Engagement. A word I use a lot when talking about creating compelling learning and the way your learners connect with it. Buzzword or not, it’s absolutely something we’re all endeavouring to deliver.
But driving interest, and indeed the engagement that follows, is no mean feat. We’re contending with dispersed learners, highly tech-savvy generations of workers and extremely short attention spans. So what can you do to get your learners captivated? You need to take control and drive your own demand generation for your training.
Demand generation: awareness and adoption
I know what you’re saying: “What on earth is demand generation?” Sorry, I know I’m doing it again and borrowing yet another jargon term from marketing. But as I’ve said in the past, both L&D and marketing are ultimately trying to affect the psychology and behaviour of humans, so there remains much parity between the two.
Put simply, marketers are using a range of channels to deliver highly targeted product marketing campaigns that focus on four key stages in human awarness and adoption: building awareness, positioning relevance, supporting validation and mitigation of evaluation. Instead of passively waiting for buyers to come to them, they work hard to drive interest and demand for their products. So I ask you, why couldn’t you be doing that for your learning programmes? How can you amplify the relationship your learners have with training?
According to the theories of demand generation your time-poor, over-stimulated learners need to understand four key elements for you to generate demand for learning:
- Building awareness – Simply put, your learners need to know the learning exists before there can ever be a demand for them to undertake it. They may also need problems or challenges in their roles highlighted to help position the relevance of learning. This should be a pro-active effort driven from L&D teams.
- Positioning relevance – It’s extremely pertinent that your learners understand why this learning is relevant to them. Always try to answer the question that they’ll be asking themselves: “How does this benefit/affect me?” Addressing the challenges you highlighted in the building awareness phase is also critical here.
- Supporting validation – This element is instrumental in ensuring that your learners understand that the learning will meet their specified requirements. These could be as simple as learning outcomes, but duration of training or accessibility should also be considered here.
- Mitigation of evaluation – Although this sounds terrifying, this is actually just all about generating advocacy, and understanding how it can affect demand creation in future. Advocacy is critical for demand generation and it’s important you nip any negative sentiment or feedback firmly in the bud.
Adopting this approach in your L&D department will help you to transform internal perceptions of your training, increase adoption rates and ultimately can help to shift your learning culture to align better with the expectations of your learners. But where do you start? I’ve broken down the approach into four key stages to help you get rolling.
Step 1: Build awareness
Building awareness of your training is one of the most critical aspects of demand generation in L&D. Not only is it important to get it right, it’s critical you’re doing all you can to ensure it lands well with your audience. Generating demand for your learning requires a whole lot more than simply uploading it to your LMS. You need to conduct research, determine and understand what your learners’ needs are, establish the training as valuable and of utility to learners and repeatedly prove your learning’s worth.
Here’s a couple of ways to raise awareness with your learners:
- Produce stellar supporting content: If you’re just starting out with demand generation, you should be promoting your learning and proving that it solves a problem that is troubling your learners. Determine your target audience and do some research about how they might consume workplace content. By producing quality content regularly you’ll be able to build trust between L&D and your learners. Some ideas include:
- Infographics and blog posts around the benefits of undertaking workplace learning, drawing on any tangible results you have
- Explainer and selfie videos can be an extremely relatable way to reach your learners. Why not do weekly videos where relevant team members talk about the new training and how it’s helped them do their job better?
- E-mails – We all use this medium and it’s not leveraged hardly enough to promote learning in organisations. Make friends with your marketing team and they’ll probably even let you use their e-mailing platforms.
- Utilise SharePoint, Yammer or Chatter with fervour: Getting a message out there quickly has never been easier, with many social platforms becoming more and more integrated into workplace environments. Share links to your amazing content, share gifs and don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality into it!
I know that’s a lot to do, but rest assured that the initial investment of time will ensure that your training is relatable and appropriate and maximises your chances of generating maximum impact.
Step 2: Engage your learners
OK – so now you’ve got their attention how on earth do you keep it, sustain it and maintain that level of interest way beyond those initial touchpoints? You have to get them hooked and keep them there. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by building comprehensive user journeys.
Remember in step one we discussed using data and research to understand your target audience better? Extending this research to create clear learner personas and user journeys will help you better understand what your learners require to be continually connected to learning, and better inform your decisions around how to build training and engagement programmes that stick.
We use buyer personas and user journeys in marketing to help us understand who we are talking to, how the messaging should be aligned and even to inform the ways that we reach different audiences. This template for creating buyer personas could absolutely be applied to creating learner personas – I recommend you use it with fervour.
Once you have a much greater understanding of your learner personas, you can start to build clear learner journeys through your training programmes and LMS, ensuring there are relevant, appropriate touchpoints that capture the hearts of your learners and keep them coming back for more.
Step 3: Enrich the learning experience
Enriching the learning experience is absolutely vital for demand generation, as you begin to transition some of your learners into advocates, helping to make your training more viral and spread through the ever elusive word-of-mouth. However, it’s a lot more difficult than step 1 (connecting your learners with training) because it’s adding another layer to the already complex learning landscape. It needs to be delivered intelligently to have maximum impact, as otherwise your efforts could fall flat.
We know every learner is different, so make sure you’re using your learner personas here to help inform your approach. With that in mind, here’s some ideas that can lift and enrich your learning experience, which you should tweak and tinker with to align best with your personas:
- Make them feel part of a club: I’ve talked in the past about how Pokémon are achieving this effectively with their Pokémon Go communities, but the key here is to create inclusive environments that your learners can contribute to and feel valuable. For example, consider using forums on your LMS to drive sharing. Your learners feel as if they’re contributing and you’ll have a great opportunity to spot advocates and nurture or reward their advocacy effectively.
- Use gamification sparsely for maximum impact: I bet those advocates of yours would appreciate being acknowledged through badging or rewards, or perhaps even by sitting at the top of a completions leader board (again, your learner personas will help to inform which element will be most effective). Using gamification in appropriate contexts here can really bolster your training, so don’t be afraid to get involved.
- Implement a clear personalisation strategy: Again borrowed from our marketing cousins, personalisation is a hot topic in marketing, and for good reason too. Giving your learners a personalised experience using your personas will ensure they are sent information that’s timely, topical and relevant to their needs – and it’s what can really help to shift your training culture. Types of personalisation could be sending them training that’s aligned to their professional progression goals, or it could be as simple as letting them know when they’ve been knocked off the top spot on a leader board.
Step 4: Measure your successes
No demand generation approach would be complete without measuring your successes (and failures too!) Chances are, your personas will need to be evolved over time, so make sure you have ways of capturing learner feedback and usage data to be able to interpret at a later date. Don’t be afraid to harness the big data in your business.
Another option is to multi-variate test (also known as A/B testing) some of your awareness raising efforts to draw more immediate insights into what compels your learners to act or not. This could be as simple as sending two different emails in Step 1, and seeing which subject line or copy drove the most interest from your learner.
Ultimately the only way to improve what we do is to reflect on it and use good, solid data to help inform our future decisions. Having an iterative approach to data interpretation will ensure you are maximising results and spotting opportunities to really reach your learners.
Remember, demand generation cannot be forced; which is why it can work extremely well at creating a more open, encouraging learning culture.
Interested in how you could go about implementing a demand generation approach in your L&D department? We have extensive expertise in learning campaigns and can help you to create a strategy that delivers maximum impact for both your organisation and your learners. Get in touch with us to find out more.