We hear stories about it on the news. Stories of large companies that yield to public opinion because ultimately the public’s perception of your brand dictates whether or not people spend their money on your product. A brand represents everything you do or say and your brand reputation is what people say about you. In learning and performance, our business is helping to shape behavior that improves business results. Everything we do and say creates our brand and our brand’s reputation can have an impact on our ability to be effective.

In 1984, Malcolm Knowles came out with his fifth assumption about adult learners. This fifth assumption was motivation. It states that as a person matures, the motivation to learn becomes more intrinsic. Motivation influences behavior, and if our goal is to change behavior, we must first protect the learner’s motivation to learn.

We spend a great deal of time ensuring learners know “why” they need to learn new knowledge and skills at the beginning of each course; however, these learners do not come to class with a blank slate. Unless they are new to the company, they have taken many courses from our department, and over time, they have built a perception of the learning coming out of the learning and performance organization. This is how our department’s reputation is built.

We often address motivation by starting with the “why” and making sure the learning is relevant, but every experience with our department builds on their perception and ultimately impacts their motivation. Whether it is a designer working with a subject matter expert, an instructor delivering a course, or a program manager discussing options with stakeholders, each interaction builds our reputation. Changing someone’s perception can be difficult. This is why learning professionals must pay close attention to their reputation.

Building Your Reputation

It is never too late to build a great reputation for your organization. Start by doing an audit of your brand. How is my brand being perceived now? An audit will help you determine the perceptions and feelings about your department and help you plan corrective actions. This process will help you identify areas of strength as well as the weaknesses that need to be addressed.

After performing the audit, it is time to build a framework of what you want your brand identity to be. What do you want others to think or say about your department? Be sure your identity and brand are aligned with the business objectives.

Once the framework is established and you know what you want your brand to be known for, it is time to take what you learned and create an action plan or strategy. The action plan will be a roadmap to improving your brand’s reputation. It should include the issues highlighted in the interviews, the steps needed to improve each issue, the result you expect to see, and finally, the timeline for improvement. Once you have the plan together, it is time to review with your teams and get their buy-in to execute on the new plan.

Building a brand strategy and identity can be time consuming and challenging, but the benefits improve your ability to be effective and ultimately help the business be successful. To ensure all the hard work isn’t lost, it is essential that you continue to monitor your brand. We survey learners after courses; however, getting the feedback isn’t enough – we must make improvements based on that feedback. Doing this will help you build champions for your department and improve your ability to be effective.