Building and maintaining engagement with corporate learning is a challenge. In 2021, Linkedin’s survey of over 6,000 respondents revealed that 35% of L&D professionals are looking for new ways to boost learner engagement. Increasingly, we are seeing an increased demand for strong marketing skills in L&D departments, yet according to the 2022 LPI Dashboard, ‘marketing and communications’ is listed as one of the five weakest skills for L&D professionals today.
Suppose employees in your organisation currently see learning as a disruption rather than an opportunity to open doors through professional development? If this is the case, it’s time to change the perception of your L&D brand and encourage people to ‘buy’ into corporate learning.
Defining and positioning your L&D brand
Hubspot defines brand experience as “all the feelings consumers have before, during and after interacting with your brand.”
To create a positive brand identity, you need to establish a strong connection between your learning programmes, staff development and how learning helps to positively contribute to broader business goals. Ask yourself:
- How does the wider business perceive the L&D function?
- Do people associate it with positive or negative feelings?
- Is the L&D ‘brand’ experience consistent with the rest of the organisation?
If you could summarise how you want your L&D department to be perceived in one statement, what would it be? A brand perceptual map using two key parameters can help you determine how you are currently perceived and where you need to be to fulfil your positioning statement – then shape the messaging to help you achieve this perception in the eyes of your target audience (i.e. your staff).
Here’s a free online template that makes it easy. You might want to think about how other departments are perceived in comparison.
Consider your sub-brands
In large organisations, there may be sub-brands that stem from the main brand. For example, holiday companies may have sub-brands for family holidays, another for solo travellers and another for luxury holidays. Although their messages and target audiences may differ, their brand is still recognisable and consistent – along with the feelings associated with it.
You may have ‘sub-brands’ for different departments. For example, the sales department will likely have different aims and specific values than your HR team, meaning their learning experience will be different too.
What does success look like for your sales team versus your HR team? How do the experiences differ, and where should they be consistent? How do you appeal to each of these different audiences – what are their unique values?
People need to recognise a new learning programme and know that association with the brand will mean a positive, high-quality experience – no matter what department they’re in.
How to promote positive engagement with the brand
Once you’ve established your L&D brand, how can you promote positive, ongoing engagement?
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, authors of Nudge, highlight the importance of social nudges: “The bottom line is that Humans are easily nudged by other Humans. Why? One reason is that we like to conform.”
Influencer marketing leverages the power of people with a large follower base to sell products and services. Think about your own ‘influencers’ for your L&D brand. Those in more senior roles are particularly powerful ambassadors for learning, as their stories will prompt other members of staff to start joining the dots between a good learning programme and career success. As the people your staff know and trust, leaders can act as social influence to drive positive behaviour change.
A great example of this was demonstrated by the landmark financial company Citi, which encouraged users to use internal social channels in order to share examples of how they were taking part in their #BeMore learning campaign. This award-winning strategy was designed to encourage everyday learning and to get others to shout about their wins. This allowed them to foster a successful culture of continuous learning known at Citi as the “3 E’s: Experience, Exposure, Education”.
Think of similar ways you can use different channels to leverage the power of user-generated content and influencer marketing. As demonstrated by Citi’s example, social media with dedicated hashtags can promote community engagement and raise the visibility of the learning opportunities available.
What makes a good L&D brand?
Good brands are distinctive, articulate their values well and are consistent in what they say, how they say it and how they present themselves. These form a brand personality and brand identity. As a result, they attract loyal followers and advocates. With Thinqi’s branding options, you can extend a positive brand experience through your learning system – for example, you might choose to have a branded video in the launchpad to welcome your learners upon login and differentiate between sub-brands.
Amir Kassaei, Chief Creative Officer at DDB Global defines a brand as “not a product or a promise or a feeling. It’s the sum of all the experiences you have with a company.”
It’s vital that your L&D brand works to communicate what you want the wider business to know – that L&D contributes positively to business and personal development goals.
Remember, you need to change the narrative from “what we do” to “what we offer” and encourage others to shout about their successes along the way.
Through the power of a strong L&D brand, you not only boost awareness of learning opportunities but create a culture that values the chance to never stop learning.