driving employee engagement

6 Marketing Tactics L&D Can Borrow to Drive Learner Engagement

You’ve put time, resources, and tons of energy into creating effective courses and learning paths for employees.

But a training course is only as good as it’s adoption rate, and yours seem to be falling a little flat.

It’s a common problem, and the blame doesn’t land squarely at the feet of the L&D department. Employees are more time-starved than they have ever been before. Learning departments are struggling to cut through the noise of daily tasks that command the attention of busy business functions. 

However, all is not lost. Start looking at learners like a target audience and borrow these marketing tactics to boost learner engagement with your training program.

1. Use email marketing

Email marketing is still one of the most valuable tools in a marketer’s belt when it comes to driving engagement and conversions.

To leverage it for similar results for L&D, follow this framework for an internal email campaign:

Segment your audience

Even if the training is organization-wide, segment your audience, and create different emails for different “personas” within your organization.

For example, salespeople will care about this training course for entirely different reasons than accounting, and yet the course provides value for both. Creating separate emails for them will enable you to highlight those different value propositions to different audiences and encourage them to take the training.

Get creative with your subject lines

A catchy subject line is your gateway to ensuring the email is opened and read by the receiver. Don’t be afraid to get creative or inject some humor to make your email stand out in the inbox. 

Create eye-catching emails

Even if it’s just including a simple banner image or using some different fonts and text colors, try to jazz the email up a little. 

If you can, create a button in your email (which can be as simple as a hyperlinked image encouraging the receiver to take the training) that links straight to the training course you are promoting.

2. Run Competitions

Creating a little friendly competition around your training is a great way to drum up interest and drive learner engagement. It’s a tactic frequently used by marketers (especially on social media), and it works

Whether the competition culminates in recognition or a physical prize, it’s an excellent way to get people talking about the training offered.

Types of training competitions you can run include:

  • Top score for a particular course
  • The most amount of training courses taken per quarter/per year
  • Prizes for tangible performance improvements as a result of specific training

3. Showcase testimonials and positive feedback

It’s no surprise that amongst the millennial workforce at least, “social proof” extends to the adoption of training courses. In fact, 45% of respondents to a LinkedIn Learning survey said they would spend more time on workplace learning that is peer-recommended.

Testimonials, reviews, and case studies are often used by marketers to increase engagement with their brands.

Leverage this social proof concept when it comes to your learning solutions. Gather testimonials or feedback from top performers and use them when promoting specific courses on your intranet, in emails, or anywhere else you might internally advertise your training solutions.

4. Social media & social learning

Marketers understand the value and meaning of “likes,” comments, and shares when it comes to their content. Social media is at the forefront of online activity. As Millennials and Gen Z continue to dominate the workforce, it’s coming to the fore of how we communicate in the workplace, too.

A 2019 workplace learning report by LinkedIn showed that well over 50% of all generations in the workforce value the ability to collaborate with other learners via forums, groups, or Q&A sessions while taking a course.

So embrace the opportunity to use social media in the flow of learning to encourage learner engagement with your online courses:

  • Create forums

Whether it’s through your intranet, instant messaging tools like Slack, or private LinkedIn groups, create opportunities for learners to open threads discussing different courses with other learners. 

L&D can take the reins by starting threads and tagging learners on the course to get their thoughts and insights. Threads and social commentary should be done in realtime as learners are taking the course, if possible.

  • Connect learners directly to SMEs

Millennials, in particular, love to learn from top performers amongst their peers. Within the social forums, introduce learners to subject matter experts with specialized knowledge of the area of study for particular courses. 

Learners can take the opportunity to ask questions in realtime and will feel they are getting information relevant to their roles in a peer-to-peer setting. 

(Bonus points if the SME was involved in creating the training itself!)

  • Encourage knowledge sharing

Social media or forums are a great tool for making employees comfortable with sharing useful news, links, or content amongst themselves. 

Create specific “content of the week” style threads where employees can post what they have come across that might be useful to others. This is especially impactful if you can leverage a forum like LinkedIn, where users can “like” each other’s comments. This type of social proof can encourage further learner engagement through sharing knowledge and creating friendly competition to see who can earn the most likes on the content they share.

5. Listen to market feedback

If there’s one thing that marketers are good at, it’s creating content that their target audiences are searching for and presenting it in a way that they love.

Your learners are your target audience, so listen to what they have to say and adjust your learning content accordingly.

  • Instant feedback

Request feedback at the end of every course so you can see in realtime how relevant and compelling your content is for learners.

  • Focus groups

Gather cross-sections of employees, SMEs, management, and executives together to understand the current learning landscape in your company. Focus groups are an opportunity to get more qualitative and honest feedback about your existing training solutions and what your audience wants to see.

  • Aggregate and analyze

Market feedback is only as good as the action you take from it. So make sure you’re gathering and measuring the data appropriately and taking actionable insights from it.

6. A/B test your learning design

Not quite sure if a video or interactive graphic is right for a particular lesson/topic? What about that assessment question, is it the right difficulty level? 

These types of decisions don’t have to be based on guesswork. The concept of A/B testing has long been used by marketers to determine which of two versions of the same element (email subject line, website imagery, etc.) hits the mark best. 

In a nutshell, A/B testing involves showing half your learners one version of an element, and the other half the second version of the element. Then you measure the results of both groups to see which performed better.

If you want to start testing elements of your learning design:

  • Start small 

Testing can get complicated if you try to do too much, too fast. Start with small, basic changes that you can easily monitor.

  • One at a time

Multivariate testing is possible, but the benefit of A/B testing is knowing precisely what change instigated a jump or drop in results.

These tactics have proven invaluable for driving engagement with external audiences. Leveraging them internally for learner engagement will help you grab employees’ attention and focus it on the performance-driving courses you’ve created.

Want to learn how to engage subject matter experts with creating training? Check out this free ebook!

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