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Launching a learning initiative

L&D: Think like a marketer

March 19, 2019

Corporate learning is irrelevant.

That is the truth for most employees across many different organisations. We learnt that ourselves as a learning company launching a new learning initiative. It’s difficult to roll out new learning technology that competes with the more urgent day-to-day tasks of a knowledge worker.

Last month, my colleague Toby wrote an article listing the 9 main challenges of learning at big companies.

  1. Digital transformation
  2. No learning culture
  3. Content libraries have minimal engagement
  4. Getting staff to experience new technology such as AI
  5. Valuable internal content which is untagged
  6. Finding quality, free content
  7. Platform fatigue
  8. Bad data and lack of insights on learning needs
  9. Skill gaps lead to hiring rather than development

Rightly, these feel like urgent problems to you. But to employees they may as well be lost in the middle of a terms and conditions page. On the list of day-to-day priorities for your employees these issues, in these words, don’t register as important or even impactful.

As a Marketer my job is to communicate the value of my product/service to those it benefits the most. I would argue that in my limited experience in the world of learning L&D professionals are tasked with the same job. However, in Linkedin’s 2019 Workplace Report they found that talent developers only spend 15% of their time promoting employee engagement with learning. 

In a previous post our Head of Customer Success talks about some of the tools you can use to reach your employees. I’d like to follow that up by sharing three examples of how to translate what you want into what your employees want.

You want digital transformation.
Your employee wants to remain employed and employable.

When seeking to deliver a digital transformation program consider the impact it will have not only on the organisation, but the individuals. Most people would rather keep their jobs or know that the skills they are acquiring will make them employable in a crowded job market. Change is inevitable. This is clear in examples such as Blockbusters, Toys’r’us, Carillion and the 100,000+ retail jobs lost. Communicate that in order to keep this business strong you need to keep your staff strong and recommend a place they can go to do that. Talk about the skills they will build and how these will help them remain attractive employees as the job market continues to shift.

Note: Always have a call to action in your communications. Something that you want them to do and explicitly ask them to do it.

You care about skill gaps.
Your employees care about promotion.

When it comes to filling skill gaps, companies are more likely to hire externally than upskill talent within the business. This happens despite overwhelming evidence that where possible promoting up is the best solution. Polycom, a billion dollar company with over 3,800 employees, found that 75% of its open positions were filled by external recruits. They have reduced this to 40% with a focus on investing in internal development.

In your messaging share the stats on external hires for your own company. Tell your employees that you want to reduce it by giving everyone a shot at getting the promotion they want. And it all starts here with this learning platform or course that you’re promoting. Encourage them to schedule in 5-15 minutes, 3 days a week to engage with it and discuss it with their manager.

You care about learning culture.
Your employees care about their lack of time to learn.

It has been reported that the typical knowledge worker only has 5 minutes a day  to learn. Therefore it’s important not only to explain why they should do something, but how to fit it into their busy day of meetings, email communications and job specific tasks. Similar to Atlassian’s Shipit days you could give your team 24 hours to focus on building a skill they want once a quarter. Encourage teams to take an hour each week, go to a breakout space, a coffee shop or canteen to learn some key skills. If they don’t know where to begin magpie is a great start (shameless plug). Decide on the frequency that best suits your organisation and be consistent. If someone cannot make their ‘growth hour’ encourage them to reschedule to establish its importance.

In essence, making learning at work relevant boils down to the message you communicate to employees. New technologies can help reduce the burden by being less cumbersome but your employees need to know why they are doing it. Beyond improving their skills they want to know the outcome.

The data our recommendation engine, magpie, provides helps clients engage with employees at the right time in the right way. Read this post by our Chief Scientific Officer who identifies the most popular day and time of day for learning. In a later post he also shared the relevance of internal content vs external content based on actual engagement data for a client.

For all of you who have made it to the end of this post I hope you've found it valuable and here are two ways you can find out more about how magpie works:

  1. Try it yourself - we built a free version just for L&D professionals to show you how it could work across different teams in your organisation.
  2. Consultation call - If you're one of the almost 3,000 L&D professionals already signed up to magpie for L&D then you can book a consultation with one of our solutions architects.

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