Within an organisation, the identity of a department is connected to its sphere of influence and the impact the department has on others. The department’s identity encompasses how they are perceived internally at all levels.
Why is this important for learning functions? The nature of the learning department means they need to collaborate with and engage staff across the organisation. The department’s ability to carry out their work effectively is intrinsically linked to identity and the ability to influence and collaborate.
The identity of learning provision, and the department that owns this function, is a crucial puzzle piece in the challenge of learner engagement. The benefits of a well-curated identity extend beyond the resultant position established by the learning and development team in their company.
The team’s identity has an impact that can extend even beyond learner engagement to the sphere of influence of the department, internal relations and strategic involvement.
A department that is seen to hold a wide scope of internal influence is valuable. Strong internal connections can add value to discussions regarding the development needs of the company.
Holding these insights through well-established communication streams provides the chance to become more aware of the nuances of the learning needs of teams.
Juxtaposed to this horizontal cross section of communications are the business verticals; most notably, influence within senior leadership teams. Holding a position of influence here enables the learning team to become closer to the conversation of business objectives.
This position provides the opportunity of a platform on which to be heard, by which learning teams can contribute and inform senior leaders about the learning needs required to reach their goals.
There are challenges to developing this degree and scope of influence. It also takes time. Both horizontal and vertical cross sections are important, and neither can be independent of one another. The organisation-wide persona of the department will add gravitas to the team’s perceived importance by senior leaders, and visa versa.
A department’s scope of influence filters across and down through an organisation. The perceived gravitas of the team impacts the team’s ability to influence across departments and thus the attentiveness of individual learners.
Through building a strong identity that is perceived with high regard, the voice of the department becomes amplified. This opens up crucial discussions with managers regarding needs and staff engagement. In turn this allows for advocates to be developed across each business vertical, one of the key influencers in staff engagement in learning.
The development of advocates combined with increased gravitas as a team has a positive impact on staff engagement in learning. Through developing communications with key individuals and structured and planned messaging, staff inclination to engage in learning can be increased.
Enabling business objectives
By strategically positioning the learning and development team as a communication conduit between staff capabilities and business objectives, the learning function becomes a crucial part of developing the company to achieve its business goals.
Though many learning teams may contest that they already achieve this function, there is a notable gap between being able to achieve this with current knowledge, and actually holding the influence in the leadership teams to fulfil this role.
Common challenges to enabling business objectives include an understanding of the skills gap on an on-going basis rather than as a knee-jerk reaction to a challenge.
Additionally, having the open ears of the leadership team to communicate this skills gap. Both challenges can be developed through relationship building across the organisation.
What teams are doing to strengthen their identity
At Campaign Learning, we have found that an increasing number of internally-focussed teams are taking a more strategic approach to the staff engagement piece. This is not exclusive to learning and development teams, it encompasses compliance teams, HR and internal change projects.
Within a planned approach to strategically developing communications, these teams can and are developing a visual identity. The power of a logo, brand and clarity of messaging provides an identity for the team. This forms part of the foundation to their efforts to build gravitas and influence internally.
The development of communications across the organisation is the next step. For many, this is a combination of strategically planned communications across a range of platforms, complemented by person-to-person relationship development.
Across the UK and globally, teams are developing their identity, their brand, and are clarifying their message.
The aim is to clarify and add validity to their purpose. They are working to increase their internal impact to support the ability of their teams to carry out their role in a fast changing environment.
How to implement
We find that the first stage of developing the internal communications approach is reflective of a marketing strategy. Consider who you are as a team and the message you wish to portray, and then compare this to the needs of your learners.
It is important to take into account the purpose, messaging and visual identity of the team. If the budget allows, developing branding as an identity for learning significantly increases the impact of communications. As an internal team it also provides an image of validity and identity.
We are running a free webinar on the 18th January if you would like to find out more. You can reserve your place here.