When a company dedicates hundreds of hours to developing a product, it expects to see a hefty return on investment. When a learning and development department spends hundreds of hours creating a learning system, it expects the same thing.
Yet, these yields don’t appear automatically. To attract clients and improve the bottom line, both business and learning leaders must attract the appropriate audience and successfully market their goods.
In a corporate environment, the success of a learning tool is measured by the number of people who use it and the degree to which it affects their performance. This means that even a fantastic learning program relies on a successful education marketing strategy to create profitable business results.
For employees to benefit from a new learning initiative, they have to spend time and energy to take the courses. To get this participation, corporate trainers have to show both workers and managers that taking part in the program is worth their efforts.
At AAR Corp., a company that provides parts and services to the aviation industry, business partner Alan Rosenberg markets the value of the company’s new e-learning program, developed by Training Objectives, by stressing its economic benefits.
“One of the key things that got workers behind this program was that it was a win-win situation,” he said. “It wasn’t management saying, ‘You need to learn this.’ There was clearly a benefit to the employee because whether they stay with us or leave, they’re getting a better skill set. And we get something out of it because they will be able to do a better job while they’re here.”
To communicate this worth, Rosenberg spent a lot of time pounding the pavement, talking to hourly workers, middle managers and senior executives to get people behind the e-learning initiative.
Although it’s impossible for a small learning department in a large corporation to connect with everyone, Rosenberg said these one-on-one conversations are critical — personally addressing the concerns of a portion of the population helps interest in the program grow more organically, he said.
“It’s spending time just being out there, talking to people about what’s available,” Rosenberg said. “Those conversations tend to spread. That’s the ‘water cooler factor.’”
Getting senior and middle management on board was also important to the program’s success. But instead of visiting their departments and giving them a sales pitch, Rosenberg said he spent a lot of time listening to what they had to say. By identifying their needs from the beginning, he was able to show these leaders how e-learning could help them meet their business goals.
“It’s important to listen to the concerns of the people you are talking to,” he said. “My question to them is, ‘What are your needs? How can I help you forward your business?’ I’m not telling a general manager that I’ve got a solution to all their problems — because I don’t.”
Rosenberg also appealed to their business sense by explaining how cost-effective this type of training can be. Whereas bringing in a consultant or sending a department to a seminar could cost thousands of dollars, e-learning programs allow managers to train their workers at a fraction of that cost.
“I’ve been very careful about keeping the costs down and the benefits high,” he said. “Where else are you going to get any kind of training for $200 an employee? You might get one three-hour seminar, but this is an ongoing thing that people can return to time and again.”
– Tegan Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org
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