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How To Build, Create And Launch Your Shiny New Learning Platform

How do you know if your learning platform is worth the investment you’ve made in it? If people are using it and growing from it! The trouble is that unless you invest time and energy into something that attracts people and empowers them to benefit from it, you’re going to struggle.

Something people overlook is that how you build out your learning space and create the content that populates it has a huge bearing on the return on investment. It’s also worth recognising that this isn’t a short term thing, launching your learning platform is about far more than just one day where you cut the ribbon and welcome people in.

Well, here’s some advice on how you can ensure you’re building, creating and launching your learning platform in a way that leads to success! Whether that’s an LMS, LXP or all-in-one learning platform.

Creating and building out your learning space

First thing’s first, nobody is really asking you to build or create a learning platform – you won’t need to be a tech wizard to create a place that excites learners! It’s more a case of how you name and brand the space, what you choose to fill it with, who you’re involving and how you’re getting them involved. Here are some steps to steer you in the right direction.

Carry out a learning needs analysis

How can you cater to people’s learning needs if you don’t know what they need to learn to perform better in their role? In its simplest terms, a learning needs analysis helps you establish current skill levels, the skills needed to get where your people and company want to be, and determine the gap between the two.

It’s then your job to work out how you’ll close that through learning! The beauty is that you’ve built the foundation for relevant development pathways that benefit both the organisation and the individual.

Audit your existing content 

Imagine you’re a film director, and you’re considering a follow up to your first movie – are you going full steam ahead, or will you take five minutes to look at viewing figures, reviews and revenue before making a call?

If you want to make a hit film, it’s almost certainly the latter, and the same principles apply when it comes to learning! If you’ve got any existing content or a previous learning platform, what can it teach you about how people engage with learning resources or tools?

Which types of content do people connect with? From which sources and in which formats? How long are they spending on your platform or using your resources? The answers may well be in the data…

Think about where people already work, learn and communicate

It’s a similar point to the above, but you should be considering existing behaviour at this stage! Where are people going when they want to learn something today, and what can you learn from that? If there’s an announcement to be made or an important update to communicate, where and how are people doing it?

In general, how are people communicating at work? Which tools do they head to, what terms are they using and could any of that shape how your space comes together? The point is that if the learning platform mirrors the way people already behave, you’re not asking them to make wholesale changes once your learning platform goes live.

Ensure there’s enough content for launch and beyond

Imagine your launch goes swimmingly, and within weeks people are splashing around in your learning content at a far higher level than you’d imagined. And then they run out of content…

It’s not uncommon for companies to launch their learning platform in style, only to realise that they’ve not thought about the long-term plan. It’s not simply a case of having enough content in place for the first few weeks of launch, you need to get enough resources so that you’re not running out of steam. Momentum is very difficult to build back up if it tails off after a few weeks, your job is to make sure you’re not in that position. 

Decide how you’ll create and curate content

The reason people fall into that ‘running out of content’ trap is that they’re trying to create all the content for themselves. But the L&D team is only so big (really it’s often pretty small), and that’s an unnecessary burden that makes them a bottleneck. And that’s how we end up discussing the curating and creating topic.

Curating content is all about bringing relevant resources from third parties into your learning space. Why? Because it saves you money and buys you time that can be invested into creating highly specific content. If you can find resources that are relevant to your people while not being specific to your business, that gives you more time to create the specific content that’s related to your products, goals and culture.

Build the team who will run your platform

Behind every great learning platform, there’s a team of great people! So if your learning space is going to be a hit, you’ll need to spend some time structuring your team. Who is responsible for adding content? Who will monitor the analytics and see how it’s being used? And who will act as the mouthpiece and market the platform to people in your teams?

Integrate with your existing tools as much as possible 

As we said, it’s all about going with people’s existing behaviour, rather than disrupting how they work each day! Any learning tech that takes people out of their flow isn’t likely to win them over.

Instead, think about the important tools people use in their everyday workflow and determine if and how your learning platform integrates with those. For example, could a sales rep find guidance on customer calls from within the CRM? Or can you enable customer success staff to find the latest product updates from within Intercom?

If you can do that, you’ll start creating seamless experiences and encourage more people to use your learning platform.

