Usually when we talk about an elephant in the room, we mean a topic that everyone present is aware of but studiously ignoring for their own reasons.
But what if there was a sneaky elephant?
An elephant that few people are aware of, yet when it is pointed out to them, lurking in the corner, they see it; but even then, due to its sneaky nature, they still don’t see the danger it represents.
In a LinkedIn article in March 2017, Josh Bersin wrote…
“…our newest research (High-Impact Learning Organization 2017) shows that employees we surveyed rate the L&D department a -8 Net Promoter Score (extremely low).”
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures your customers’ likelihood to recommend what you do to their colleagues. In other words, are they sold on what you do? Are they a loyal customer of your services who promotes what you do, or a detractor?
What would they say about you when you are not in the room?
If your Learning & Development department has a poor brand and/or reputation, and surveys like the one above show this is very common, it will make it very difficult for you to be effective in what you do. You will struggle to create the kind of business impact I am sure you would like.
When you go shopping, does the brand feature in your decision making? Do you factor in the recommendations of friends or other online buyers? Of course you do, and it’s no different when employees are customers of any service provided by the organisation internally, whether it’s L&D or anything else.
This evaluation is such a natural part of how we decide whether to engage with someone or something, that we don’t really notice we are even doing it. That is one reason why the elephant is so sneaky!
Another is that this elephant has been there all along and the problems it causes are gradual enough that it doesn’t represent an immediate danger right now. The elephant is not charging, so awareness of its presence does not make it through the plethora of other things demanding our attention. It is a bit like a blockage in a fuel line or blood vessel which is limiting performance. We have become so used to this blockage it seems normal.
What would be the results if you got an external person to conduct a survey in your organisation that elicited data on what people think of L&D?
- What do they think you do?
- Who do they think you are?
- What do they think you are good at, or bad at?
- Under what circumstances would they come to you?
- Do they want to engage with you?
- What is their experience of interacting with L&D at the various touch points?
This will give you a starting point to thinking about both your brand and your reputation.
Many people confuse these two.
From an L&D perspective your brand could be considered your visibility in the organisation in terms of what they think you do and the services you supply. Your reputation, on the other hand, is based on their prior experiences working with you and will lead to like or dislike, trust or distrust.
You can have a great brand presence in an organisation in that everyone knows who you are and enough about what you do. You can have great awareness but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are liked or trusted. I am sure you can think of brands or people where this is the case. You can also be liked and trusted by those who do know you but be largely unknown beyond that restricted circle.
You must work on both brand and reputation in tandem. Improving your brand is a marketing exercise, whereas a great reputation comes from making sure the touch points with your customers are excellent experiences. A good brand will bring people to you, but then you must serve them well when they arrive.
Together, brand and reputation are the sneaky elephant. Do you have that sneaky elephant lurking in your L&D room?
What do you need to put into your L&D strategy to mandate attention on brand and reputation?
If you have not yet thought about the brand and reputation of L&D, it’s high time you did.
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