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Delivering impact through learning

Written by Matt Borg and Katie Gouskos

Striving to make an impact in the workplace can be challenging. Although your ideas may be compelling, it’s not easy to execute a plan without support, co-operation and collaboration from peers, stakeholders and business leaders. Making sure your plans are aligned to the business is key. Are you confident that you know where the business is heading? And more importantly, what can you do to help it get there?

What would it take to see people really flourish?

Research from Towards Maturity shows that Learning & Development is in more demand than ever: organisations want greater support from L&D to help with critical business issues. The annual 2016 Towards Maturity Benchmark Study of more than 800 organisations from all sectors revealed that organisations want L&D to help them achieve:

  • Rapid response to change
  • Improved customer service
  • Increased productivity

The responses reveal that the L&D function is highly valued for its potential to deliver operational change, so how can you develop a strategy for achieving these goals through learning? We’ve discovered three practical, easy to implement methods to achieve a greater level of impact through blended learning campaigns. These are tried and tested approaches that we’ve used in partnership with our clients to produce effective and award-winning learning interventions that deliver impactful change.

1. Aim for Action

Aiming for action means pushing beyond the request for ‘a course’ or ‘an update’ and identifying the tangible change that is important to the organisation. It answers the critical question, “Why is this needed?”

When you begin planning your learning programme, start with the change that is needed. Make sure this is crystal clear. Work with the subject matter expert or the business customer to identify the main objective of the programme. This will not only help you design the programme, but will also help you measure its effectiveness.

As you hone your aim, it’s important to ask, “What measures or Key Performance Indicators should move up or down if we get the training right?”

Sometimes it’s not obvious. Sometimes the metric you want to see move is counter-intuitive. For example, the business might say, “We want more people to report potential conflicts of interest.” Really? You want more reports of conflict of interest? “Yes. If it’s happening out there but it’s not being reported, yes, we do want more of those potential conflicts to be recognised and for the appropriate procedures to be followed.”

If the programme can raise awareness of the correct procedures, instil an attitude to do the right thing and protect the organisation, we might expect to see the action of reporting increase.

Before you set out to design your learning programme, make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve. And remember… “to refresh the course” is not an answer. Don’t stop asking “Why do we need this course?” and “How can this help the organisation?” until you get to a measurable and important reason.

2. Reinvent the Intervention

In the ‘Aim for Action’ step you established a reason for implementing your learning programme. It now matters to the organisation in a clear and tangible way. Will doing what you’ve always done get the results you’re after? Will a one-off e-learning course or classroom session be enough? Will that raise awareness, instil attitudes and change actions?

One way to fuel creativity for your blended learning project is to ask, “How would an advertising executive tackle this problem of awareness, attitude or action? How would they get people to change?” Advertising agencies live or die by their ability to drive behaviour change. Maybe we can learn something from an industry so intent on realising change.

For example, when the UK government wanted to change driving behaviour, they created a 30-second video, narrated by a child saying, “If you hit me at 40, there’s around an 80% chance I’ll die. Hit me at 30, and there’s an 80% chance I’ll live.” Powerful. Behaviour-changing. All in about 30 seconds.

Think about all the communication and training channels you have available in your organisation and see what you can use to meet your aim.

Once you’ve done an evaluation of previous methods, make a list of the tools and channels you have at your disposal. It’s easy to neglect the internal communications channels within the organisation. Why not make use of the employee newsletter, write a speech for the CEO, prepare cascade toolkits for managers or shoot a video for the Intranet?

Now that you have a list of the possible channels for reaching your audiences, take some time to think about your different audiences. For each unique audience group, consider how you want to change awareness, attitude or action. Now consider what the best method is for affecting this change.

In the final step, you’ll need to organise the mix into a co-ordinated campaign.

3. Campaign for Change

When delivering positive, lasting change there are no ‘silver bullets’. Real change rarely occurs from a one-off training or communication intervention. If your organisation wants to meet the aim, you’ll need to campaign for change!

A campaign is a set of interlocking, co-ordinated activities using different media and different channels to achieve a shared objective.

If your aim is important, it’s time to take the fresh interventions you listed and put together a time-phased and audience-specific campaign. Sometimes people see the communication plan as only part of driving adoption of the main feature of your programme, whether it be an online course or face-to-face event.

Acteon’s approach is to design the campaign so that the communications will be a key part of changing behaviour and meeting your aim.

Think about your learning intervention the way a marketeer would. When advertisers want to change your buying behaviour, they campaign. They use multiple channels over a period of time to change your awareness, attitude and activity. For example, posters could be used to raise awareness, or intranet teaser videos to change attitudes towards the subject.

As you plan your time-phased, audience-specific communications, start with your aim and work from there. Real change rarely occurs from a one-off training or communication intervention. If your organisation wants to meet the aim, you’ll need to campaign for change!

Think about how you can design your communication plan. Which channels are right for which audience? What messages do they need to receive, and when? The communication campaign isn’t simply there to drive adoption of your e-learning course: design it correctly and it will become the starting point of behaviour change.

Bringing it all together

If you started with a clear aim, gave serious thought to the best available methods and channels for achieving the aim, and then planned a coordinated and sustained campaign, the results will follow.

Keep an eye on those metrics. Re-run the campaign — or parts of it — if necessary. Tweak one or two elements or add an extra ingredient into the mix.

Finally, communicate your results within the business. Show your leadership team that L&D can deliver real change and enable people to flourish.

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