Get people involved in the naming, logo and branding

We all saw how excited people got when Boaty McBoatface was leading the way in a poll for a research ship’s name, and you can channel that as you build out your learning space! Asking people for input into names, logos, branding, the opening ceremony or whatever comes to mind can really create a buzz before launch – you’re getting people in at the ground level, and that goes a long way.

Launching your learning platform and getting it right

Where most people go wrong is thinking that launch is a one-day activity. But it’s more than that, it’s about the things you do before launch, how you make that day a hit and use it as a platform for learning success.

As we mentioned earlier, building up to launch can help generate more excitement and offers a chance to create a sense of involvement among your people. If you do that right, people should hit the ground learning and boost everyone’s morale as they develop their skills. How you manage launch is also going to help you manage change, and if you flex your analytical muscles once it happens, you can use metrics to drive better learning results in the long run.

And if your new platform is replacing an existing one, it’s time to take stock. Well, you’ve probably already done that – but more in the sense of why people weren’t clicking with or using your previous offering. What mistakes did you make the last time around that you can improve on with this launch?

Get to know it yourself

Don’t even think about launch until you’ve got to grips with the product and figured out how it works! If you’re knowledgeable, you’ll naturally sell it better to others and won’t be blindsided by any questions. 

It’s likely that launch will involve a number of sessions where you’re showing others around, and that’s your chance to woo them! It would be a shame if that first impression went down the drain because you were unprepared. So, test yourself and run a few practice demos until you’re at the point of being completely confident with your new learning platform. 

Build a learning brand and communications plan

It might be time to knock on the marketing team’s door. A strong platform launch can be made or broken by the quality of your communications strategy. If nobody knows about it, there’s no chance of them logging in, and if they can’t see the value in the platform, you won’t stand a much better chance. That’s where the power of your communications strategy enters the picture.

Think of it in the same way you would a new product launch. In the months or weeks before release, you’re building excitement, awareness and communicating the value or features that solve people’s pain points. You mark launch day with a big celebration, allowing people to see it in the flesh and show them all the features you built hype around pre-launch. In the weeks that follow, you’re following up to encourage people to give it a go, test out features and carry on finding the value in it. The same principles apply to your learning platform marketing efforts!

You’ve also got the idea of building a learning brand, creating something more tangible that people can buy into and become advocates for, giving them a logo, image and set of values alongside a tool to improve how they learn.

Run test sessions or a soft launch

How are you going to create advocates if you’re not giving them something to advocate for!? In the run-up to launch day, you should be running test and demo sessions or choosing a select group for a soft launch. 

Not only are these a great vehicle for collecting feedback about the product itself, but they offer the chance to spot people with a passion and immediate love for the platform! Once you see that, harness the enthusiasm and turn them into learning champions – people who will extol the benefits to others in the business. When a friend recommends something, we’re all ears and far more than when a company hits us with an advert – that’s the energy you should be channelling here.

Celebrate the launch 

Everyone loves a party and a distraction from their everyday activities. Your learning platform launch could be that! Think of creative launch ideas that aren’t only a reflection of your brand and your people but showcase the fun aspects of the platform. You might stand a better case of piquing interest if someone’s doing a learning space treasure hunt on day one rather than watching a six-hour presentation.

Identify early adopters and top users

It’s time to repeat our learning advocate exercise. As more people use the platform, either the data or the people will let you know that they’re loving it and have a truly positive outlook on your platform. Convert them into champions and encourage them to create a snowball effect, where they’re turning more and more people into advocates. You might choose to gamify that process and offer rewards, again it’s a case of working out what fits your brand.

Launch surveys and collect feedback

How else are you going to create a true picture of your launch’s success? You need numbers on how often people are using it, what their sentiment is and any barriers they might be facing. And it matters when you collect these insights too. Companies often send a survey during launch week, and that’s it, or they’ll wait a few months until people have had a fair period with the platform. 

What those companies overlook is that perceptions change over time, and so does people’s behaviour. Understanding how people felt on launch day, week two and at the end of the first month will paint a better picture of how the relationship with the platform is developing. It also helps you react to people’s feedback. Imagine if everyone is struggling with a particular issue during week one and you’ve sent your survey on week four, you’ve missed three weeks of course correction.