One of the most effective tools we have to drive engagement in learning is to bring in your leadership team. They can play many roles, but in each role they drive engagement, help focus learners, and become partners to successful learning. This is not always an easy task. Leaders are busy and not all are supportive. Let’s take a look at how we can leverage them and where they can help.
Roles Leaders Can Play
In a perfect world, executives believe in learning and creating a learning culture. When that is one of their key initiatives, Learning and Development has an edge. Just by endorsing the need for the organization to upskill and reskill, executives set the stage for all leaders to support employee development. High level support gives other leaders permission to participate in learning. Nothing pushes us all like the CEO setting the stage for development.
The best Subject Matter Experts (SME) are often leaders. If the leader of a business unit participates in a class or creates a video or blog, people in the business unit pay attention. There are many ways that we can help leaders to participate. We can suggest topics, show a business case or ghost write for them. Leaders are often passionate about skills and development. One way to get them to participate is to watch what is happening in a business unit and ask.
Many organizations use leaders teaching leaders as a core principal. Having a leader facilitate a virtual or face-to-face course drives engagement and relevancy. Finding leader who are also charismatic is a plus. Nurture and treasure those people! Facilitation can also occur in digital learning. Leading open or closed groups can mix the role of leader with SME.
Leaders can create amazing content. They can create short videos on their mobile device, write a blog, comment on communications on a social network, and more. When a new product comes out, a short video from the VP of Marketing or the VP of that business unit is powerful. A short video or blog from a leaders’ meeting can help corporate messaging and improve communications.This is also where they can lead digital learning and social learning by example.
Finding the Right Leaders
Unfortunately, this can be a trial and error process. Many are too busy, some are not interested, and others do not see it as a priority. It goes without saying, nothing is more helpful than having the CEO say that learning, upskilling, and staying current is a priority. But what if you do not have that advantage?
Recruiting the right influencers means looking at who they are, what they do and how they do it. Look for people who blog; people who really lead their teams and inspire people. Ask Human Resource Business Partners and HR leaders. See who is producing or making changes. Ask Marketing and corporate communications. Who is a voice or a spokesperson? Who is involved? I used to keep a database, privately, of leaders who spoke well and influenced their teams. I had the luxury of seeing them in classes and at events. If you do not have that edge, ask someone who does.
Also, talk to the teams that support executives. See if they have a communications person or a chief of staff. Ask if their leader can be apart of engagement and driving the workplace of the future.
Recruiting the Leaders
No question, these are busy people. Be precise about what you would like them to do. Talk about a specific topic or something that they have done that inspired you. Start small and make it simple. Offer to help with tools or outlining or setting up a video. Work with their team to create success. And remember, nothing beats face-to-face. When you can, ask them in person. Make it about the end result – upskilling their team, driving more business, creating a better workforce, or even messaging on a topic.
Try to select a modality and a topic that will let them be successful. If they are a good speaker, suggest a video (done professionally or on their phone). If they are a good writer (or have a communications person),suggest a blog or even an outline of e-learning. As you progress you will see who will be helpful and who will not.
Remember, you are selling to them. Be kind and humble.
Topics to suggest
For most leaders, leadership and management is the obvious choice of topics to suggest. But look at your professional skills, sales skills, and technical skills portfolio as well. If someone is a compelling speaker, ask how they learned that. If someone is the type of manager for whom people would walk into the fire, ask for tips on tough topics like difficult conversations. If someone is the head of Digital Security, ask them how people can protect their own credit cards. What about that sales leader who convinced a Fortune 50 company to buy a beta product? We all have our strengths, lets leverage them.
Leaders can be the spark that drives engagement in your learning ecosystem. They are the perfect people to create content in digital learning: short, simple, inspirational content that gets people to complete a path or look into a new area. Like all good things, doing this correctly takes some work but it has a great payoff.