Marketing for learning and L&D
The marketing gap for learning
Learning organisations and L&D departments face significant challenges in justifying their value. It is difficult to measure the importance of learning services in meeting business objectives and in helping learners to achieve their potential.
The right marketing for learning is required to engage both with organisations and with learners. It requires activities to understand their requirements. Also it must provide compelling arguments showing how your skills can provide vital support for corporate and departmental KPIs, as well as for individual development goals.
Challenges for learning organisations today
The historic role of learning organisations has been providing face-to-face training courses and more recently online training. This is true whether you are in an internal L&D service or an external supplier. Even if you have moved on to provide more targeted resources, you still risk being labelled as simply a course provider.
Nowadays both business departments and individual learners are rejecting long training courses. They want learning in bite-sized chunks, relevant to their current task, when and where they need it. There is a vast amount of learning material available online and the temptation is for managers to think they can find “something suitable” as and when they need it.
Meanwhile learners want to take charge of their own development and self-direct their learning. They are connected via social media and will look for solutions to their learning needs online. They expect to find a relevant answer quickly from their personal network or via targeted search. Learning providers must make a real effort if they want their learning resources to be the ones that learners discover and choose in their searches.
In addition, L&D and learning providers have often struggled to be involved early enough in business decisions and to make their voice heard. As a result, they are unable to inform decision-making and to advise on the required learning. Training budgets and courses are often bolted on as an afterthought. This problem is becoming even more critical as decisions are made more rapidly and budgets are under pressure to produce short-term results.
All these challenges demonstrate the need to promote the benefits of professional learning. It needs to be seen to meet the requirements of modern businesses and employees. Learning providers must show they provide performance support for meeting business KPIs as well as guidance and support for learners’ development.
The vital contribution of learning
How learning providers are often viewed is in marked contrast with the value they can contribute. Talented employees are the key differentiator in businesses; and their talents need to be nurtured constantly so they adapt to rapidly changing business needs and so that they develop their skills and capabilities.
Learning is a key requirement for achieving business objectives, completing projects successfully and building competitive advantage. If the learning requirement and budget are not given adequate priority when objectives are set and projects are planned, then there is a significant risk of not achieving the required results. Businesses need adequate investment and investment in talent should be a priority.
Of course, individuals and departments can find learning from free online sources. But it is a job for experts to find or develop the relevant learning resources for an organisation, to personalise them to the situation of learners and to provide pathways that employees can follow to help them learn efficiently. It needs the experience of learning professionals to blend the right learning elements effectively.
How L&D are adapting to today’s challenges
L&D and external learning providers are stepping up to provide three solutions to today’s business challenges
- Involvement in business planning to support the achievement of objectives by embedding learning into project plans. With the right skills, employees can work effectively, overcome problems and react to changes.
- Provision of a portfolio of expertly selected learning resources available to support learners at their points of need. Some of these resources will be developed internally, some sourced externally. They are set out in pathways that learners can choose depending on their needs. This allows learners to self-direct their learning experiences while developing the skills needed by the organisation.
- Publishing learning resources in a way that allows user feedback and endorsement. Resources thus become trusted, recommended and easy for learners find online and via their network
Making your skills and solutions more widely known and getting the attention of decision makers at the planning stage are areas where marketing can help you.
The role of marketing
Marketing is about communicating between users and suppliers – listening to needs, helping suppliers to adapt services to these needs and then conveying the benefits of services to potential users. If you work in an L&D department or a learning supplier, then marketing can help you to reach out to key executives, decision makers and planners. It can highlight the need for talent development to meet business KPIs and goals. It will aid the conversation to find out what learning is required and to show how you can provide this.
Marketing will also help build conversations with the learners you serve, to understand their challenges and goals. It will allow you to show them how you can play a key role in their development by producing or curating the learning they require, guiding them on the paths they can take and making resources available how and when they need them.
Learning has the power to develop employees, to provide the skills to meet business KPIs and to build talent as a competitive advantage. Marketing makes sure this potential is not hidden, ignored or poorly targeted. Instead it provides the visibility and communication so that learning services are well used and valued in an organisation.
How RSC can help you
If you have a need to promote your learning services, to demonstrate your added value or to understand better the learning requirements of your audience, please contact me to discuss how I could help. An initial conversation and meeting can highlight opportunities and ideas without commitment on either side. I have over thirty-five years of experience in developing marketing strategy, communicating user requirements and supplier benefits, producing marketing content and running marketing campaigns. My experience covers a number of industries, including learning. In particular, I have an interest in the similarities, and differences, between learning and marketing, and what they can learn from each other. You can read more about this in my blog articles listed below.
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