Learning and development is no stranger to proving its worth, which is why CLOs who want to be taken more seriously should think about how they’re marketing their function.
Marketing is a momentum producer, said J. Hruby, vice president of sales and marketing at Fredrickson Learning, a company that develops custom learning strategies and products, as well as provides interim staffing for learning and development roles.
CLOs talk a lot about getting a seat at the table when it comes to their companies’ strategic initiatives and the role learning plays in accomplishing them, but Hruby said getting that seat at the table happens a lot easier and more naturally when the learning organization’s brand is already positioned as a strategic asset in other leaders’ minds.
When it comes to having a significant presence in its organization, the learning function can’t be shy about promoting itself. After all, if learning leaders aren’t highlighting their own value by broadcasting what they do and how the function contributes to the company’s overall success, who will?
To be more strategic in marketing their function learning leaders should begin by assessing their department’s brand – and Hruby said every learning organization has one. “The question is, is it the brand you want?”
Therefore, learning leaders have to keep their eye on learning’s perception within the company and actively manage it. Hruby said they can gauge the current brand standing by: soliciting feedback from key business partners, monitoring learner and leader experiences and processes within the function, and taking an objective look at the customer-friendliness of its products and initiatives.
A variety of factors inform learning’s brand such as what people know about what the function’s activities – or what they think it does – as well as its strengths and its perceived weaknesses. Learning leaders also need to be aware of what experiences employees are having with the learning tools they’re asked to use.
“If the experience of using that learning management system to take your seven annual compliance training refreshers is primarily a negative or not-so-great experience, that contributes to your brand image, and unfortunately not the way that most learning leaders would want it to contribute,” Hruby said.
Some of the feedback learning leaders receive about their department might not be so favorable, but it’s important to know. CLOs also should pay attention to the positive things employees say about the learning function. It’s not all about seeking out bad attributes, Hruby said. It’s more about discerning details around the customer experience.
A customer journey map, for instance, offers a clear picture of what happens when a potential business partner reaches out to learning for help. Hruby said everything about engaging with the learning and development organization should be assessed. Is it easy for people to get things done? “Or, is engaging with us kind of a difficult and painful experience for our organizational partners who are trying to move a business initiative forward?”
When a learning organization has a positive brand image, business leaders aren’t just aware of the role learning plays in helping them accomplish their goals; they actively seek it out. Something else happens when learning strengthens its positive brand image: With a clear and transparent pathway for business partners to engage with the learning function, learning’s “no” or “not now” response to some needs is taken more gracefully, Hruby said. “By having that really solid process, you’re continuing to build a positive brand image even when the answer isn’t what that a business partner wanted to hear.”
Bravetta Hassell is Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.