Perhaps you like me have seen the lists. The mentions. You know where X company has been rated a “favorite place to work”. I often wonder what is that based on, beyond you know some survey responses or some criteria.
I only ask because I rarely see note of that company’s training. Are they training these folks on all subjects or just compliance? Do they see online learning as a key cornerstone or just a stone next to their ILT columns?
Better yet, if they have an LMS or learning platform or any subset of the LMS space, are they achieving full utilization without the use of “force”?
I can’t recall the number of times I worked at companies who preached the leadership and caring about their employees mantra only to find out behind the scenes, that it was just words and not actually embraced and more importantly, implemented.
One CEO once told me that I shouldn’t offer various courses on scientific topics to employees hired as executive assistants, because that is not part of their job. My retort was in essence, maybe they are interested in learning more about that topic – you never know.
No surprise with the end result. Numerous executive assistants took multiple online courses covering several scientific topics. When I followed up with a few and asked why, they said, because they wanted to learn more about the subject that the firm was providing to their clients.
I say no surprise, because I already had projected the outcome. I would say predicated but projected would be a fairer way of saying it. And I will explain why, shortly.
More than Words
Earlier I mentioned about those “best places” to work lists. I wonder whether or not they are aware of the well known point that happy employees produce more (of whatever you provide, offer, service, etc.), than unhappy employees? I wonder if they see the “fitness gym membership” as a bigger plus than providing personal and professional development for their employees?
I wonder if they are aware of another well known data point that the number one reason people leave companies is the lack of personal and professional development growth?
Perhaps you have one in your drawer right now. What? You don’t. Okay, then, let me help you out here.
When getting folks on board, you need stakeholders. The are going to become your “rah rah” people, which will be huge once you launch. The mistake many people make is that they select stakeholders that are at the management level or higher, often folks managers. That is not the way to go.
What is then?
Get folks who are the employees within each department you are going to use the LMS. Example: All customer service reps will be accessing the LMS. Find one, you know who is a fan of online learning and/or taking courses online and is a fan of your training. This person is your stakeholder. All that is required of them is to promote the usage of the LMS and how much they love taking online courses. On top of that, they push this “rah rah” to other customer service reps.
Thus, you have a “auto supporter” telling others in their department how great the courses are and the LMS. Now, follow this mantra with other folks in other departments. You should select only one person per department. And again, do not pick the managers.
Employees will buy in if it comes from another employee.
You can use this approach in any industry, including retail, associations (pick a few members, regardless if trade or professional) and even in education/higher education (with students).
Going B2B/B2C? Pick a couple of clients and/or customers who are fans of your company, your training and are interested in online courses or have taken some from somewhere else and think they are great. Push this via the next item we have in our backpack.
News and Notepad
You are about to launch the LMS to your employees or customers or both. You want to build excitement. You want folks to go in and use the LMS. Take a course or two. But getting folks up and thrilled is not an easy task.
Here is how to change that (follow the order).
- Start early with an e-mail or newsletter to all the people who you plan to have access the LMS.
- The e-mail/newsletter should be short and sweet. Use Propaganda techniques (I’ll provide them a second) to gain interest and buy-in. Offer a benefit for using the system – maybe some swag from the company (via a drawing), or some gift cards or whatever. Make it a fun contest to get people excited. Of course, that latter is an option, but you want people to be “yeah, I’m going to check this out.”
- One way to get them to check it out is to provide a short list of some courses or the course you plan to launch. Toss in some features that the learner will see as a plus. “We will be including an opportunity to earn points, for taking a course/content and where you can exchange for items in our reward store.”
- Follow-up on a bi-monthly basis. You want excitement, not overkill.
- When the system goes live, make the announcement – Again, sell it, not toss it out as “Our X Academy is live.” “Here is your user name and password.” – Yuck. “Academy X is ready for you! Useful courses that will benefit you in your personal and professional growth” Or whatever angle you go with. I want buy-in. Not boring me.
- When the system is live and people are starting to use it, send out a monthly or every other month e-mail. Again, short and exciting. If you are not passionate about using this, they won’t be. Add in testimonials from those stakeholders. That will work. “I love taking blah blah (course),” Corey K, customer service rep. “What I really like is the ability to select areas of interest to me in the course/content,” Carolyn W., HR.
