By Younes Mourchid, Ph.D., Coursera Facilitated Learning Specialist
Managing the rollout of an L&D program is a little bit like producing a feature film. You need all of your stakeholders—cast, crew, producers, directors, writers, and advertisers—aligned and working together to produce a great result. In this post, we’ll explore best practices and strategies for engaging various stakeholders in your organization in the launch new corporate learning initiatives.
I. Identifying your stakeholders
Stakeholders are colleagues in your organization who have an interest in the outcome of your L&D program. Your stakeholders may include:
- Employees for whom the program was designed
- Top executives — whose buy-in is essential when communicating the importance of the program and its alignment with the company’s overall business strategy
- Line managers — a channel for motivating and checking in on said employees
- Subject matter experts — who may act as facilitators for your L&D program
- Marketing — those who may be involved with internal communications
- IT — those who may have to integrate your L&D program with your company’s existing LMS
You can also use a Stakeholder Assessment Map (SAM) — this one is developed by TechRepublic. The SAM is a helpful tool to conduct a needs analysis of relevant stakeholder of your learning program.
While all stakeholders are important, in this post we’ll focus specifically on learners (employees), management, and company leadership.
II. Start with the learner’s perspective
Learning program rollouts go better when consider the motivation of your individual employees. Appeal to your potential learners’ career aspirations, their natural curiosity, or even their FOMO—this learning program provides a unique opportunity for them to stay on top of skills and knowledge demanded by their industry
Engaging your learner stakeholders early in the program design process will allow you to ensure that the program will help them meet their personal and professional goals. Take the following actions to engage learners and develop a learner-centric program:
- Focus learning objectives on skills needed to meet specific goals.
- Review and validate your curriculum with small groups of potential learners throughout in the design process.
- Demonstrate that the program’s learning activities and content relate to company values.
- Connect the program to your company’s process for performance review and professional development.
- Be clear about how your learning progress will be measured.
- Anticipate bottlenecks and roadblocks and make sure you’re equipped to tackle these as they come up.
III. Surface your Cheerleaders
According to Towards Maturity, of employees who consider continuing education opportunities, only 7 percent are influenced by L&D departments, compared to 40 percent who are influenced by their direct managers and 16 percent who are influenced by colleagues. Given those statistics, it’s clear that your learning program “cheerleaders”—advocates at every level, in every department—are a critical group to engage when launching your program.
There are a variety of ways to give your cheerleaders visibility within the company. One Coursera for Business customer, L’Oreal, has formally appointed early adopters and course completers as program “ambassadors” for their program. You may want to engage your own cheerleaders in creating newsletters, talks, and learning groups to encourage others and share their experiences.
To maximize your cheerleaders’ impact:
- Focus on engaging people who are highly credible and respected by colleagues.
- Enroll your cheerleaders as early testers in your learning program—this will give them a sense of ownership.
- Make sure your cheerleaders have context relevant resources to effectively market the program.
IV. Get the Leadership Team Involved
Employees are more likely to enroll in new learning initiatives that are publicly endorsed and supported by executives and senior managers. If possible, feature an influential senior executive in your communication campaign, and ask your senior management to help you position your program in the context of the organization’s strategic objectives.
For example, Coursera’s People Operations team took the following steps to engage leadership and management in our own learning program for employees, “Coursera for Coursera”:
- Met with managers across the company to request input on the program, and to ask them to support their teams in participating
- Had the Chief Marketing Officer give a shout-out at the company’s all-hands meeting when the program launched.
- Organized and facilitated various study groups.
- Celebrated learning accomplishments during the first quarter of the program by handing out awards during a company-wide lunch hour.
V. Keep Communicating, Post-Launch
Once your learning program is live, hold a debrief and celebration meeting with your key stakeholders. Ask them to share their reflections on what went well, and what can be improved for future launches, and demonstrate your commitment to listening and implementing their feedback.
As the results of your program begin to materialize, share data and wider feedback with your stakeholders, as well. You can also ask your stakeholders to contribute testimonials about the impact that the program has had on them and their teams—these can be used to incentivize participation in future learning initiatives.
As you keep communicating with your stakeholders, don’t forget about your learners. Check in with your learners on the regular to help any stragglers get back on track. Share stories from people who have completed the programs and articles about the benefits of lifelong learning, linking to the login portal for the learning program. For a truly successful launch, don’t stop the flow of communication once the program is launched.
Launching an L&D program takes strategic planning, continuous dedication, and appropriate communication. Engaging learners, advocates, and leaders across your organization will ensure that you don’t have to tackle the challenge alone—and will make the rewards even greater once your program is live.
This is the second out of three posts on program launch best practices. Stay tuned for the final post on how to incorporate facilitated learning into your online learning program.
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