Designing Learning Programs to Maximize Adoption

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A well-designed learning program is essential for ensuring an organization’s ongoing success. These programs are a critical component of rep training and upskilling, helping them build new skills to further their achievement in their roles. To more effectively capture reps’ attention and increase adoption of these new skills, organizations must rethink how the learning programs are designed to maximize engagement.

When designing learning programs, enablement can often focus predominantly on how the intended outcome will assist reps in more effectively reaching an established goal. While this is an essential factor in a successful program, there are other factors, like the learner’s needs, their buy-in to the program, and their continued engagement, that can contribute to creating a program that will maximize adoption rates.

These factors center primarily on the learner and their experience throughout the program. Similar to selling to a buyer, enablement professionals can design a program that sells the importance of the information to the learner and holds their attention by providing an excellent experience.

“[O]ne interesting thing is in sales enablement, I think all I’m doing is selling,” said Josh Penzell, senior director of product management at Skillsoft. “I’m just selling the sales professionals on what solutions they need to accomplish what they need to do at the end.”

By capitalizing on these important factors when designing a learning program, sales enablement professionals can more effectively sell the benefit of the learning experience to reps to maximize adoption.

Understanding the Learner’s Needs

Before working on designing a learning program, it is important for sales enablement professionals to gain a full understanding of what learners are looking for and where they can benefit from a learning experience. Through this, enablement professionals can gain a clearer picture of the intersections between learner’s areas of interest for improvement and the established growth goals.

Surveying and interviewing learners in the target group are two useful methods that enablement professionals can use to gain a better understanding of the position, interest level, and intentions for improvement of the potential learners. Collecting information through these methods also allows for learners to easily communicate with sales enablement professionals on more in-depth matters from their day-to-day work that may not be as visible from the enablement professional’s point of view.

“From the beginning, when we’re doing our needs analysis, we make sure to do focus groups and meet with learners and do a lot of discovery interviews,” said Emily Ricco, director of global enablement creative services at Salesforce. “Then, along the way, when we have a storyboard, we want to check in and make sure that we’re using realistic examples and things that will really resonate with them.”

Another approach to further understand learner’s needs from the program is for sales enablement professionals to observe them as they work. Similar to the surveys and interviews, observation will help to give enablement unique insights into the daily roadblocks or inefficiencies that the learners may face. These issues can reveal where learners may need to upskill or train on new information that can then directly relate back to a noted problem.

“I would always want to start a project with a chance to observe my target audience on the job,” Laura Fletcher, director of learning and enablement at Salesforce. “I’d want to experience their work environment. I’d want to see when, where, and how they’re actually performing the skill in question. See how you learn things on the job when you have to learn a new skill. How do you usually do that?”

These insights collected from the potential learners can then be used as a guiding point for the development of learning programs. While working through the design, it is important to consider how it will meet the objectives of the organization or the enablement team while also providing an experience for learners that is tailored to their needs. How the program addresses the learner’s needs can be a determining factor in how well it is received and adopted.

Convincing the Learner of the Program’s Value

For a learning program to have a long-lasting impact on how employees operate in their daily work, it is crucial for it to be not only tailored to their needs but overwhelmingly compelling. A learning program that engages the learner is more than just a presentation or a video on new information. It is a dynamic experience that effectively convinces the learner of the benefit of adopting the new information.

“[W]hen you start to think about the learning journey similar to the way you would think about a customer journey, and you start to appreciate that just like that customer our learner can opt-out of a learning journey at any time, it does prioritize that learning experience design,” said Fletcher.

A key aspect of working on getting buy-in from the learner is utilizing language and subject matter that is directly applicable to their work. Demonstrating the importance of the new information through language and examples that are easily accessible and already familiar to them can help to convince learners that it will translate well and be beneficial to them upon adoption.

“[W]e need to make sure we’re not coming at subjects as academics, as technical experts,” said Alyssa Clark, director of engagement and innovation for customer and partner education at ServiceNow. “We’re having conversations as they sound in the flow of work, in the daily communication with the customer. I think tying it to those stories, tying it to the real-life experiences is where that magic happens.”

Featuring input from learners can be a great opportunity for sales enablement professionals to generate more engagement throughout the learning program. Through methods like gathering learner feedback on programs, facilitating discussions on their experiences or understanding of the new information, and highlighting stories from other employees, sales enablement professionals can further engage and convince the learner of the benefit of adopting the new information.

Expanding the Learning Journey

The before and after of a learning program can be vital opportunities for sales enablement professionals to engage and excite learners preceding the program and then drive home the continued importance of new information after.

“The things that happen before and after a learning event, I think as an industry, are our most underutilized opportunities to build motivation and retention and sustained performance,” said Fletcher.

Leading up to the start of the program, sales enablement professionals can share the designed format and intended benefit with learners. Having this information available for learner’s prior to the program can be of great help in motivating learners to participate in the program. It also encourages the learner to take the time before the program starts to talk to other reps and consider the unique knowledge that they can then bring into the program.

In addition, after the program traditionally concludes, sales enablement professionals can use different strategies to continue to engage the learner with the information. Implementing strategies like ongoing group discussions can be useful for learners to discuss their successes or issues after applying the knowledge or skills gained in the learning program. This can also be a great opportunity for enablement professionals to assist with any collective issues and to coach further on techniques or strategies that learners can use to help enhance adoption and success.

Sales enablement professionals can also learn how the well program and new information was received and adopted by the learners through intermittent surveys, interviews, and observations. Collecting this post-program information can give more insight and detailed ways that the enablement professionals can continue to improve the learning program to better engage or meet the needs of the learners.

How a learning program is designed is influential in determining how well it will be adopted by learners. To create a program that convinces and influences how learners will work in the future, it needs to be based on an understanding of the learner’s needs and expand beyond the traditional scope of a learning program. With an understanding of how these factors play a role in learners’ engagement, sales enablement professionals can design programs that will more effectively sell the benefit of adoption.

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