While a company’s brand is usually the territory of marketing departments, HR and L&D teams can learn a lot from them about influencing behavior. Many of the best tactics to engage learners in training are also employed by marketers to influence customer behavior.

What Is a Brand?

Your L&D team already has a brand, although you may not know it. Your brand is how your learners perceive both your L&D function and the training available to them.

A brand isn’t just the slogans and images you circulate to remind people you exist; it encompasses everything your learners think and feel about your L&D function. A learning management system (LMS) that is only used for compliance, for example, will generate very different user perceptions to one that gives learners the flexibility to manage their own learning, view personalized training recommendations and see what training they need to reach their next career goal.

So, rather than asking whether you need an L&D brand, think about what your L&D brand already looks like and whether it’s how you want your learners to view your training.

Learning From Marketing

The goal of any L&D campaign is to get as many relevant people as possible to participate in your training and, hopefully, enjoy it so that they’re more likely to engage with future courses. The end goal in marketing is similar: encouraging people to invest their time or money into a product.

Your non-mandatory training courses are increasingly competing for learners’ valuable time with other services providing similar information – in marketing language, they are competing for market share. The 70-20-10 model suggests that formal learning only accounts for around 10 percent of what your employees learn. If you provide any additional resources or optional courses, it helps to think like a marketer and see who you’re competing against to get your learners’ attention.

Research from the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies shows that the top four ways of learning that staff value most are daily work experiences, knowledge-sharing within their team, web searches and web resources. If you’re finding that learners aren’t engaging with your training, find out where they are going instead – and how you can be better than the alternatives. For example, if learners can find information more easily on the internet than with your resources, do you need to improve how easy it is to find your training?

The reporting and analytics tools within most LMSs enable training managers to gather a better picture of learners as individuals, much like the transformation that marketing underwent with the advent of digital tools that allowed marketers to understand their customers as individuals. Take the time to really understand which areas of your business experience the best and worst engagement with training to identify where your L&D brand isn’t resonating with your learners – and why.

Lessons From the Automotive Industry

Vehicle manufacturers are experts in engaging learners across their dealership networks, as their dealers can choose whether or not to buy non-mandatory courses. Training, therefore, must both be marketed in a way that captivates its potential audience and deliver the promised benefits to individuals and the wider business.

Operating a branded store through an LMS allows manufacturers and dealer group head offices to distribute training that is instantly recognizable as theirs and, most importantly, that helps them understand their customers. Dealers who see value in the training send more employees, allowing for reports into which training resonates best with the end audience. Then, training managers can optimize future courses for the best results and measure training against improvements in other business outcomes, including staff turnover and productivity.

Using Branding to Engage Learners

Again, using branding for better engagement doesn’t just mean putting the same logo on all your courses; it’s about providing consistent benefits for your learners and showing these benefits in ongoing messaging.

A strong brand is able to connect with different audiences to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”, no matter who is asking. It’s created by showing your learners the benefits of engaging with your training and following up with extra ways your learners can get involved, as well as the advantages of doing so.

By understanding learners as individuals and showing how engaging with your training helps them, you can not only improve your learners’ performance on the job but also how your L&D function is perceived across your organization.