When bringing in a new learning platform, what do you think of first? How to use it? What resources you will need? How IT will partner with you? What content you will need? These are all important parts of the process, but I believe we need to think first about adoption. How can we get employees to use the new software? How do we drive social learning and how can we build up the habit that will drive a learning culture?
Call it adoption, engagement, usage, it all adds up to getting employees to see the value that you did when you selected the platform. Now that you have gone through all the procurement process and picked the best contender for your environment, it is time to implement. Lots more decisions and plans to make. Having been through this with lots of enterprises, I would offer that it is critical long and short term to plan with adoption at the beginning and throughout the process.
Start with the end in mind
One of the key questions during the planning phase is what are your success factors? Chances are they revolve around employees actually using the platform. So, let’s look at what we can do at the planning and implementation phase to make that a reality.
Not all enterprises can devote a team to implementation. Some have just two people, some have teams of a dozen. The most successful teams that I have worked with use agile methodologies to plan and execute a good implementation. Typically, these teams are from a mix L&D, IT, and HR and they break out into focus areas. To driving adoption, include teams on content and the management of change. Let’s see how they affect engagement.
The Content team
Without a doubt, content is the number one driver for user engagement. For digital learning, content is created and managed differently. The options are greater, allowing for blended learning of formal, informal, internal and external content. New skills are needed to develop good digital content, including curation, videos, micro learning, social learning, coaching SMEs and leaders and more. The content team needs to learn these new methods first. Then they can recruit and train champions. The planning phase is the time to upskill L&D and form the partnerships that will enable great champions.
The first job of the content team is to design the wireframe for the initial content. While this will be an iterative process, it is important to map out a structure for the content. Depending on the platform that you have selected, you can create a high-level breakdown that might look similar to what you have today. For example, most enterprises have diverse business units and global functions (like HR, Finance, Supply Chain, IT, etc.) as well as regional organizations. Most also have L&D broken into portfolios such as Leadership, sales, professional skills and more. These are all excellent top-level structures for content. It also helps to know how employees are accustomed to looking for content.
Now that you have that settled, look at your content team and start assigning owners of each major area. For most customers, these are people who know that portfolio well and know people who would be good subject matter experts, be aware of good content, the needs of the audiences and the leaders who can help. Step one now is to get everyone ready: time for workshops on digital creation, the art of curation, and teaching everyone the options available to add into the platform. Perhaps time to learn some new tools for video and animation for quick creation.
Here is where it helps to know your audience(s). At this point, I am going to assume this is an enterprise wide rollout. Naturally, some differences occur for a pilot or phased rollout. Depending again on the platform you have selected, these content owners can start recruiting champions. More on the role of champions in another article, but they are critical.
While the platform is being integrated and technical issues such as single sign on are happening, build and train the content team, recruit the champions and find leaders who will sponsor the effort.
The Management of Change team
Some enterprises already have MOC teams, but for others this is something of a luxury. Consider this luxury something that will help move the needle and make it easier for everyone. Key components for this effort include communications, marketing, partnerships and engagement. This team needs to understand the why of the change and be able to communicate it at several levels. Typically, one member of this team also serves on the content team.
Unfortunately, just because you have a shiny new platform, employees will not just flock to it. Just as we need good, relevant content to keep them coming back, you need a great message that answers the question, what’s in it for me? This team sets that up, sells it to leaders and brings in the partners that will help drive the solution. Most L&D organizations that I have worked with are not strong in marketing, but I have found that, with a bit of help from other groups, they adapt well.
With whom should we partner? One of the best groups is corporate communications. Your platform can be a great way for leaders and the business to communicate with employees. The new tools that are in digital learning, like video, livestreams and blogs are ideal to cascade key messages. Bring them in early and work on a calendar of events, messages and goals. HR can be helpful here as well.
Communications is one of the key roles for the MOC team. The plan can be broken down into a time line that works backwards and forwards from the launch date. Initially, sponsorships and quotes from high level leaders really help to drive the top down approach. If this is an enterprise wide roll out, nothing beats having the CEO endorse the project. Encourage leaders to:
Sponsor or endorse learning for their teams
Provide social interaction on the platform (Like, comment on content)
Use the platform to cascade communications
Getting this type of support can often be a one on one effort. Set appointments with leaders with time to talk the why and what the goals are, and how it helps them lead their teams, upskill and develop their workforce to meet the needs of the future. Provide a quick demo. And be specific about the actions that you want them to do. Ask if they have a comms team that can help. High level leaders will often have someone who can either log into the system as them or have an alias of the leader’s name that will show their support.
Creating a stakeholder map of leaders will help you to spread out the support to various business units and organizations. The Leadership Development team might be able to help identify the leaders who are faculty or support learning for their organizations.
Designing the engagement
As with all agile projects, adding these actions into your project plan right from the start will help to drive a successful implementation. Implementing a modern digital learning platform involves several actions and efforts. Many organizations only think about the software implementation. But being successful means communicating to the right people at the right time and preparing all levels to use and contribute to the new learning culture.
Talk to everyone on the what’s in it for me. Drive contribution and usage with great messaging. Start with that top down messaging and build up the champions to make the bottom up message go viral. More on that part in a future post.