People are grappling with content overload. Email, social media, apps and streaming services, and even our smart speakers bombard us daily, vying for our attention. For learning and development (L&D) leaders, this often translates to employees that ignore or barely read emails, company intranets that look like ghost towns and messages on platforms like Yammer or Slack that get zero engagement.
To break through the noise and engage your learners with development opportunities in this environment requires some extra finesse — especially when many learners are all or partially remote working, making them especially prone to digital fatigue. Marketing around single training events is unlikely to lead to sustainable learner engagement. Instead, focus on building community and encouraging connection across your talent continuously, which will help you create a learning culture in your organization. This ongoing, genuine engagement will make your people more likely to participate when you do present L&D opportunities.
Drawn from the latest research and trends from top marketers, here are some current and proven approaches to building community with your audiences.
Think “Dialogue,” not “Broadcast:” Listen More Than You Speak
Too often, we get so focused on communicating our message that we don’t take the time to consider the state our audience is in. With current engagement levels low and so many employees feeling burned out and overwhelmed, focus on drawing out your employees, rather than churning out emails and alerts in a vacuum.
Times like this are when marketers look for ways to listen for what customers want and need. This can be through social media audits, focus groups, surveys, or simply finding opportunities to speak with people one-on-one. It also helps to have a diverse team that reflects and understands the needs of your audiences firsthand. What’s critical is to truly listen and understand the issues and concerns of the people you are trying to reach.
Once you have a solid understanding of what’s happening and how people are feeling, you can show through your communications that you get it. Talk about what your audience cares about. And when you do reach out about a training opportunity, speaking directly to their challenges and signaling your recognition of what they are dealing with will humanize your communications so people are more likely to hear you.
Give Employees the Megaphone: Elevate New and Different Voices
Marketers build relationships with social media influencers to help connect their brands with the right audience. So, ask yourself: Who are the influencers in your organization? There are many different ways you can invite them in to take more ownership in your talent development initiatives. For instance, they could record video intros to development programs, share a testimonial quote following their completion of a course, or share photos or participants at an in-person training.
One company I know chose an employee with a great sense of humor from the creative team to be the voiceover for some pretty dry compliance training, leading to the highest completion rates the HR team had ever seen. Tapping a popular leader to kick off training with a few words on why it’s an important investment of learners’ time shows its value on both an individual and organizational level.
By weaving trusted and respected voices into all of your communications, you are more likely to get people to stop what they’re doing and pay attention. They’ll also associate more value with the work you do as a learning leader.
Change It Up: Repackage Material in New Ways.
The latest marketing data says that potential customers need multiple touch points before they engage with a company. While you’re not starting from scratch with your learners, you do need to think about reaching out in different and creative ways to capture their interest and stay connected with them.
One simple rule is to include at least three different formats/types for each learning initiative you’re promoting. For example, a peer photo and testimonial on a social channel, a brief video overview and an email invitation from a manager could all be used to encourage someone to attend a soft skills training session. Video, in particular, is proving to be more and more effective. For example, there is three times more engagement on LinkedIn video ads than those with static images, according to a session hosted by LinkedIn at HubSpot’s User Conference (Inbound 2022).
Feel overwhelmed by the work needed to create engaging marketing content for your L&D initiatives? Marketers are skilled with repackaging and repurposing. While you do need to tune content for different platforms, you can take “big rock” content and break it into numerous pieces. For example, the content from one report or whitepaper could translate into 20 social media posts, an infographic, three blog posts or five video reels. Mapping out the possibilities for each major piece of content will save you time in the long run.
Take Time to Analyze Data and Adjust Your Communication Accordingly
Just because an approach to marketing your L&D programs worked a year ago, or even a month ago, doesn’t mean it will work today. You likely have access to a multitude of training data, but which metrics are the most important for you to consider, today? It’s important to stay tuned into true indicators of learner engagement, rather than more basic metrics like attendance rates.
Are learners interacting with your learning program’s marketing materials? Measures like engagement rates and qualitative analysis of comments and conversations happening in various channels will give you a more holistic view of how well your training communications are building community. You can also track who is engaging and who is not, so you know which learners may benefit from a different approach.
Learning leaders that focus on cultivating community by continuously marketing their programs to learners will gain greater buy-in for training across the organization, leading to improved performance over time.