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Learning Engagement: 4 Laws of Attraction

Industry events are often an eye-opening experience — and the recent Bersin by Deloitte “Impact” Conference was no exception. For me, one of the most memorable insights was a conversation I had with a learning director at a Fortune 100 company.

When she was a new employee, someone told her the best way to learn how to work successfully in that organization was to complete two excellent training courses. Unfortunately, that person couldn’t recall the name of either course. Eager to find this “must have” training, she searched…and searched…hoping her instincts and resourcefulness would lead her in the right direction.

Nine hours later, she gave up. Eventually, someone told her a certain LMS administrator could help her locate the content — and he did. But the frustration and lost hours left a lasting impression.

She says this scenario surprised her, but I’ve discovered it’s all too common. In fact, I heard similar stories from two other conference attendees — and these are learning leaders!

Marketing Mindset: The Missing Link?
Of course, there’s another side of this “hidden training” coin. Bersin research reveals that nearly two-thirds of organizations struggle with learning engagement. L&D can no longer afford to stand back, hoping people will magically find the right content at the right time. Leaving learning to chance ultimately puts business performance at risk.

However, thinking and acting like brand marketers can significantly improve learning engagement and outcomes. A marketing mindset is actually one of the most important characteristics of effective training organizations — yet it’s also the most overlooked by far. Many learning executives know this is a problem, but too few know what to do about it.

How can L&D be more proactive in connecting with learning audiences — employees, business partners and customers? As a marketing professional, I suggest focusing on 4 classic marketing principles:

4 Laws of Learning Attraction

1) Positioning: This isn’t about creating catchy promotional slogans. It’s about starting with a strategic framework that informs everything you do in serving your customers. Can you easily explain how your learning organization adds value? Have you identified key business goals? How well do you understand audience needs, motivations and behaviors? Are you prepared to develop learning experiences that align with these two realities? The more you invest in clarifying both sides of this equation, the more effective your solutions will be at improving organizational performance.

2) Packaging: Learning is not an event — it’s a process. Each scenario has its own unique path. Knowing what drives your audience through this process, you can leverage customization capabilities in your learning management system to deliver a more personalized learning experience.

Not surprisingly, interest in learning customization is on the rise. In fact, LMS buyer resource, Software Advice, says more companies cite lack of customization as a major challenge than any other LMS issues they face.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. LMS innovators are rapidly expanding capabilities that support customized learning contexts.

3) Place: Even the most relevant, personalized learning experience is useless, if people can’t find it or use it at the moment they need it. No visibility? No access? No engagement. Sadly, in some organizations today, it’s easier to find LMS training courses by conducting a Google search than by using the system’s built-in search function. And in many more organizations, the shift to mobile-enabled learning still lags far behind employees’ mobile device usage, leaving learning content behind in desktop/laptop format. Again, next-gen LMS technology is removing these barriers, so learning can fit into the flow of work, for performance support anywhere, anytime.

4) Promotion: How proactive are you about building awareness and interest around your programs? If you’re like many  learning organizations, you’re rather shy about promotional outreach. That shyness bleeds over into marketing budgets. It’s safe to say that the average learning organization spends less than 5% of its budget on marketing or communications.

In contrast, commercial training vendors typically spend 20-30% or more on sales and marketing. Imagine what could you accomplish with that kind of investment! Think of your learning organization as a business. Build a clear brand messaging platform and visual personality. Weave that messaging into the natural flow of your company’s communication channels. Continually demonstrate the benefits of your organization and its offerings. And empower your “customers” to serve as your brand advocates.

Why Smart Marketing Matters

In today’s noisy, demanding business environment, everyone is competing for the attention and interest of your audience. You need to be there, too. But remember, when people respond, they will expect the learning experience to be just as accessible, useful and easy to understand as every other web-enabled application they rely upon throughout the day.

Smart marketing can draw people toward your learning programs — if you offer immediate value, and consistently deliver on that brand promise. What are you doing to address this in your company? Please share your ideas and opinions in the comments.