As the talent pool continues to shrink, companies are seeking whatever perks they can find to enhance the skills of their current employees and keep them engaged in learning and development. The brand image has imposed itself in recruitment and appears more and more in learning.
With unemployment so low and skill gaps so high, retention is paramount. But to retain employees, they need advancement opportunities; and to move them forward, you need to be sure you’re getting the most out of your training and development initiatives. Branding can be a part of this puzzle.
A bigger picture
Branding the learning experience improves the investment of time and resources. The employee not only learns the technical aspects of the job; they discover the culture, vision and mission of the company. Each communication emphasizes that the material has a broader meaning. The employee is not only trained to do the job, they are trained to be part of a team. This strong message cannot be underestimated.
And branding goes beyond displaying the company logo on each presentation slide and using the company color scheme. Branding connects each learning experience with the larger mission and vision of the company. It reinforces the fact that each team member and the work they do contributes to the success of the company, themselves and their peers. The message is clear: you cannot find this information online and you are such a valuable member of the team that we are investing in you.
âThe goal of brand learning is to convey a message about the purpose, establish credibility and motivate people to connect,â said MJ Hall, content manager at the Association for Talent. Development, at HR Dive. You want to involve the learner in the work, as well as in what it represents. âBranding is about belonging to a valuable group. “
At ATD, they recommend that training goes beyond learning to also build relationships with customers.
Branding takes hold
The trend to connect marketing and learning is growing. In a recent survey, AllenComm found that 47% of companies overlap L&D and Marketing functions in their organizations and rely on the combination in their approach to learning strategies.
âWe need to frame our thinking around the specific cultural anchorages of the organization and the unique needs of employees to be successful on a role-by-role basis,â said Chris Osborn of the AllenComm Marketing team. âSo personalization needs to ensure that employees understand how mastery of the skill, in a cultural context, leads to success on the job.
Moritz Kothe, CEO of kununu, knows that branding continues to evolve in the workplace. One of their recent reports, Employer Branding Resource Book, describes the changes.
âCreating the onboarding and training of staff takes a lot of time and effort,â he told HR Dive. âBy implementing unique and personalized programs and materials, the department will see a sense of identity formed. This can lead to employees who are more confident and proud of who they work for and what they work towards.
And the values ââof the company remain in the foreground. âBefore the corporate brand can truly take root with employees, the brand must have real and tangible meaning for all stakeholders,â said Osborn. The learning experience should include answers to what the brand is doing: How does it improve the lives of stakeholders? What does it promote?
âBy helping employees understand the ‘why’ behind the brand,â he says, âyou have taken an important step towards creating brand ambassadors from every employee. “
Messaging can translate into the talent market, suggests Kothe. When asked what they do and for whom, employees who have a positive reaction to their brand could influence candidates and potential clients.
âThe more a person understands the organization they work for through resources, materials and personalized required training, the more cohesive the message will be and will be discussed outside of the office,â Kothe said.
Virtually and IRL
Branding can also mean a place: a dedicated âuniversityâ within an organization shows staff that employee development and growth is a priority in which companies have invested. But branding can take place anywhere. For teleworkers or those who cannot make it to training centers, the experience can be just as rich. Whether it’s just-in-time learning, short information, or larger sessions, everyone has the opportunity to reinforce company values ââand the value companies place on their people.
Kothe says logos and colors are important, but training and development professionals should also consider the tone of materials and how they will resonate with employees. âMany teams want resources like this to be fun and light,â he said, adding that âanything that can be compared to study material may not be fully read or considered useful. “.
Branding also communicates the role learning plays in an organization’s culture, as well as the sharing of language and processes, Hall said. âThe branding reflects the intentionality of the goal,â she said. “It shows a myriad of details related to what the process or product does and the value it brings to the user – and to the business.”
Whether they’re in a classroom or in the field, every employee should have access to signature training, Osborn said. âBut training needs to be personalized or tailored to specific employees and job roles. The days of “one size fits all” training [are] really finished.
Effective training, he said, is a process – a process that can create a culture of continuous learning and improvement, and which is highly personalized for each participant.