Modernizing Your Employee Learning Journey, From Kickoff to Culture

Article6 min read

September 23, 2021

Technology has rapidly shifted what types of skills are critical to employee and company success—and the success of today’s learning and development (L&D) programs. Increasingly, L&D professionals are leveraging cross-functional skills, from data analysis to digital marketing, to build, launch, and manage their programs.

Effective learning programs are fueled by employee engagement. Read on for a collection of tips, prompts, and insights to help modernize and strengthen your approach to motivating learners across every step of their journeys.

The Kickoff: Think Like a Marketer and Understand Your Audience

Getting your learners engaged and excited right away is critical to motivation and engagement throughout the rest of their learning journey.

Think like a marketer and know your audience: How will you message learning opportunities and what tactics will you employ to market those messages?

Understanding a target audience is at the core of marketing, and it’s what you need to do to effectively motivate your learners. Your audience may be your entire company or a team of five information technology professionals and your launch and outreach plan should adapt accordingly.

Put on your marketing hat and ask yourselves these questions to hone in on your plan:

Frame your offerings

  • The value of learning is increased when the link between content and practice is clear: Are there key projects or reskilling opportunities that a team or individual’s learning aligns to? For company-wide messaging, are there larger company objectives or goals learning can be tied to?
  • What are the goals of learning for this audience, from their perspective? What’s the value, what’s the outcome, and how can you highlight that from the start?
  • What blockers or barriers would your audience perceive that you could address right away? E.g., How do you expect them to fit learning into their work day?

Choose your tactics

  • Where should your message be relayed? Think about where employees expect communications, e.g., a company newsletter or all hands meeting, or in what setting teams or individuals would be most receptive. Schedule reminders similarly—a series of emails expanding on the value of learning, a post in the company Slack channel, etc.
  • Who should your message come from? HR? A team manager? The CEO? A peer? Think about how you can leverage the messenger as a tactic. For example, role modeling is an effective way to get employees’ attention—structuring communications as an executive’s recommendation can go a long way, especially if they’re also participating in learning.

The Middle: Build, Test, and Iterate Like a Product Designer

How can you build a program that supports sustained learning? Like a product designer, it’s crucial to understand and anticipate the behaviors of your users and be ready to test and iterate your “product” over time.

Structure your program to create good learning habits right away with these tips:

  • Use milestones to illustrate progress: Where can you celebrate tangible progress? Setting time goals is important to help motivate your learners to complete courses over a longer timeframe. Use the expected course length as a guidepost to set expected milestones that help learners achieve wins along their journey.
  • Provide learning reminders: Gentle nudges can have a positive impact on learner motivation and performance. Where can you anticipate drop-off and align email or other marketing pushes? Use your platform’s dashboard to track learner progress, course activity, and enrollments. Remind learners of upcoming dates and encourage their learning progress.
  • Encourage your organization to make space for workday learning: Research shows there is a statistically significant positive relationship between workday learning and course completion rates, even if it’s just an hour a week.

To enhance your program over time, use data to find new opportunities for further engagement across specific learners, teams, content, subject areas, and more:

  • Look at trends over time in areas such as daily sessions (how frequently learners are engaging with course content): Are you trending upwards or downwards, and why? Are sessions decreasing because of seasonality (if so, are there ways to hedge against this?) or upwards as a result of your marketing push (if so, can you replicate it?)
  • Look for outliers: Who are your most engaged learners and how can you leverage their success? Consider highlighting top-performing employees (with their permission) as a learner story in your marketing to help inspire peers. On the flip side, who are your least engaged learners and could they benefit from a marketing or manager nudge?
  • Find patterns and amplify popular content and subjects: Are there any standout programs or courses in terms of completion? Can you survey those learners to understand why the content is compelling and promote it more? From a subject area or skills perspective, are there any patterns that surface “sleeper” successes, e.g., you may find that many employees are enrolling in entry-level data science courses, which you could further promote.

The “End”: Act Like a Founder and Create a Culture

One employee completing one course is a win, but, ultimately, a culture of lifelong learning keeps an organization thriving. Reinforce a culture of learning through continuing to:

  • Drive your initiatives at every level: Create opportunities for social learning in peer groups. Encourage managers to promote offerings and follow up with employees. Share success stories with executives.
  • Demonstrate how learning opportunities help employees and the company grow: Make this connection clear to your workforce in messaging beyond launching your program. How does continuous learning help the company stay competitive? How does it help individuals grow in their roles and stay relevant? Are you using industry and employee engagement data to inform the content you’re offering? Let your stakeholders know how and why available learning opportunities continue to evolve and fuel growth.

Your Partner in Employee Engagement

Work with the edX For Business team to up-level your engagement tactics, make the most of our powerful analytics features, and offer your workforce opportunities to learn today’s most in-demand skills.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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