director of Learning Solutions at Bray Leino. She has extensive experience in L&D, working with both public and private sector companies. Her expertise lies in challenging traditional thinking on blended learning solutions, helping organisations to move beyond the blend to truly incorporate the principles of 70:20:10. This goes hand in hand with learner engagement: what can the organisation do to help and support learners on their learning journey?
Stephanie is available to speak on these topics, so if you’re hosting an event and are interested in having an industry leader in blended learning and learner engagement present, please contact her on 01271 337 110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org