Research shows that strong L&D impacts employee engagement. Employees who have opportunities to learn are happier and more productive. Conversely, the lack of an L&D culture affects employee retention. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 70% of workers say they’ve left a job to develop in their careers.

Because of the importance of L&D, many companies spend significant resources — time, money and energy — to develop a comprehensive program for employee development. But an L&D program is only effective if employees know about it.

That’s why you need a strong communication strategy.

When you take the time to develop an effective plan, you’ll have:

  • An understanding of what you’re trying to achieve with the communication
  • An approach that helps you focus on resources
  • An organized, targeted set of communication tactics to execute
  • A way to measure success

Here’s how:

1. Assess the situation.

First, learn about your stakeholders. Who are they? Do they sit primarily in office settings? Or do most of your employees work in manufacturing facilities? What generations do your employees represent? What is the average tenure at your organization? The answers to these demographic questions may help you determine the best ways to communicate with your stakeholders.

Next, consider the current state of L&D at your organization. How have employees engaged with your program? Are leaders generally supportive of employee learning and development?

Then, gather baseline facts. How many employees have participated in L&D offerings? How many have gone outside the company for L&D? Compile employee turnover rates and any other metrics, such as employee engagement survey results or information from exit interviews.

If you don’t have existing research, consider conducting your own. Here are a few ways that provide powerful insights:

  • A simple pulse survey to gauge interest in your L&D program
  • Focus groups to dive into employee preferences for L&D
  • Interviews to understand leader perspectives

2. Determine what you want to achieve

The best objectives reflect specific, actionable and measurable outcomes you want to achieve with your communication — what success will look like after a defined period of time. What do you want employees to know, believeand do as a result of your communication? By defining objectives, you’ll have specifics to measure whether your efforts have been effective.

Keep in mind that the objectives you seek for all employees may be quite different than the desired outcomes for senior leaders and managers. Create separate objectives for each segment. Here are a few examples:

As a result of our communication efforts, employees will:

  • Know about the learning and development opportunities available to them
  • Believe that our program will help them succeed in their careers
  • Participate in learning and development program offerings

As a result of our communication efforts, managers will:

  • Know about the learning and development opportunities available to their team members
  • Believe that our program will help their teams meet their goals
  • Encourage team members to participate in program offerings

As a result of our communication efforts, senior leaders will:

  • Understand that our learning and development program aligns with business objectives
  • Believe a strong learning culture will fuel company success
  • Advocate for a learning culture
  • Approve resource allocation to support the program

Remember: Focus your objectives on communication. Don’t set objectives that reach beyond what communication can influence. For example, communication may not directly impact retention rates, but it can affect how well employees understand your program so they participate in learning activities.

3. Define your tactical approach

Once you understand the current situation and what success looks like, it’s time to define how (strategies) and what you’ll do (tactics) to get there.

Here are a few examples:

Strategy: Leverage other HR communication channels to re-introduce the L&D program
Tactic: Host weekly meetings with HR colleagues to integrate L&D into goal-setting and performance management communication

Strategy: Create excitement for the new L&D program
Tactic: Plan an all-employee L&D launch event, followed by a series of short webinars

Strategy: Align with business objectives
Tactic: Include information about the company-wide initiative to follow lean and agile business practices into L&D communication

4. Implement your plan

Now it’s time to put your plan into practice. Be sure to:

  • Follow your tactical timeline
  • Celebrate milestones
  • Create tactics to achieve objectives

For example:
If your stated objective is: “As a result of our communication efforts, employees will believe that our program will help them succeed in their careers,” then don’t use email to share all the details. Busy employees will likely ignore long, dense emails.

Try a series of short profiles for your intranet or digital signs. Tell stories of real employees who have advanced in their personal and professional lives by participating in your program.

In addition, don’t lose sight of changes at your company or to your industry that may affect stakeholders. It’s okay to adjust your objectives, strategies, and tactics based on a changing landscape.

5. Measure your progress.

Now that you’ve been communicating for six months to a year, it’s time to measure effectiveness. How? Look back on what you set out to accomplish:

  • Did you achieve your objectives?
  • Where did you hit the mark?
  • Where did you miss it?

Start with quantitative research. If you want to assess employees’ knowledge of the program and how they perceive L&D communication, conduct a survey.

Include agreement-based questions like this:
Please rate your level of agreement with the following statements:

  • Learning and development communication helps me understand the development opportunities available to me.
  • Reading communication about our learning and development program is a good use of my time.

For each statement, offer a selection of responses that are evenly distributed across positive and negative sentiments (e.g., strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree). This is called a bipolar scale, which will help you determine levels of agreement. This scale also eliminates a neutral option that tells you nothing.

While you’re analyzing survey results, don’t forget to compare baseline facts you gathered in Step 1 to current data. If current participation rates show improvement, you can connect your efforts with employee behavior.

Dig deeper with qualitative research. If your quantitative research uncovers a particular issue that makes you want to learn more, try employee focus groups. Focus groups will uncover the “why” behind survey feedback so you can adjust future L&D communication.

For example:
If employees disagree with the statement, “Reading communication about our learning and development program is a good use of my time,” focus groups can help you find out why employees feel that way and help you gather ideas for better ways to communicate.

A strong learning and development culture is critical to your company’s success. But even the most comprehensive L&D program won’t move the needle if employees don’t know about or participate in the available opportunities. To keep employees engaged, you need to continually manage an effective communication strategy:

  1. Assess the current situation
  2. Determine what you want to achieve
  3. Define your tactical approach
  4. Implement your plan
  5. Measure your progress

Using these steps will help you understand how your learning and development communication is performing so you can adjust your approach as employee needs and preferences shift.

Originally posted on medium.com

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