How to drive maximum adoption for your digital learning programme

By Steve George February 12, 2016

Diagram explaining the AIDA acronymPicture the scene …

You’ve been working hard. You’ve spent months building up to this event (if only everyone knew the sacrifices you’d made!). Everything comes down to this moment.

Last week you pressed the button and launched your career-defining, world-changing, learner-enhancing, company-building, brain-expanding digital learning programme, and now, with trembling hands and a heart pounding with excitement, you are going in to get the reports to show what a massive earthquake of an impact it’s had …

Only it hasn’t.

Never mind an earthquake, your career-defining, world-changing, learner-enhancing, etc. course hasn’t even created a modest tremor. Surely this can’t be right! No-one has even looked at it?

You run the report again, double-checking all your parameters, and find that yes, it’s true … not a single person has so much as cast a glance at it.

Imagine the crushing disappointment! How did this happen?

You did everything you were supposed to do. You go through your mental checklist again:

  • You made everything look nice (so people would like it)
  • You made sure it would work on mobile (because why have barriers to access?)
  • You gamified it (because, well … gamification, obvs)
  • You even put in some video

Then having done all that you sent emails telling managers it was there. You told everyone in your monthly team review meeting too. And yet still no-one has gone in.

It’s a bit of a disappointment isn’t it? Don’t they know what they’re missing?

The challenge of getting adoption for digital learning

You can take comfort from the fact at that you are not alone in this predicament. Adoption of learning is one of the biggest challenges faced by L&D departments. In fact, I gave a talk a few months ago where every single hand in the room went up when asked if this was something people struggle with. And as one attendee – a senior L&D professional in a global, FTSE 100 organisation – put it: ‘I don’t blame them. When someone tells me I have to do yet another piece of compliance learning, my first thought is how to avoid it; my second thought being about how quickly I can get it over with and tick the box’.

This quote sums up exactly why adoption is so hard. Often we are battling the legacy of dull learning forced on people who see it as an obstruction to doing their jobs. It doesn’t easily get across to people that what we want is to build an environment where learners aren’t told to do learning, but where they want to do learning – and where they don’t want to do it just to tick a box, but because they can see and understand the benefits.

Two acronyms from the world of marketing that will help you drive better adoption

So what can we do to make sure people engage with the learning we have spent so much time and effort creating? Here are two acronyms frequently used in marketing that it is helpful to bear in mind.

The first is AIDA.

You have very likely seen this before. It has been creeping into learning parlance for a few years now. A lot of learning design actually borrows from marketing – a fact that those who’ve seen our presentations will remember; and it is something which was independently brought up by experts at an industry event we chaired recently too. We often use this in the design of learning courses because it’s a healthy structure to pin your approach to and keep your learners engaged. What we’re talking about here, though, is how to use it to generate interest in your learning.

So what does AIDA stand for?

Attention (grab it!)
nterest (drive it!)
Desire (create it!)
Action (inspire it!)

We recommend that it is used when launching a digital learning programme. Grab the attention of your audience through posters, a four-week build up campaign, emails, screensavers, blog posts, competitions, postcards, exclusive invitations … there are many ways to do it that don’t have to cost the earth (or anything but time), that will pique curiosity and – just as importantly – make sitting the learning feel not like a top-down intervention, but like something people have motivated themselves to do.

Make these comms cryptic if you like (e.g ‘The top 3% of performers in the organisation all do the same thing daily … do you?’), or more blatantly sell the benefits of doing the course. This way you will start to build interest and desire.

People have to want to do the learning because they can see the benefit. Put yourself in their shoes – and here is where we come to the second acronym WIIFM.

WIIFM stands for ‘what’s in it for me?’ Why should they want to do it? What is the risk of not doing the learning? What is the benefit of doing it? Don’t just scare them though, excite them; make them feel part of it, not on the receiving end of it.

Then give the call to action: let them know when they can mine this vast seam of knowledge you’re going to empower them with. Let them know what they can do in advance too to prepare.

But don’t just stop there. After the launch – one week, one month, three months – keep going. Remind people about it, ask them to reflect on it, talk with colleagues about it. Only rarely will your course be a one-off event, and where you want real change, regularly revisiting AIDA will help you make that new behaviour the new ‘business-as-usual’.

So next time you are planning your course, plan your roll-out too. Develop any supporting assets in tandem, and don’t be afraid to re-use and repeat things either – often it’s a good idea to do so.

… And you will turn that previous lack of interest into the earthquake of change your great learning deserves!

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