By Younes Mourchid, Ph.D., Coursera Facilitated Learning Specialist
Imagine you’ve invested a good of portion of your L&D budget in online learning content. But soon after the launch of the online program, you realize that very few employees are utilizing the new resources.
What’s limiting engagement? A deeper investigation reveals that some employees didn’t even know the online content was available, while many others were confused about how they could participate. The missing link was communication.
Most employees need some guidance and encouragement to make the most of online learning and development programs. By developing and executing a strategic communications plan, you can significantly increase program participation and course completion. In this post, we’ll explore a few strategies for promoting your learning program and creating a culture of learning and growth within your organization.
Prime your communication channels
Your company probably already has several channels for communicating internal initiatives and opportunities. As you develop a communication plan for your online learning program, ask yourself:
- Are there existing typical communication channels that you should use?
- Are there reasons to experiment with new ones?
Different channels work for different companies. Depending on your company size and structure, and what your employees are used to, you might consider using:
- Email campaigns
- Announcements on internal communication tools and websites
- Printed announcements
- In-person announcements
- Asking managers to communicate to their teams
Remember to work with cross-functional stakeholders to find the right communication channels. Your company’s marketing team can be a helpful thought partner, and your HR, operations, or internal communications team can suggest existing channels—like company newsletters—that you may want to leverage.
Develop the right content
Communicating effectively about your learning program starts with creating content that will bring the opportunity to life and make the process clear for employees. Keep the following tips in mind as you’re creating content for various channels:
- Diversify. To appeal to a wide range of audiences, include different types of content—including text paragraphs, bullets, and quotes; visuals such as charts, graphs, and photos; and video and audio materials.
- Tell a story. Personalize your program and goals by including learner success stories and testimonials. If you’re just starting out, consider having your L&D leaders tell personal stories from their learning experiences at other companies, or explain how and why you decided to launch this program.
- Customize the message. Develop customized messages for various audiences, e.g., employees in different functions or at different levels.
- Build a cadence. Frequent communication is key. Include a calendar in your plan, and schedule a steady cadence of messaging across different channels and formats.
Invest in the momentum
Continue communicating about your learning program on a regular basis, even after the initial rollout is complete. Ongoing outreach will keep employees engaged, and allows you to showcase the impact of L&D at your company. Consider these strategies for integrating communication into your long-term L&D plan:
- Collaborate with your IT and marketing departments to include program updates in internal communication systems
- Use video conferences to connect learners from different departments and locations to each other; record and publish conferences for employees who could not attend
- Encourage employees to share their learning experiences, and publicize their stories through your company intranet or internal newsletter
- Organize study groups for specific skills or courses (see our blog post for ideas)
- Develop an evaluation strategy to understand the impact of your learning program (e.g., an employee survey or analysis of course progress across the company), and share the results in a variety of communication channels.
Providing content is only one part of a learning and development leader’s job—we also need to raise awareness of learning opportunities, and contribute to building a workplace culture in which learning is routine. An effective communication plan is essential to achieving those goals. By planning strategically and collaborating with cross-functional stakeholders, you can create a plan that will get your learning program off to a great start and sustain enthusiasm over the long term.
This is the first of three blog posts on the topic of “Launching a successful learning and development program.” In the next post, we’ll talk about involving company leadership and learning champions to improve program outcomes.