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How to give your apprenticeship programmes the take-up and longevity they deserve

By July 21, 2020 No Comments

“One third (32%) of employees would spend more time learning if it was recognised by their manager.” (LinkedIn Learning Survey 2020*)

When a training course is optional, there can be any number of reasons for an employee not to embrace the development opportunity. How you internally promote your apprenticeship programme can make or break it – no matter how good the course itself happens to be.

We have a shared goal with our clients – for the programme, over time, to become part of the L&D strategy’s DNA. We’re proud that organisations choose to partner with Corndel for the long-term. We are highly experienced in taking care of the process from start to finish – taking an average nine weeks between programme approval and the launch. Alongside the here and now of enrolments and programme design, the Corndel team always has one eye on the potential long-term impact of each programme.

From programme launch to sustained impact

You’ve done the hard work, or so you think. You’ve pored over the Training Needs Analysis results and the latest employee engagement survey, and together with your training provider have come up with a practical development programme that you’re confident will help your employees do their jobs better. It’s aligned to your competency framework and promotion pathways. The content is cutting edge and it’s going to be delivered in an engaging and memorable way. There’s a recognised qualification for those who successfully complete the course.

What you do with that product is critical and draws on your project management, marketing, communication and sales skills. Stakeholder management and internal communications might not be the first things that come to mind when planning a core employee development programme, but by taking a planned approach to continued promotion of the programme, you will likely see fewer objections, more excitement, and strong numbers.

At Corndel, we work with some inspirational Learning and Development practitioners. Based on our extensive collective experiences, here is our recommended 3-step process to ensure you are giving your training programmes longevity and the take-up they deserve.

Step 1: Know your audience

You will already have thought carefully about your programme participants, as that will have driven the design and purpose of the training. They are of course your number one stakeholder and without them, there is no programme. It is, however, worth taking time to write down your other stakeholders.

Who else can influence how well (or otherwise) the programme will land? Who else has an interest in what you’re doing? This could be named individuals, such as your HR/L&D colleagues or the CFO. It could also be broader groups of colleagues, such as the line managers of your participants or the fresh graduate intake who will be keen for future learning opportunities. For a core development programme, you will be wanting it to get the attention of senior leaders, business unit heads or equivalent influencers.

Step 2: Segment your audience

In a typical apprenticeship programme or other modular course you could end up with the following stakeholder groups:

— Learners; who need to be excited about a manageable programme that helps both their career prospects and day-to-day work

— Their line managers; whose support will encourage learners to sign up and keep them on track throughout

— Senior leaders; whose sponsorship can give the programme gravitas and value

— HR/L&D colleagues; with whom you will collaborate to ensure your programme is part of the wider talent strategy

— The internal communications team; who will be able to help you cascade your message throughout the organisation

Step 3: Plan engagement activities

When you are clear on who you need to be taking into account, you can plan your regular communications. We recommend asking yourself the following questions, for each stakeholder group:

  • Who is in this group?
  • What influence/interest do they have?
  • What’s the benefit of engaging them?
  • What are the risks if they are not engaged?
  • What messaging do I need to give them?
  • What channels can I use to reach them? How often?

Based on your answers above you will find yourself with a communications plan that is tailored to each stakeholder and that addresses objections. Here are some examples of the activities you might consider.

Learners

> Messaging: Prospective participants will want to know the benefits of joining the course in terms of their career development and their day-to-day performance. They will respond well if you instil a sense of pride in being selected for the programme, and being invested in by the organisation. They will want a clear understanding of what they are signing up to. Stories from peers who have already been on programme will appeal to them on an emotional level. Pre-empt objections in your communications. For example ‘I don’t manage a team’ can be pre-empted by ‘This course is suited to those who manage teams or projects’; and concerns such as ‘I can’t commit to the programme as I work flexible hours’ can be overcome by ‘The programme can be flexed around your working pattern and commitments’.

> Channels: In large organisations where employee communications can sometimes be a struggle, you will want to make the most of all channels available to get your message out. This might include: the professional development page on your intranet, a banner ad on your intranet homepage, Yammer notification of key dates, posters in communal areas, a postcard desk drop, roadshow information sessions, Learning at Work Week activities, scheduled briefing sessions, a feature in the company newsletter. Keep it engaging – videos, audio and infographics stand out and are easy to digest quickly.

Learner line managers

> Messaging: Line managers of prospective learners will need to know about the opportunities available to their teams as part of their duty to develop their people. They will be more inclined to put people forward if they understand the time commitment and what the outcomes will be. Where there is a work-based project element, highlight this as it will have a direct impact on the team’s achievements. If there is evidence of learning being cascaded throughout the team and new skills are shared and new approaches adopted, this will be powerful information to share.

> Channels: Get the timing right and make sure managers are aware of the opportunity at key times in the performance management cycle. Consider direct messaging via the intranet or through tools such as Slack – inviting them to put people forward and raise the profile of their teams. Run briefing sessions specifically for managers and include the voices of their peers whose people have benefited from similar initiatives.

Did you know? At Corndel, we place great value on line manager support. We deliver tailored briefing sessions to line managers so they fully understand the opportunity for and commitment of direct reports who are joining a programme. They are involved in regular reviews with the learner and their Corndel personal coach – providing a critical link between the course, the application of learning and sustained behaviour change.

Senior leaders

> Messaging: Senior stakeholders will be interested in the impact on the bottom line – ideally you will provide this using a combination of analytics from previous programmes or your predicted outcomes. They will respond well to peers who are advocates of the programme. Your communications should be concise, clear and demonstrate value. They will likely be interested in how the programme aligns with strategic objectives.

> Channels: You may have the opportunity to provide a compelling business case or put content forward for a senior leadership meeting. If there is a regular L&D report, make sure your programme is featured. Invite them to be a part of the programme. We have seen incredibly positive responses when senior sponsors have spoken at a launch event, or submitted a video message to endorse the programme on the intranet. Even better if they can be present at key points during the programme.

“Corndel are leading experts in the design, delivery and administration of a range of apprenticeship programmes. The team are all professional, pragmatic, agile and extremely customer focused.” Julie Aspinall, L&D Manager, Societe Generale

Developing your internal communications plan

The most successful programmes we have seen are where L&D teams think carefully about their different audiences and how best to engage them, with what message and through which channels. Leaning on social proof – getting peers to sell the programme to each other – can be a game-changer.

By addressing potential objections in the messaging, you will overcome misconceptions and widen the pool of people who express an interest. We have many clients who have adopted these approaches and now regularly have a waiting list for their programmes; perhaps the ultimate proof of success.

The Corndel team leads the way in enabling L&D practitioners to successfully launch and grow their apprenticeship programmes. We’d be delighted to start a conversation with you.

Download our Apprenticeship Programme Success Planning Tool

“Working with Corndel is perfect for us as they work in true, long term partnership with us, immersing themselves in our culture and organisational context.” Brett Terry, People Director, NSPCC

*https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report