Marketing – a key part of learning and development

I am often in what feels like a privileged position, working with heads of departments in firms of all sizes, as you can never underestimate the value of collaboration with heads of teams working together. Working closely with Heads of People / Learning and Development (L&D), who have seen initiatives fail in the past, a term that has more recently become part of their vocabulary is that of running a ‘learning campaign’, that is using a marketing approach to drive impact with learners. As with any good marketing campaign, an initiative should be part of a longer term plan, not just a one off training session. The learning is spread over time and delivered in bite sized chunks that gives time to apply the learning and increases the likelihood of the learner retaining the information.

And just as marketing campaigns use different marketing activities, learning campaigns are delivered across a variety of channels both on and off line, eg. workshops, posters, screensavers, email, video, e-learning, blogs, forums, town hall meetings, etc.

So marketers have much to teach our L&D colleagues and can be key influencers in L&D. It’s not just about marketing training programmes but using marketing concepts on the actual content delivery itself.

Why run a learning campaign?
Learning campaigns benefit both the learner and also the learning provider (whether internal or external to the firm), because they deliver:
• Increased retention of knowledge and learning, as less is delivered at one time and the learning can be applied between activities
• Flexibility in terms of when the learning is delivered
• Flexibility for the provider in terms of the creation of materials and resources, as it can be broken down and leaves room to update materials over time
• Repetition across different media, at different times, to embed messages.

How to run a campaign
Running a learning campaign is very different to the design of a simple intervention. Though content can be isolated by completing a needs analysis in terms of the learners, that is where the similarity ends as you must then:
1 Identify the campaign’s objectives
2 Identify the available points of contact with the learner, eg. classroom, desk, walls, coffee shop, e-learning, posters, internal meetings, emails, videos, blogs…
3 Design and adapt the content for each learning channel
4 Follow up – include regular follow up activities to help retain the learning
5 Evaluate the learning campaign – the return from the campaign needs to be evaluated, including feedback from learners, application of learning and change in performance (at an individual and firm level).

It’s great to see the changes happening in learning and development, even better that they are learning from marketing best practice, and this is just one example we’ve seen of the collaborative approach being used in professional services and across other sectors.

Kate Hennig, Regional Director, PM Forum East Midlands