- Continue the marketing down the road. Added a new course or several? Tell me, sell me to use it. Remember adult learners what to know what is in it for me, not what is forced for me to do.
You may be surprised to learn that each and every day your are being inundated with propaganda techniques. They appear in TV ads. Online ads and newspaper ads. Marketing? Yep. Politics? Oh yeah!
Knowing that, why not use them in your pitch for usage of the LMS and the taking of courses? I’ll admit right off the bat, I did. And guess what? It worked. Over and Over again.
My Personal Favorites
Plain Folks – Just like you and me. Remember those testimonials (which is another propaganda technique)? That can use the Plain folks angle. Heck, Plain folks is ideal in just an e-mail/newsletter and other items. Your plain folks are your employees, customers, wholesalers, clients and so on.
Testimonials – They work. Always. Research shows that testimonials influence folks to purchase and/or use a product. And let’s be clear on this, and LMS and those courses are products (just don’t pitch as that).
Bandwagon – Everyone is doing it, so should you. This one really is fantastic.
“Employees are telling us that Academy X is making a positive difference in their learning. Find out what we are doing and how it will help you be successful, blah blah.” If you want higher management to buy-in, bandwagon can deliver. Toss in a testimonial from senior exec Hugh and watch out, other execs will see it and many will take a dive.
There are way too many people in the industry who only offer compliance courses in their LMS. Here is something you should realize – when you do this, your learners will come in, take the course/courses and never return. I know of a F500 healthcare company, where the Senior VP of HR and his staff waited until the last day possible to take their compliance courses. Once they finished they never returned.
Compliance courses are often boring duds that are nothing more than a CYA (cover your —). I’ve seen a few that are interactive, but that is RARE.
Another dud is the “force” you to take a course or courses with a deadline. Again, they will go in, take the course/courses and then once they complete, see ya, they are not going to go back into those courses. I don’t care if your system has all the bells and whistles, bad courses are bad courses and required courses are usually designed poorly (not all the time mind you).
Proprietary and non-proprietary courses, where people can go in to where they want to or need to, as often as they want, will gain traction and usage. Yes, they need to be engaging, and whether they are videos, various content, micro or non-micro learning courses, if you follow a non-linear approach, they will come and come back. Always have a TOC to achieve this BTW.
Every day you – yes you – are using non-linear learning and are probably unaware of it.
- You go and read an online newspaper or article and jump around to what is of interest to you. How many people today read the entire newspaper, magazine, site from page to page, every article? I don’t and I read daily four newspapers online via my mobile device (The Guardian, NY Times, Washington Post and LA Times)
- You are watching commercials. You may ignore some and watch others.
- You purchase or rent a book, even an e-book. Some people read cover to cover, others skip around. I bought an Excel Bible a few months back. It is over 1,000 pages. I was interested in Macros. I did not start at page one. Rather, I went to the section on Macros. Not one, but multiple times.
- You are walking into a mall and need to buy or view X product. Do you go into every store or do you pick the ones of interest?
When I was at ATD, the person I spoke with at a person at a booth (vendor name withheld) who told me she was a grass roots learner.
I had to ask what was that? She said, that she goes to items she is interested in taking/viewing. I told her what she was doing was what WBT was designed to do – pick items of interest, go in and learn, rather than go A to B to C.
On a sidebar, that is what people do, so it is not really “grass roots”, rather it is “learning”.
Getting your learners back into your system, repeatedly – ties to the courses/content. Give them professional and personal development and not just compliance or “forced to take and complete”.
Get excited about your LMS and the content. Grow usage. Repetitive and not just one time.
My initial usage rates depended on the places I worked at, but on average hit around 80%. And as someone who doesn’t believe in forced learning, these numbers were based on voluntary learning.
And constant usage percentages, equally varied, but on average was 65%. At some companies it was higher, and others lower – but never below 50%. From F500 to start-ups. From associations to non-profits. From B2B/B2C to SMB.
Your usage percentages should be equal. If you are hovering in the 20-30% constantly, that should signal a change is needed.
Not with words but here it is, and take the courses.
Rather words of encouragement.
With a bit of Bandwagon, Plain Folks and testimonials along the way.
It will work.
But it takes time.
Three years to build mass.
Not one month.