In this second article of our two-part series on what learning and development can learn from marketing, we discuss how effectively researching and understanding your learners can help you when designing and tracking the success of your training. This preliminary research allows you to effectively choose meaningful KPIs and measure their progress to make corrective actions that will benefit your learners.
Take the time to research and know your audience
In marketing, you cannot begin to sell a product without knowing your target buyer better than they may know themselves. This can be done through observation, research, and engaging with the community of consumers who love, or would love, your product. Unfortunately, in the learning and development (L&D) space, this prerequisite step of analyzing and getting to know learners isn’t always adequately performed, and these insights aren’t captured to improve and adapt your training strategy. So, what can be done?
Spend time engaging with your learners
Who are your learners? Have you spent time speaking with them to learn more about them before creating your course? Conduct research about your learners, their work environment, their challenges, and their pain points. You can do this through interviews, sending targeted surveys, or even observing them in their role. Remember that your learners can often be your best source of information.
The Pareto principle, which is often invoked in sales and marketing, states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If you spend 20% of your time actively engaging with and understanding your learners, then you will likely be more efficient when it comes to creating an effective training strategy.
Create sample learner personas and segment the learner population
If you are able to identify your learners and understand who they are, you will be in a better position to target the content and choose the topics that your learners care about and need to know in their role.
For example, you could take the time to imagine realistic personas in your target group of learners to really understand the different backgrounds, roles, goals, and challenges that they might have. This way, you can better connect to your learners. By not limiting your course simply to the number of employees to train and their job roles, you will have gone a step further. When you design your training, you will think of these fictional but probable personas, stepping into their shoes to make it meaningful for them.
Sample learner persona:
Store Manager Jill
In a civil partnership with two children under 10
Education: associate degree
Industry: fashion (clothing and accessories), retail
Yearly revenue: 1.5 billion
Role: retail store manager
Job measured: store revenue, losses, employee productivity, conversion rate, and customer retention
Skills: people management, product knowledge, sales techniques, accounting and record keeping, stock management, and inventory
Reports to: regional manager
Manages: assistant manager(s), sales associates, and full-time, part-time, and seasonal staff
Goals and challenges
Success means: promotion to regional manager
Values most: family, vacation, and career advancement
Biggest challenges: managing people and employee retention, theft and store security, maintaining revenue due to new competition, outdated technology, and lack of time to train employees correctly
Ensure the format makes sense and is accessible for the learners
Evaluate the conditions in which your learners will access your course, as this should influence the format of the training. Your learners likely have limited time, may not have great internet connectivity due to geographic location, and might not have access to mobile phones or tablets.
In the case of retail workers, they probably share one tablet or computer among all store employees. Therefore, you will need to ensure that the trainings are short—should the learner get interrupted, they might not be able to complete the training.
For factory workers on an assembly line in a rural location without high-speed internet, consider if a multimedia-enriched experience including video would be appropriate. If a video takes too long to load, they might become frustrated or simply not have the time to wait.
Taking the time to understand your learners will also help you write with the appropriate tone and voice for your course. Their level of education, literacy, work culture, and job tasks might also lead you to make different choices. When training workers who perform manual tasks, consider using a more visual format with fewer words, and perhaps integrate more video demonstrations and audio.
Data and measurement: define and track your metrics
Marketers think in terms of data and how their actions can contribute to improving their KPIs. For example, they might hypothesize that advertising on new social media channels will increase sales of a new product. They can then track the sales over set periods of time once they have started their new campaign, making adjustments to their strategy based on what the data is indicating. As L&D professionals are fundamentally concerned with addressing skills and knowledge gaps to meet the business needs, it is imperative that they take this approach to identifying the metrics they wish to address.
Define your KPIs
Having taken the time to get to know your learners, as explained in the previous section, you are in a position to identify the gaps that training could help close. Before creating a training, you need to define the indicator and the purpose of what you hope to achieve. For example, perhaps you have noticed that sales have been declining, and you have a suspicion that this could be due to an increased number of customer complaints. You decide to address this by creating a customer complaint management training. If your goal is a 10% sales increase, you could see if numbers go up after pre-defined time periods (3-, 6-, and 12-month intervals, or whatever makes sense for your industry) for the employees who received the training.
Make sure your KPIs are measurable
Ensure that the KPIs being selected are measurable and related to the behavior you are trying to change. If your goals are too broad, such as “employees need to learn how to better manage customer complaints,” you will not be able to know if the training actually had the impact of improving the behavior that you set out to address. If you don’t have a clear indicator and a plan to monitor it, you will need to dig a little deeper until one can be identified.
Create and track clusters
You can create clusters of your target learner group to see how the KPI was affected. For example, track how the KPI changed based on job role/location (country), store type/dimension, customer type, etc. Maybe you will learn that certain segments of your learner population do not have improvements, or have bigger improvements than anticipated, and you can investigate the causes. Stores located in touristic cities may show different behaviors from stores located in big malls or in suburban areas.
Implement corrective actions
Monitoring the results and tracking your KPIs also means you need to be ready to implement corrective actions and make adjustments to your training strategy. Exactly like market research after big product launches, these insights may be very useful to boost the engagement or to reveal possible gaps and emerging trends. You might learn that part of the training isn’t working like you had imagined, or you may receive a lot of user feedback about a specific section. Perhaps you will learn that other training is required.
Test it out
L&D professionals should be open to experimentation on their journey to creating truly great training. Marketers often deliver variations of their content to their users through A/B testing to see if there can be improvements. You can prototype your training on smaller audiences before deploying to all learners by testing certain pieces of the training and asking for feedback. Your learners may appreciate being chosen for your focus group and be more willing to give you honest feedback. You could also experiment through mixing different delivery formats, where some learners may receive the training F2F, others through webinars and virtual classrooms, and still others through an e-learning module.
Repurpose content in different formats
Marketers present their content in different formats and on different social media channels, adapting the presentation and sharing the key messages in multiple ways. In training, the key messages can also be reinforced and made to stick when you multiply the ways your learner receives them. Having a multifaceted training strategy could mean delivering a training, writing a blog post highlighting the essential points, and reiterating the information in a video or infographic. This doesn’t all need to occur at the same time and could be part of the training campaign. If the messages are important, reshare them in multiple ways over a period of time, as not everything needs to appear in an e-learning module.
If you need more ideas on how to successfully launch your training, please refer to part 1 of this series, where you can learn how to incite interest and awareness for your training.