Communication Planning is the Key to Learning Success

November 8, 2017

How do people at your organization learn about a training requirement or a learning event? Does their manager inform them? Do they get an automatic assignment through your LMS? Or is it a different method?

Many organizations include a change management workstream for learning initiatives to ensure that the audience is properly informed. However, internal training communications are not often top of mind in the planning phase, and can tend to be overlooked until late in the project. Without an effective communication strategy, training attendance suffers, time to competency expands, and return on investment (ROI) ultimately suffers. A well-executed training communication plan does not need to be complex, yet it can have a significant positive impact to ROI. Your communication plan should ensure the audience is informed early, often, through multiple channels and by the right people.

Early and Often

Nobody likes being told they have just three business days to register for a training event. It may convey that their time is not valuable enough to warrant proper notice, and it also may insinuate that the training is of little importance – both of which can lead to a lack of participation and engagement. Regardless of the size or complexity of your training implementation, the impacted audience should hear about it well before the week they are expected to take action. Communications about the upcoming training event should be sent multiple times over a period of time: 6 weeks prior, 4 weeks prior, 2 weeks prior, the day before, etc. The first notices should be a very high level summary of the what, where, when and why, and then more specific instructions and details can be included in the notices closest to the event(s).

Multiple Channels

Email isn’t your only option; there are many ways to get the message out:

  1. Consider posting notices or newsletters on various internal sites like a local SharePoint, community hub or any site that is used for internal reference and communication.
  2. Although it may seem old-fashioned, consider print materials within each location. One of my clients printed tri-fold placards and placed them in their office cafeterias and breakrooms. Flyers can be posted on office bulletin boards, too.
  3. Engage your Marketing or PR department to identify possible channels within your company that could include your training communications. They also could support you in crafting the communication and potentially help add creativity and fun into it.
  4. Don’t forget live meetings. If the training initiative is properly captured, it can be packaged in a “Meeting in a Box” format to ensure it is disseminated throughout your organization in a consistent manner. These live meetings could also be recorded and posted for playback to those that could not attend.

Key People

What good is a great message if nobody hears it? Don’t disregard the importance of the person sending the training event communications. These notices should come from an actual person (and not a generic alias or department) to be impactful. The individual should have significance with the audience and can demonstrate buy-in at the right level – typically a regional or executive sponsor. If I’m a local sales rep, getting a message from  the National Sales Director asking me to complete this training is going to get my attention. She would have more influence on me than a generic request from HR or our training department would. Sometimes getting the key representative from your company to be involved can be challenging but it is extremely important for success.

Does your upcoming learning initiative include a communication plan? If not, it’s not too late—but it’s an issue you should raise right away. In the end, ensuring your learning audience is well informed does not have to be overwhelming, as long as you notify them early, often, through multiple channels and by the right people in your organization. Your bottom line depends on it!


 

Laura Zeitler is a Senior Program Manager at Performance Development Group.

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