Maybe your internal team has spent months getting certified, creating materials for leader-led courses, buying new software or licenses, booking venues, and scheduling the events. Or maybe you have a decision-making committee that has been evaluating external vendors, participating in trials, watching demos, testing technology, comparing videos, and finally choosing a partner. That’s a lot of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put into this new training initiative, and it’s an exciting time for the company when the new training launches.
It’s a story of hair-pulling frustration that I hear too often: A company makes a significant investment in time and budget, and months later people aren’t engaged and the excitement has worn off. It’s not that employees don’t want more and better training. It’s that the organization did not plan for how to promote ongoing training courses to employees beyond the launch.
Whether you have mandatory or self-directed learning, you will need to promote it. Take mandatory training first: No one wants to miss a mandatory training and get in trouble when they didn't even know they HAD to take it, right? Second, promoting self-directed learning is just as important: If your employees don't know it's out there, they can't take it. When a training program has poor results, the budget is the first to get cut when times are tough.
So how do you actually go about promoting training to your employees in a way that gets them excited? What methods are effective and, more importantly, now that the excitement, streamers, sparkles, and confetti cannons from the launch are gone, what will get employees excited about training?
Fortunately, you don't need to spend a lot of money on a marketing campaign, nor do you need a marketing degree. You just need to go where your employees already are.
9 Tips for Promoting Training to Employees
1. Connect with internal communications team to promote upcoming training courses.
Do you already have a corporate communications person or team in-house? Why not use them? They are a wonderful and often overlooked resource. Training departments are already stretched thin with employee assessments, tracking and reporting, creating content, etc. They don’t always have the bandwidth for the ongoing promotion of training to employees. By teaming up with existing communications teams, you can leverage their expertise and resources (email blasts, corporate newsletters, etc.).
Your internal communications will also have a lot more impact if they are amplified by your leadership. For example, you can have an executive leader send an initial email blast to employees endorsing the need for training. You can even have that leader record a quick welcome message for your training, emphasizing the importance of what the attendees are about to learn.
Beyond the one-time communication events, your leadership can really set the tone for the importance of ongoing training and reinforce the learning culture of your company. Managers should encourage their teams to make time for training. That might begin with employee onboarding but it should continue throughout the employee’s tenure with the company.
2. Use existing communication mediums.
Just as you can use existing communications teams, you can use existing communication vehicles. Start with those you know employees are already using, such as the intranet, email, Slack, IM, and so on. Resist the urge to be fancy, or long-winded; informal reminders work best in these channels, especially when followed up by reminders from managers and supervisors.
In fact, plan on using multiple reminders to help boost engagement. You can also use built-in tools to your advantage; for example, Slack has the polling feature, which you can use to gauge interest in certain training topics, or to help you identify dates that work best for training sessions.
3. Create a shared calendar that shows future trainings.
One of the most useful but too-often-overlooked tools is Google Calendar (or any other shared calendar software). Use that software to create a calendar for scheduling training sessions and invite everyone to it. As they check their weekly and monthly calendar, they can see at-a-glance what’s upcoming, and build time into their schedule to participate.
4. Hang creative posters in common space.
One of the services we offer our clients is our Client Marketing Toolkit, which has creative topic-specific posters for you to hang around the office. Hang them next to the coffee maker, microwave, or copy machine. Rotate posters on a monthly basis, keeping things fresh. You can even tie topics into the calendar; for example, June is Safety Awareness Month, so that would be a perfect time to promote your safety courses!
5. Use digital signage and hub TVs in common spaces.
To market training courses effectively, you sometimes have to think like an advertiser. What are some classic vehicles for advertisements? Think billboards, digital signs, and television.
So, if you have TVs or digital signage in common spaces, use them. It’s free advertising. Partner up with your creative team to create some interesting digital billboards, or even a short commercial.
6. Promote future training courses in your current one.
If you already have your employees’ attention, leverage it! For example, if you are facilitating an instructor-led course, have the instructor spend some time at the end of the session promoting future sessions. If you have a training course online, provide links at the end of the course so employees can discover related topics.
Back when I did leader-led training, I would print off the upcoming training calendar and put one at every chair so people could see what’s coming up next. If people thought I was awesome and really liked my course, I wanted to make sure they knew where they could find me, and when they could take more of my courses in the future. They could also share the calendar with their coworkers.
7. Host a training open house.
People will take advantage of opportunities when they know what’s available. Set up a conference room or lunch area with samples of training materials. Hang some posters (see above) or even better, have a training video actually running in the background. You could even have some internal experts there to answer questions related to training topics.
And just between you and me, it never hurts to lure in your coworkers with the promise of some free food. They might come for the homemade cookies or hand-dipped pretzel sticks, but they’ll stay to find out about development opportunities.
8. Provide an incentive or reward.
So you’ve informed them five ways from Sunday about the training program you’ve set up, and you’re still getting low completion numbers? It might be time to incentivize your employees.
For example, you could offer a gift card to all employees to finish their compliance training by a certain date, or you could reward the employee completing the most self-directed training over the course of a quarter with an award presented at a recognition ceremony. Several ej4 clients give a small raise to any employee who completes all of their safety training by the assigned deadline. (The raise in pay will be more than covered by your improved safety record.)
Just be sure you’re incentivizing the right things. There’s no point in having an employee earn a gift card if all they do is take courses but never actually improve at their job. So be sure to measure the impact of your training so that you can see if your incentives are having the desired effect.
9. Still stuck? Try a new format.
If you’ve tried several ways of promoting your courses, and you feel confident about the content in them, it might be the format that is keeping employees away. Training can take time out of their day, which means you have to find creative ways to work it in without adding to their stress.
For example, you could start a “lunch and learn” series where people can hear from a subject matter expert while they eat their lunches. Or give your employees access to an online learning library so they can take microlearning courses at their leisure. When you make it easier for employees to access training on their schedules, uptake improves dramatically.
Do you need more than promotion?
I’ve assumed here that, if you’re looking to promote your training courses to employees, you’ve already got a training and development program firmly in place but you want better results. If the program has been in place for a long time, you may need a more comprehensive approach to add some sizzle.
- This blog post will help you look at changing factors in your company “Top 10 Reasons You Need to Revamp Your Employee Training Program”
- Maybe you need other ideas beyond promoting training to your employees. “7 Ways to Revitalize Your Employee Training Program” will give you other suggestions to breathe some life into your training.
- If you find yourself stepping back and looking at everything, start with our ebook “7 Critical Questions for Evaluating Your Learning Strategy.”