An open letter to L&D

Okay L&D. This might annoy you, but I want you to ask yourself WHY it does. Ready? Our brand is bland.

I’ll say it again. Our brand is bland. What we stand for is still undefined in many cases, and I think we’re having a mild identity crisis. Our tone of voice, what we do, how we do it, and what we do so well- it’s diluted and misconstrued, and we aren’t doing enough to own it.

Your L&D department has a brand, whether you know it or not. How people perceive the development opportunities on offer, how much the company cares about their career, and how much the space they operate in allows room for growth, is all a part of this conversation. We’ve been telling L&D to think like a marketeer for YEARS now, but why are we still not doing it? We know that in most cases we need to use the ‘pull’ to learn way more than we do the ‘push’- but pushing out content is what we’re comfortable with and it’s something so many organisations struggle to move away from.

Don’t think this applies to you? How often are you emailed by a stakeholder, asking to get a course out asap globally. No campaign around it? No plan for engagement, just get it out and hope for the best. I do this too by the way, I’m not perfect. How often are we reactive as opposed to proactive? Are we planning efficiently? We need to adopt a multi-channel approach. As you’re getting ready to launch your next ground breaking work, ask yourself:

● Why am I doing this?

● What’s my campaign?

● Have I planned what’s mandatory for the year vs what I KNOW our stakeholders and our people NEED to drive business performance?

● Who am I talking to? Holding focus groups? Surveys? Am I listening enough to spot patterns and work out where I need to influence behaviour change.

I know I said we’re having an identity crisis, let me explain. Our discipline has been through a lot. Many of us have had early careers, digital and e-learning (the mysterious blend) and many other initiatives thrown into our remit in the last couple of years. You’ve probably also had your budgets cut rather dramatically. Add a pandemic and an increased focus on wellbeing and making sure our people are okay, and you’ve got yourself a few more things on the plate.

If you know me well enough, you know I bang on about avoiding shiny silver bullets a lot. One of those is the LMS. So many people tell me they have a great LMS and this proves how forward thinking they are, citing course completions as their measure of engagement. Let me say it loud and clear: Shiny new learning management systems will NOT attract long term engagement. Having a repository where you shove e-learning courses and push mandatory compliance training out from is the quickest way for you to pour thousands of your precious budget down the drain. How you build your LMS into your content strategy, your overall brand, and your plans CAN be a game changer though. The right LMS, if used well, can absolutely help you drive engagement and echo your tone of voice. It can create opportunities to build communities of practice and get people learning from and with each other, self-directed and oh so effectively.

Everything from your logo through to your purpose, through to your email signature and the little click throughs on your LMS should and can reflect your brand. It can tie everything together, help people understand what you offer, and build trust and engagement. Everything, from your slides for workshops through to your out of office should be carefully considered and thought through.

When you write emails, consider the tone, and read things out loud 3 times to make sure it lands right. Try running workshops to define your brand with your team, using focus groups and surveys from people across the organization. Ask them what works, and what’s missing. Use that to help you define what you do. It’s not perfect, but it’s important we do it if we want to continue to build our credibility and help us launch the really good stuff we want to do with our people. Define what your SLA is, how long it takes you to get back to people on queries, and what your priorities are for the year ahead. Leave room to be flexible and adaptable of course but ask ourselves ‘why?’ and ‘is this the best way?’ a little more to really push thinking and explore all possible directions.

Happy branding.

Hooked on learning and passionate about driving business forward, Aimee-Jayne Young is all about helping people make the most of their careers. With a keen interest in performance consulting, data analytics, learning technology and employee experience, Aimee brings an enthusiastic yet measured point of view on learning and development and where it needs to go for the future.