Successfully launching a new Learning and Development (L&D) program requires:
- Data-driven planning
- Communication across different channels
- Getting all stakeholders on board
Here are some strategies to follow as you roll out any new corporate learning initiatives.
Start with the learner's perspective
Learning program rollouts work better when you focus the message on what’s in it for employees rather than the company.
It’s important to consider the learner’s perspective not only when designing the program curriculum, but also when communicating about the program.
In your messaging to employees, you need to explain how the new learning will help them meet their personal and professional goals in the short and long term.
To make sure your learning program puts the learners at the center:
- Focus learning objectives on skill-sets needed to meet specific goals.
- Include potential learners in program design.
- Show how the program’s learning activities and content connect to company values.
- Connect the program to your company’s systems for performance review and professional development.
- Be clear about how your program will measure learning objectives.
- Be realistic about existing barriers and have a plan to work around them.
Prime your communication strategy
Different organizations use different strategies to let employees know about their L&D programs and how to enroll. Some strategies include:
- Email campaigns
- Announcements on internal communication tools and websites
- Printed announcements
- In-person announcements
- Asking managers to communicate directly to their teams
To find the best avenues to communicate about your learning program, consider how you usually communicate new initiatives and ask:
- Are my typical communication channels appropriate in this case?
- Are there reasons to experiment with new ones?
No matter what channel of communication you use, these tips can help you effectively let potential learners know about your program:
- Diversify your content. To appeal to a wide range of audiences, include different types of content. This can include: paragraphs, bullet points, stories, statistics, charts, graphs, photos, embedded videos, and audio.
- Tell a story. Information campaigns most impactful when they tell a story that creates excitement about the program. If possible, include testimonials from previous learning initiatives that highlight actual value for employees.
- Customize the message. To make your message as relevant as possible for different audiences, customize it with appropriate job titles, organizational levels, geography, and other specific language.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Targeted and frequent communication with stakeholders is key.
Leverage your internal publications & marketing departments
Internal publications, such as magazines and newsletters, can be a viable platform to highlight the availability and merit of your learning program.
Your organization’s marketing or internal communications department can be a powerful thought partner in effective outreach and promotion.
Some best practices to leverage your internal publications include:
- Engage your editorial (marketing) team in creating a message that resonates with employees.
- Plan a week-by-week rollout that includes different communication channels.
- Coordinate the timing of the program roll-out with the release of any regularly scheduled internal publications, such as an employee magazine, newsletter, or all-hands meeting.
Surface your Cheerleaders
Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to promote your learning program. However, this strategy alone isn’t enough to create the outreach impact you expect unless you make use of a group of "cheerleaders" to spread the word for you.
Cheerleaders are people who enthusiastically advocate for learning programs as a worthwhile investment in growth for your company and its employees.
For example, L’oreal features the first learners who finish a Coursera course in their team as "ambassadors.” These ambassadors are given a platform to share their learning experience with a broader group of employees and become an advocate for the learning program.
Whether your cheerleaders are featured in newsletters, talks, or learning groups, they get to gain visibility within the company while promoting your initiative.
According to Towards Maturity, of employees who consider continuing education opportunities:
- 40% are influenced by their direct managers
- 16% are influenced by colleagues
- Only 7% are influenced by the L&D department
Given these statistics, it’s sensible to make sure that your cheerleaders are people who can be effective in their advocacy. When selecting cheerleaders:
- Find people who are highly credible and respected by colleagues.
- Enroll your learning cheerleaders as early testers in your learning program. This will give them a sense of ownership.
- Make sure your cheerleaders have the right resources to effectively market the program.
Get the Leadership Team Involved
Employees are more likely to enroll in new learning initiatives when executives and senior managers publicly endorse and promote these initiatives.
If possible, feature an influential senior executive in your communication campaign. They can help place your learning program into an organizational context.
At Coursera, the People Operations team leveraged the leadership and management staff in its rollout of a learning program by taking the following steps:
- The team met with several managers from across the company before launch to get their input on the program.
- The team met with managers across the company to get their and commitment to support their teams in participating.
- The VP of Marketing gave a shout-out at the company’s all-hands meeting when the program launched.
- The team organized and facilitated various study groups.
Invest in the Momentum
To maintain a successful program, the promotion and marketing of new learning initiatives must continue after the initial roll-out.
There are a number of strategies you can pursue to keep up the learning momentum:
- Collaborate with your IT and marketing professionals to include program updates in your internal communication systems.
- Use video conferences to connect learners from different departments and locations.
- Record and publish video conferences for employees who could not attend.
- Encourage employees who benefited from your learning program to share about their experiences.
- Organize study groups for specific skills or courses.
- Develop an evaluation strategy to understand the impact of your learning program.
- Share the results of your evaluation with the company.