Learning communications – 5 warning signs to look out for

Posted on Jan 05, 2017

Comms & campaigns


Creating a communications plan is the first step to having a successful training roll out, but how can you tell if it’s not working?

We’ve outlined the best way to create a communications plan in a previous post, now we’re going to explore the warning signs that can signal that your plan isn’t working.

If you see these signs crop up, it’s time to rethink your learning communications plan.

  1. People asking how to take the course
  2. Managers aren’t clear on the reasons for the training
  3. Learners not completing all the training
  4. One section of the audience isn’t completing the training
  5. Usage dropping off quickly

People asking how to take the course

Keep in mind that a good communications plan will often reach new learners, those who may not be familiar with how your training works. You may also be introducing a new Learning Management System or microsite-based course that involves a different process for existing learners.

Be sure to include basic information for learners so they can register for and access the course content easily when the time comes.

Managers aren’t clear on the reasons for the training

We always recommend getting line managers involved early in the process. Make sure they have input into the way the learning will be rolled out to their teams. With no input they’re less likely to be able to support their teams effectively

Giving your managers the tools to explain why the training is worthwhile to their teams on an individual level, as well as to the business as a whole, makes it much easier for them to motivate learners to take training.

Not only will a team member be able to get help from the manager in completing the course, they will be more likely to be given time to prioritise training if they are clear on the direct benefits.

Towards Maturity reported in their latest Learner Voice survey that 78% of employees find support from a manager most useful for their learning. Managers were also shown to have the biggest influence on employees to take online training.

In a recent learning programme for a multinational soft drinks company employees and managers received branded emails designed with bespoke artwork to raise awareness of issues they might encounter.

Targeting both managers and employees and tailoring the message to their role helped achieve unprecedented completion rates for the course.

Learners not completing all the training

If your learners have attempted the training but portions are not being completed, or some parts are more popular than others, it could indicate your goals weren’t clear enough.

If the goals set out in your plan weren’t specific your messages won’t steer them in the right direction for your desired outcome.

Learners may have taken on the message and feel that they have got what they need from the training without going through all the stages to indicate completion.

People’s habits are changing and they are now more likely to dip into something to get the information or knowledge they need and not necessarily complete an entire suite of modules.

Many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) have very low completion rates, with averages as low as 15%, according to Katy Jordan, an elearning researcher. One of the reasons often cited for low MOOC completion rates are that many people sign up to access the resources without intending to complete the assessment portion.

Taking this into the workplace learning space, if you’re only tracking the completion of an assessment you can’t know which learners have been exposed to the different parts of the training without then completing the assessment.

If you need more fine-grained tracking to make sure your learners are completing enough of the right parts of the training you should consider using xAPI to track individual interactions in future programmes.

One section of the audience isn’t completing the training

A home worker versus an office worker might have very different priorities for cyber security, but they both need to be aware of the effect their actions can have on the organisation and their own working lives.

Different parts of your audience will use different channels, so if you’re not targeting the channels they’re using to communicate you risk them not seeing the message.

We all have colleagues who prefer email to instant messenger, or a voice call to a face to face meeting. If you’re not broadcasting your message on the channels that the learners are listening to, then you’re going to miss some of them.

By not personalising your messages you risk alienating some of the learners who need to take the training.

Relating the benefits of the course to all the different roles is more work at the planning and roll out stages but helps make sure everyone who needs to take the training gets the message.

Usage dropping off quickly

Did your plan stall once the first wave of learners went through? Building momentum with your communication helps maintain interest and remind learners who have missed or overlooked the original messages that the training is still there.

Try highlighting the stories of successful learners who have already taken the training. Bringing learner feedback and relatable stories of how the training has helped in the work they do is a powerful motivator for others.

Tesco Learning Leap

During Tesco’s Learning Leap campaign learners were sent emails with updates on who had already completed, or ‘landed’, and reminders to take the training themselves.

The top things to do when you experience the 5 warning signs are:

  1. Include the basic information for accessing and completing the course in your messages
  2. Get managers engaged in the programme early and give them the tools they need to motivate their team in your communications
  3. Clarify your goals in the plan to make sure they’re clear to the learners and think about tracking more than just overall completions if applicable
  4. Use all the relevant channels of communication and tailor your message to the different sections of your audience
  5. Don’t end your plan when the course starts, use reminders and feedback from real learners to encourage remaining employees to complete

No communication plan starts out perfect. Using the experience from past plans is key to getting the most from your training programme. If you want a starting point for your own communications plan, download our template.

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