The day has finally come. After years of long hours and hard work building expertise and trust, you have the green light on a career-defining opportunity: you’ve been tasked with developing a mission-critical, large-scale learning program. The stakes are high, and so is the budget. Senior management and stakeholders have a deeply vested interest. All eyes are on you and the project’s success. You’re psyched, ecstatic and a bit terrified.

And, the learning and development game has changed. There are new technologies and tools to leverage and learners expect higher levels of polish and engagement. You’ll need to embrace a variety of techniques, including e-learning, live and virtual classrooms, games, mobile, video, marketing materials, support apps, and social media elements. These are exciting and challenging times to be embarking on a complex development and rollout.

But you’re a pro. You know instructional theory forward and backward and you’ve produced smaller but significant programs. Let’s not rehash the basics — obvious things, like choosing the right vendor — but rather hone in on the things that you’re not necessarily thinking about.

Secret #1: Your program needs a brand.

Think about a kid’s soccer team. Without a team name or a cool logo, it’s just a bunch of kids kicking a ball around a field. The moment you give them an identity is when they truly become a team, banded together and working toward a common goal. They are more connected and invested in each other and their collective purpose: winning the game.

Bring your learning program to life! Give it its own unique identity: establish a brand, program personality and logo. Your brand will impact your three most important constituents: your learners, your stakeholders and your team. For learners, a brand builds anticipation (in combination with the next secret). For stakeholders, associating a name and image with the program makes it real and tangible. For your team, it forges them together as a unit, working together on an important initiative.

Secret #2: Appease your stakeholders, build anticipation, and buy yourself time.

You’re getting married, but the date is months away. How do you build excitement in advance, helping them visualize that something special is coming? You send an elegant “save the date” card, maybe with a picture of the location. For this same reason, smart marketers release movie trailers months in advance of opening night.

Your large-scale learning program also needs to be marketed in advance. Why? Significant time and effort is needed upfront to design the entire, holistic solution and build the tools and templates necessary to work efficiently once development begins. But your stakeholders are nervous … what do they know, or care, about the learning and development process? They want to feel something is happening. All they know is that their budget is being spent.

You’ve developed the logo, now deliver a teaser video or a program marketing event. Done well, it will put your stakeholders at ease and boost their confidence in the program. Share it with your learners to build excitement and generate anticipation for what’s coming. And it will make your team proud. Everyone feels good, and you’ve bought time to focus on the other 90 percent of the work.

One organization implemented this secret and the video went viral within the company, all the way up to the C-team. Talk about building momentum and excitement.

Secret #3: You have the opportunity to set a new bar for training in your organization – go for it.

Any learner can slog through a boring, one-hour training module. But what about hours of training that will be taken over months or years? Boring training is a non-starter. You’ve got the budget and mandate, and done right, your program can lift learning and development for the entire company. You’re not just setting a new bar — you’re creating one. So, go for it.

This is your opportunity to design components that push the envelope in creative, interesting ways that get your learners excited, even eager for the next course. Think of innovative, multidimensional ways to ensure your learners are as excited and engaged on course fifteen as they were on course one. Speak to your learners in a relevant way. Appeal to what’s in it for them (intrinsic motivation), and provide appropriate incentives (extrinsic motivation). Use all the creative tricks in your learning and development tool chest: gamification, video, etc.

Large-scale initiatives are often undertaken to revamp older, outdated programs. Leveraging the tools now available — such as microlearning, nano-learning, or social learning — seat time can often be reduced. Combine that with higher engagement and better results, and you have significantly increased ROI, setting a new standard for the value of learning and development within your organization.

If your program has created a buzz, your stakeholders are happy, and your learners are hungry for the next installment, then you’ve done something right. Quick example: A recent large-scale program included a “gamified” portal where learners rise up the ranks from “newbie” to “master” as they complete courses. While the final “master” course was being developed, learners kept asking when it would be released, so they could earn this highest rank. Now you’ve got totally engaged learners and you are lifting learning and development to new heights within your organization. 

Secret #4: Caring, the special sauce.

Working with a vendor and your team on a large-scale program is a long-term relationship, not unlike a marriage in some ways. What you are doing together is challenging, and to foster a healthy relationship, trust and caring are essential. You need to be focused on mutual success. Your job is to help your team and vendor succeed, so that they can help you succeed. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised.

Everyone knows that communication is essential to successful partnerships (and relationships), but what’s not often articulated is how essential caring is. Empathy, concern and kindness create a space where the best of humanity can thrive – even as business professionals. When there are bumps—and there will be some—caring kicks in and everyone works together to find a solution and move forward.

Nurture a positive team culture; encourage everyone to express their feelings, gratitude and caring. Always focus on your collaborators’ success. You get to set this tone. Not only will this set the stage for lasting professional and personal relationships, it will make everyone’s lives (your team’s, your vendor’s, your stakeholders’) more enjoyable. And, it will help ensure the success of the program.

So that’s it. Go for it. You’ve got this!