Winning hearts and minds

Posted on Jul 30, 2015

Comms & campaigns

How to get key stakeholders involved in your elearning project

Stakeholder engagement is important for any business initiative and that includes a new elearning project, but you don’t need to be a specialist to get started.

Through clear communication and positive relationships, it’s possible to get key groups engaged and enthused from the beginning.

“All stakeholders are interdependent and connected together.” – John Mackey, US businessman.

Stakeholder is an odd word. It’s corporate-speak that you often hear in business or government circles but not in real conversation.

“Good morning, I'm your new stakeholder,” said no-one, ever.

We are colleagues, partners, team members, managers, learners, customers, and, of course, people. Yet the term stakeholder does bring everyone together nicely, and defines them all as having a vested interest. So it’s a helpful phrase, if somewhat contrived, when we’re talking about everyone who has some stake or something to gain from your elearning project.

Whichever way you describe them, stakeholders are important, and getting them involved in any training project is a must. Win them over and they will act as an advocate for your elearning, and help promote and support its roll out. Their input can also help to make the module better, ensuring the content is relevant and appealing to the target audience.

Get started

We’re making a case for building in stakeholder engagement from the very beginning – as soon as you start thinking about the business challenge and a possible learning intervention. As with so many things in life, getting started early makes it easier in the long run. 

Here are some ideas for how to involve key stakeholders in your elearning project:

  • Make a plan

Taking some time to work out who your key stakeholders are, who has influence over what and the best way to connect with different groups is a valuable exercise. There’s a great deal of information available about how to conduct stakeholder research but there’s nothing like keeping it simple. A good place to start is with a stakeholder plan. Here’s a free template that is fairly straightforward and easy to tailor to your needs.

  • Start with learners

They are your single most important stakeholder group after all. If learners feel included in an elearning project they are far more likely to engage with the content and act upon it. Consult with learner groups early on to find out what challenges they face and what motivates them. Build in mechanisms for keeping the relationship going and maintaining their involvement.

  • What’s in it for them?

Each stakeholder group will need to have a clear understanding of what the elearning will mean for them and their role. Learners will want to know how the training will help them to do their job faster, easier or better. Senior managers will want to know how it fits into the wider business strategy. Making sure each stakeholder group is clear on how the elearning is relevant to them and what they can expect from the project will go a long way to winning hearts and minds.

  • Act on feedback

If you really want people to get behind your elearning project then you will need to show you are listening. For example, if learners tell you they find it hard to get to a computer to do an elearning module, you will need to look at multi-device options, otherwise what’s the point of asking for their opinion? If you can’t act on suggestions then explain why it wasn't practical. Most likely, the changes you make as a result of learner feedback will improve the course design anyway, so it’s a win-win.

  • Create a buzz

If someone has had a hand in a project then they are more likely to talk it up – it’s human nature. So building successful stakeholder relationships really pays off when it comes to launching your elearning and getting people to complete the course. Whether it’s an employee who has helped devise a realistic scenario for the module or an IT manager who advised on browser compatibility, they’ll be inclined to give it a positive spin if they've been involved.

What’s next?

Take a look at these resources for more ideas on how to engage stakeholders and ensure the smooth running of your elearning project:

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