I never thought I’d be one to say this, but labels matter.
As far as I knew, until about two years ago, the name on the label of an article of clothing equated to nothing but the number on the price tag – a $50 shirt sporting Ralph Lauren’s name looked exactly the same to me as a $5 shirt from Target (pronounced Tar-jay).
But then I grew up, got a job and, in preparation for our 2014 Fall Symposium (insert shameless event plug here), added Sir Calvin Klein and Lady Kate Spade to my closet. Being a big-wig journalist means I have to look like someone sophisticated enough to interview bigger-wig executives. That’s something I haven’t been able to achieve by stocking up on pithy sweatshirts from Kohl’s (the “L” is silent). So I guess brand names do matter.
But enough talk about my closet. Here’s where labels apply to learning. Buying established brands has improved how I present myself to others, and creating label names for learning improves how leaders present development to employees. Well-branded learning can boost engagement and retention, but creating a brand around learning has to encompass every part of the process.
Unless you were me three years ago, you wouldn’t buy a Calvin Klein shirt, match it with a few pieces from the Wal-Mart business casuals section and call it a designer suit. Similarly, learning leaders have to think about the entire experience, from the time employees receive notification they have to go to a training session to when they take their post-event survey.
“All those little pieces add up to a differentiated experience than if you just focused on a narrow piece, which is ‘We’re doing training today,’ ” said Bill Pelster, principal for Deloitte Consulting. Seeing learning as a holistic event and not just a single session can help to align it with the culture — and that leads to better retention and engagement.
But more about that after this brief current-fashion-events interlude:
Paris Fashion Week is ending, and normally I wouldn’t care, but Chanel – the “Ch” sounds like “Shh,” – tried to bond fashion with feminism by having runway models carry picket signs with slogans like “Feminist But Feminine” and “History is Her Story.”
As a feminist, the “F” word makes my ears prick up. Naturally I was interested, if not a little strained from the amount of eye-rolling I was doing at some of the more pandering aspects of the campaign. On the other hand, if Chanel’s brand name helps bring attention to feminism (More than Emma Watson and Beyonce? Please hold for another eye-roll.), more power to those extremely expensive boucle knit power suits.
Back to learning: By tossing its pillbox hat into the feminism ring, Chanel showed how a brand can use a key event to push an agenda. At a company training event, that agenda can be an organization’s culture.
Pelster said learning programs are an opportunity to resell a company to its employees. Learning leaders can emphasize what an organization stands for not just by incorporating values and goals into the curriculum, but also through the smallest additions. For example, what is displayed on the projection screen during breakaway sessions? Is it the company logo? Sales data from the last quarter? A procrasti-cat video? Whatever it is has to coordinate with the learning brand, and by extension the company’s culture.
That boosts retention and engagement. If employees like where they work — be it because the company is generous with learning opportunities or it simply enjoys sharing slideshows of Grumpy Cat memes — they’ll stick around and work hard, especially when their company shows it is willing to put time and into their development. Branding can turn “Here’s the training today” to “We care about your development as part of our business mission and values.”
And that’s values pronounced “val-you’s.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.