Launching large corporate learning courses, whether eLearning, classroom or blended, needs careful planning and execution to ensure uptake, completion and ultimately behavioural change. We recognised the need for change management and communications around course launches, especially where a large number of people are involved, a while ago and now regard some or all of these aspects as important for all courses. This isn’t something you can do close to launching a course though, it needs to be planned ahead of time. Read on for our five tips for successfully launching large corporate learning courses.
Start with clear objectives
Objectives are important for any learning course, but we’re not just talking about the ones that appear at the beginning. For all courses you design and deliver, you need to be thinking about how these are helping to achieve overall business objectives. Is a training course even the right type of intervention? Could your aims be better served by a well-timed communication and a video explaining what’s required? We’ll assume that you’ve been through this exercise and decided that a training course is the right thing to be offering. Tying learning into overall business objectives is a smart move. After all, you want people to understand why they’re required to take training and how it’s going to help the business to succeed as well as themselves.
You should also be thinking about objectives for the launch of the learning. Things like completion rates, tracking behavioural change and other metrics can really help to focus the mind around what you’re looking to achieve. For example, if you’re training people in customer service, you should be able to look at customer service satisfaction results before and after the learning has been released. It’s only when you start to look at learning in this context that it becomes truly effective.
Design with the learner in mind
What you do before you even create the learning is as important to launching it as the actual launch itself. You’re never going to get anywhere with learning that’s as dull as dishwater, it will fall flat and you’ll fail to realise the objectives.
We’ve written before about designing with the learner in mind, but what do we really mean by that? Does it mean going on a retreat to the mountains, taking some ayahuasca and transporting yourself into the bodies of your colleagues to see things from their eyes? Of course not. What we do is to try really hard to imagine that we’re the learner sat there in the classroom or in front of the computer screen or mobile phone, and we ask ourselves the question, ‘would I want to take this training?’
It sounds easy but it’s not that easy when you’re faced with a massive amount of information to distill down into manageable chunks. Because we champion blended learning, it is the way forward for L&D after all, we think how we can break the content up into online and offline parts in order to make it more palatable.
Looking at a course from the learner’s point of view at the beginning is the key to designing and developing a course that’s going to hit the mark.
Get leadership support
Where change is involved, which is the point of most learning, you absolutely have to get buy-in from leadership. This becomes critical when you’re looking at a major change that affects everyone in the organisation including leadership. Without the top-down support, you’re probably doomed to failure. You need leadership to understand and support the change, to ‘role model’ the change and to spread the good word that this is an important thing for people to take notice of and embrace fully.
Even for relatively small learning activities, it’s important to keep leadership up to speed with what’s happening. They’ll have a view as to whether the learning helps to meet business objectives and they’ll also be more supportive as a result. The reality is that some people will always look forward to training and others will see it as an invitation to dine with Hannibal Lecter when they’re the main course. These people need to go on a journey so that they’ll also look at the learning positively. It’s your job to take them on this journey by getting leadership to both support the learning and be vocal about it wherever possible.
Generate awareness and interest
When thinking about your communications around the learning, there’s a lot that can be done to generate awareness and interest. We’re using the AIDA model here which we think works well. AIDA stands for awareness, interest, desire, action. For the awareness and interest phases, it’s about making people aware of the learning that’s coming and doing enough to arouse their interest in it. Often learners just get an email telling them to go to the LMS to take a course. BOOORRRINNGG. Where’s the incentive for the learner to want to even go to the LMS and open the course? It could be that this is compliance training and they have to do it to keep their job. Fine, but you know very well that they’ll click through the training as quickly as possible just to finish it, tick the box and get back to their job. This is because you haven’t created any awareness or interest, let alone any desire to get them to want to take action.
So how can we create awareness and interest? If the learning is company-wide then you’ll need a proper communications plan in order to ensure you’re doing things at the right time. You may even need to alter the messaging for different audiences, which takes planning. Use leadership, as discussed, to at least indicate to people that this is an important thing to take notice of. An email or post on your company messaging system, such as Yammer, from leadership will set the tone for the learning to come and highlight the importance of it. You could send a message to managers or speak to them on a webinar to give them some key messages to cascade about the learning. As with marketing messages, people need to be exposed to them several times, using different methods, before they’ll take notice.
One way to create awareness and interest is to perhaps shoot a short talking head video about the learning, which can be posted on various comms channels in the lead up to the learning being released. Talking head videos can be done on a mobile phone, with a plug-in lapel microphone, as long as you can find somewhere with a decent amount of natural light. You don’t have to spend thousands on expensive videography, it’s the message that’s the most important thing. In these videos, ideally done by leadership, you can use examples of people who have been through the learning and changed for the better, or you could talk about someone who fell foul of legislation and ended up out of a job. Either way, stories are powerful and they will get interest and perhaps even desire from people to take the learning and do it thoroughly, so they don’t end up in the same position as their ex-colleague. Obviously don’t identify anyone in this video, but tell their story.
For the desire and action phases, how about putting a pilot group through the learning and then gathering their feedback? You can then create communications around their positive feedback, talking about how they’re more confident and clearer now on what they need to do, and how they have done something better in their job since. Perhaps some of them could also shoot a short talking head video about their experiences before, during and after the training. User generated content is powerful in marketing and will also work to market your courses to people. Imagine the difference it will make when people want to take the new learning, rather than feel they have to take it.
Use several comms channels in the lead up to the launch
As we mentioned before, take some cues from the world of marketing. People need to see messages a number of times before they’ll even take notice. Sending one email is likely to result in your message being ignored. You have to get in people’s faces but not by using the same method over and over again.
If you have a company-wide forum such a Yammer group, use this to start posting about the learning, getting people into the mindset that something is coming. Use print media around offices in the form of posters to raise awareness. Put a news story on your intranet discussing the learning and why it’s needed. Use video as another way to get your message out. The more people are exposed to the messaging in different ways, the more notice they’ll take when the invitation to complete the learning lands with them.
About Lawford Knight
Lawford Knight is a training company with expertise in eLearning, classroom and blended learning. We understand how to design, develop and deliver training programmes that achieve real behavioural change. If you’re ready to work with a company that really understands how training works, please get in contact to discuss your next training requirement.