Engaging the learner - communications in L&D

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What’s the significance of comms in L&D? How should learning initiatives be communicated? And how does communication affect engagement?

In the latest episode of the More Than Learning podcast, Engaging the Learner: Communications in L&D, Andrew enlisted the help of six learning specialists in a bid to answer these very questions. Read on for the best bits

Podcast guests:

Listen to the episode here: 



Build it and they won’t come

When it comes to rolling out learning initiatives, Dan said it’s about being proactive – just because you’ve built it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. Instead, you’ve got to ask: 

“What are the different ways that we need to reach people where they are and embed things into the flow of how they work when they need it?”

Distilling what Dan said further, there seem to be two approaches to getting what you’ve built noticed:

  1. Proactively communicate it –  the role of the comms team and/or L&D. 
  2. Seamlessly integrate it – embed what you’ve built into existing work processes.  

Proactive communication can be tricky even if you have a comms team. As Arash pointed out: comms and L&D often overlap. So if roles are unclear, then the margin for error increases. 

But having no comms team at all poses an entirely different challenge. Dan said his team overcomes this absence by using various channels to spread the word. In practical terms, this involves identifying the people who are close to others in the business and equipping them with a “deep understanding” of which resources are available, along with the ability to ask insightful questions to understand people’s needs.

Ultimately, Dan said, successful communication is about understanding individual preferences – “meeting people where they are”. 

But communication is only one of the building blocks. Just because you’ve built something and people have come, it doesn’t mean that they care – nor that they’re engaged.


Building engagement: communication is the foundation

For an engagement strategy to work, Sally thinks communication and engagement must go “two ways”:

“Whilst we might want to push out: ‘Hey, did you know this exists and this exists?’ … If it's proper engagement, it’s going to be coming the other way as well.” 

Two-way communication gives L&D the opportunity to “respond and tweak” what you’re doing so your initiatives are more effective. 

Sally said that learner touchpoints, including automated emails, play a role too. “From an employee's perspective,” Sally said, “that might be the only contact they get with L&D because they do everything else themselves, or it comes down through their team.” 

There are, of course, other factors that contribute to engagement, aside from L&D-led initiatives. For Liam, some of the big ones include culture, business practices, interpersonal communication, and D&I. Liam observes how those elements change shape over time so he can understand how they’re playing into engagement within the organisation.

Which begs the question, how can you truly grasp the impact of engagement over time without measuring it? 


Engagement: are we measuring the unmeasurable? 

With engagement being an evergreen topic in the learning space, we’re always keen to hear how people define and measure it. 

Jodie said there isn’t a “magic answer” to how you measure engagement but it’s crucial to understand who’s engaged and who isn’t. Jodie looks at data like learning platform clicks, newsletter opens, Q&A participation and NPS (net promoter score), but Jodie said these metrics only tell one story. The story that’s more important to Jodie’s team is about the people that don’t engage. Or as podcast host Andrew called it: “negative space”.

What’s most important is understanding who your biggest fans and supporters are, truly understanding who isn't engaged with what you're doing, and what you can do to try and bridge that [gap] – either bring them on side or understand their challenges.” – Jodie Pritchard 

For Liam, the fundamental measure of engagement is: “Are we seeing the changes that we want to see happening as a consequence of the things that we're doing?” Liam’s thoughts coincided with Sally’s: data – like attendance, open rates and download rates – only provide a limited perspective.

Understanding why someone has low engagement is another challenge entirely. 

Dan suggested possible reasons for low engagement include communicating in the wrong way, communicating through the wrong channels, employees being too busy, or just general disinterest. 

Simon’s thoughts on engagement tracking rounded off this conversation nicely: “It’s about user experience,” he said.

What matters is keeping your learner at the heart of what you do. This means listening to wants and needs and providing learning that’s accessible, easy, relevant and interesting. 

Get in touch to find out how this is possible through the 5app platform.


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