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Think Like a Marketer: Engaging Employees in Learning and Development

Do you know the feeling when you click Send on an email and can almost hear the groans and sighs of the recipients? If you’re an HR or Learning and Development (L&D) professional and live in fear of this reaction when you inform employees of a new training course (especially a mandatory one), you’re not alone.

According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report, 36% of talent developers said their biggest challenge was increasing employee engagement in learning.

The Challenge

The problem is apparent: employees aren’t as engaged as you would like them to be in professional training and workplace learning programs. But what’s the solution? Many experts recommend promoting a course or learning program by thinking like a marketer. Enticing employees requires a solid internal communications strategy, whether you do this on your own or in collaboration with your marketing department.

There seems to be a communication and engagement gap between employees and training. Most employees report that they’re eager to learn; in fact, 42% of employees say that they [is this correct?] According to a Deloitte survey, leave an organization due to the lack of learning opportunities. At the same time, in a different study, 61% of L&D professionals said they lack a clear communications policy for creating an aspirational reason for learners to take training.

L&D Marketing Tips

The first step is to understand your target audience and identify what excites them and the barriers keeping them from a positive interest in learning. Are your employees motivated by competition? Incentives? Career advancement? Badges? Humor? A video message? Their manager’s insistence? Once you gather the answers to such questions, consider weaving enticements into communications about a new training event. Ready to learn something that will help your career? Do you think you know the rules governing cyberbullying? Get the latest ways to protect yourself. The first fifty people who complete “Speak Up!” and pass the quiz will receive a meeting with the executive team to see where our company is heading. As for obstacles, do employees lack time to complete courses? Do most find the training boring, irrelevant, and impractical? Do they have enough information about the course and how it will benefit their workplace? If not, it may be time to bring your training products into the new decade. Until then, you may need to market the business need for an innovative and skilled workforce to managers and executives to remove such obstacles.

The second step to thinking like a marketer is creating a strategy. How will you communicate with learners? Emails? Notifications on your company intranet site? Web meeting? This is a great time to get creative. Some experts recommend creating a “teaser” (like a movie trailer) that hints at the course content and answer, “What’s in It for Me? (WIIFM) to build employee curiosity and excitement. Use effective CTAs (calls to action) that give each employee a positive reason to participate in training other than, “It’s mandatory.” Using humor, appeals to emotion, visuals (videos and graphics), and clever email subject lines also can increase the likelihood that your communications will be received positively.

 Another thing good marketers know is that the more touchpoints with the target audience, the better. Think about ads for a consumer product. You’re more likely to recognize a brand if you see it on a billboard, TV commercials, and social media. Your learning program (or a specific course) is the product you’re trying to “sell.”

The Payoff According to Glint, employees who see opportunities to “learn and grow,” are 3.6 times more likely to report being happy at work than those who don’t. If you lack a clear strategy and tactics to communicate internally about workplace learning, now is the time to create them. A strong learning program can drive employee engagement and vice versa. Instead of groans and sighs, imagine smiles!

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