One of the most overlooked elements of launching a Learning Management System (LMS) is the internal marketing and promotion of the initiative to management and employees. While organizations willingly invest thousands of dollars to develop and introduce the LMS to their employees, they frequently neglect this key element of success.
Unless you can somehow make elearning mandatory for employees, your ability to use basic marketing techniques to attract and retain users will be critical to LMS’s continued success in your organization. For instance, you must introduce the new LMS to the organization (the “launch”), promote it and register initial users (“internal marketing”), and develop ways to maintain and increase usage over time (“maintenance marketing”).
The following suggestions are simple and inexpensive to implement but they can be vital to the continued participation, acceptance and overall success of your LMS. Some will work better for your company than others. Choose a few to get started and then sprinkle others throughout the lifecycle of your LMS. The most important thing to remember is to get started marketing your LMS.
- Develop your LMS into a “brand” that is recognizable within your organization. Have a logo, letterhead, tagline, etc. that can all be linked visually to your elearning initiative and help increase awareness.
- Know your audience. Are most of your employees Gen X, Millennial, Baby Boomer or a combination of all plus the upcoming Gen Z? Take the following marketing ideas and deliver them on a platform that makes sense to them be it a company meeting, email, employee community or social media.
- Find the pain in your organization and the greatest opportunities to improve. Align your elearning program with the needs and challenges of your organization’s business unit and line managers. Identify what their problems, short-comings, challenges and need are…and find a way to deliver solutions. Find ways that your elearning program help them increase profits, cut costs, reduce employees’ time-to-competency, increase productivity, turnaround time, etc.
- Identify training opportunities that are magnets—they “pull” learners to the training rather than having to be “pushed.” For maximum learner participation, find ways to make elearning mandatory. Identify training in your organization that can be delivered online that large numbers of employees will use because it is required (i.e. new employee orientation, computer skills, selling skills, new product training, regulatory and compliance training, etc.)
- Evaluate pre-defined metrics of success (business results). Identify, track and measure business results and ROI that can be tied back to your elearning program. These successes will be helpful when you are asked by upper management to illustrate the results of your elearning program or your team wants to request additional support and funding for your initiative.
- Hold “brown bag lunches” or bring in pizza while holding a short seminar for managers, supervisors and HR/training consultant on how they can incorporate elearning into their own development plans, and how elearning can be used most effectively in the employee development and performance improvement process. Show managers and supervisors how elearning can be effectively integrated into the process of developing, coaching and mentoring employees.
- Eliminate barriers. Get students up and running quickly and easily. Make the first elearning experience a good one so they will see immediate value and get immediate satisfaction. Many companies start by creating their own course about how to use the LMS itself. This gets users into the system immediately and they can take the course without the fear that they are being “graded”.
- Create an elearning support team. Once the managers are enlisted, assemble a team to foster support for the change in your training methods. Include representatives from managers and employees from all the internal groups that will be affected and at every level. Team members who become believers will help spread the positive word about elearning.
- Incorporate elearning into your new employee orientation and onboarding program. At the very least, new employees should receive an overview of your organization’s elearning philosophy, the various options available to them, and how to sign up and get started.
- Develop a curriculum of elearning courses (or use a blended approach where a curriculum includes elearning, classroom, self-study, mentoring, on-the-job training, etc.). Develop certificate programs around the curriculum that address core competencies required in your organization. For example, employees can receive certificates in customer service, sales, project management, and leadership, etc. Work with department heads and line managers to develop curricula specific to their needs.
- Integrate online courses into employee development plans and performance improvement initiatives. Incorporating elearning into this structured process is especially helpful (yet extremely easy). Managers and supervisors may make recommendations for training to help an employee improve in a particular area, or offer suggestions for personal development activities during performance reviews or annual goal-setting meetings. Another advantage: elearning is trackable, measurable and time-specific.
- Create a spirit of competition between learners. For example, offer a prize to the first work unit or department that attains 100 percent completion, the most completions, etc.
- Create an online scavenger hunt with answers participants can find within your LMS or the courseware itself. Designed in such a way to familiarize students with the various features and functions available by navigating through the site to find the answers. Prizes can be handed out to the first one to answer all the questions and/or a drawing from all entries.
- Offer a prize drawing that requires employees to successfully complete elearning to be entered.
- Set up a “help line” if employees have questions or difficulties (i.e. accessing a course, forgot password/userID, etc). Provide learners with business cards or stickers they can place on their phones to access your elearning technical support line or Help Desk.
- Enlist the support of a high-level executive who believes in the benefits of elearning and will speak up and promote it. Give them a communications plan including e-mail, appearances, etc. Create a cadence for this so that your executive is mentioning the LMS benefits throughout the year demonstrating his or her ongoing commitment to training and development.
- Create a private Facebook or intranet page that can be used to troubleshoot system questions, support, progress tracking and encouragement. This could be a cheaper alternative to a Help Line and promotes collaboration among employees.
- Continue to illustrate high-level executive support for your elearning initiative as a critical part of your organization’s business strategy. Ask senior management to send an e-mail to all employees that includes a hyperlink to the training.
- Take advantage of your company’s email system to frequently promote the overall concept and benefits of elearning. Some organizations send emails to their employee base to promote specific courses (i.e. “We’ve added a new course about XYZ.”). Others provide useful tips, benefits and suggestions for incorporating elearning into the workplace and personal development. Your angle: constantly look for ways to position and communicate elearning as one of the solutions for dealing with current business issues in your organization.
- Create recognition programs and use them liberally. Recognition can be personal, departmental or company-wide. Some organizations have provided modest incentives for completing a course or curriculum of courses, and others print simple “certificates of achievement/completion.” Still others recognize employees in internal newsletters, memos, bulletin boards and/or e-mails. Another very personal way to recognize completion is a short note or e-mail to managers/supervisors notifying them that an employee has completed a course or curriculum (a copy of the note could also be put in the employee’s permanent file). The key: use your imagination and link recognition to what works best with your employee group(s).
- Post an honor list for employees who attained a score of XXX percent or better (in company newsletters, meetings, ceremonies, bulletin boards, e-mail, company Intranet, etc.).
- Post weekly reports comparing department completion percentages.
- Provide certificates of completion or achievement that are suitable for mounting.
- Recognize supervisors who have attained XXX percentage of employee completions.
- Develop a “Tip Sheet” that provides learners with quick, introductory instructions on how to get started, register for courses, navigate the site and use the various tools and resources that are available. This is also great for new employees.
- Develop your classroom-based training with elearning as prerequisite work to enter the course. The advantage: learners come prepared and enter the class with a standardized base of knowledge.
- Conversely, instructors can promote elearning as follow-up to your classroom and on-the-job training.
- Help foster uninterrupted and dedicated time for learners to take their courses. Designate specific times throughout the day for elearning (i.e. schedule time in employee calendars). Set up designated computers in a “lab” environment, if appropriate.
- Notify managers of employees’ completion of courses or a curriculum. Encourage managers to recognize employees for their achievements. Include a report or transcript of completion in each employee’s personnel file.
- If feasible, offer logo merchandise and apparel printed with your elearning program’s name, tagline, etc. These items can be offered for sale in the company store (if you have one), or be handed out as content prizes and as part of your recognition program. Create “special” or “one-of-a-kind” items that are given away only to people who reach a certain level of achievement, certification, etc.
As a reminder, the most important thing that we mentioned at the beginning is just to get started marketing your LMS. Pick the tips that would work best for your culture and start there. Then mix and match along the way for marketing communication success.