businessman and businesswoman showing thumbs upHow does your company currently get buy-in from employees for your training programs? I’m willing to bet that for a reasonably large percentage of organizations, that question isn’t even asked on a regular basis. Training is too often imposed on employees in a top-down fashion—e.g., “The new course on [fill in the blank] runs Monday through Wednesday from 9 to 5. See you then.” If you ever wonder why employees seem less than thrilled to attend training sessions, and then proceed to forget most of what they learn, a lack of buy-in is probably the culprit.

MOOCs are different. They are flexible training formats in which the learners have full independence and control of their own learning experiences. Because they are bottom-up approaches, gaining employee buy-in is absolutely crucial to their success.

So, how do you do it?

The first step in procuring employee buy-in, and arguably the one on which the entire project hinges, is ensuring you have the support of managers and executives. I explored this topic extensively in the previous post. Depending on whether your current programs are delivered via instructor-led training or elearning, MOOCs may be a larger or a smaller change, but they represent a change nonetheless. And as with any organizational change, upper-level support is essential.

The next step in convincing employees to give MOOCs a try is to show how the courses will directly benefit them. Trainers and administrators may be interested in the features of MOOCs (e.g., technologies, security, etc.), but users want to know about the benefits (i.e., “What’s in it for me?”). One way to approach this is by answering the questions of what, why, and how.

The What: Provide education about what MOOCs are

We saw in the post about getting executive and manager buy-in that only about one-third of employers have heard of MOOCs, but that after learning about them most feel positively about the courses. The same is likely true of the employees at most companies—a certain percentage have likely heard about MOOCs, and some may even have tried a course or two, but there will still be plenty of staff members who have no idea what they are. You may even have employees who have never taken a course online.

Here is where a good educational PR campaign will prove invaluable. Make a presentation or a video about what MOOCs are. Encourage employees to explore some academic MOOC providers like Coursera and edX—maybe even recommend a few courses for them to take. Since showing trumps telling, you could even run a mini-MOOC about what the courses are, what they entail, and their advantages for both organizations and learners.

The Why: Show employees why MOOCs are relevant to their jobs

Here’s a disturbing statistic: Despite the fact that employees want more training opportunities, 62% of those who have training available believe that training is either somewhat or not at all applicable to their job. This statistic seems to suggest a major disconnect between L&D departments and the employees they are in charge of training.

Depending on the needs and priorities of your organization, you may approach the issue of relevance in several different ways. One suggestion is to ask employees what type of training is most relevant to them and then use that information to design your first MOOC. Another option is to focus your first MOOC around providing performance support, or just-in-time training, which employees can use immediately on the job. You could also create your first MOOC to support a current hot topic in your organization, such as the adoption of a new technology. These are only a few out of the many possibilities. The point is simply that to achieve buy-in for the MOOC format, start with a training content area that is already in demand in your organization.

The How: Provide clear instructions and expectations for how the MOOC will proceed

MOOCs are completely different from instructor-led training, and even significantly different from traditional e-learning. For employees who haven’t ever taken an online course, diving into a massive one could be intimidating. Therefore, it is essential to clearly communicate how the course will proceed and how employees are expected to interact with it.

Here are some of the questions that need to be answered in establishing the “how”:

  • Will the course be scheduled or self-paced? Is there a deadline to complete it?
  • How will employees access the course (work computer, personal mobile device, other)?
  • When will employees access the course? Will it be accessible from offsite?
  • Will employees be given work time in which to complete the course? Will they be given opportunities to practice what they are learning?
  • Is it mandatory for employees to complete all modules in order or can they skip around?
  • How will learners interact with instructors and one another (discussion boards, social media, email, virtual classrooms, other)? What communication guidelines need to be established (e.g., etiquette)?
  • Where can learners go for help if they need it?
  • How will course participation be tracked? How will learning be assessed?
  • What impact might participation in the MOOC have on employee performance reviews or promotions?
  • Are there other training options available for those who are unwilling or unable to participate in the MOOC?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does illustrate the types of information employees will likely seek as they try to wrap their heads around this new learning experience.

The approach you will take toward procuring employee buy-in will depend on your organization. If you are a tech-savvy company with a high percentage of Millennial workers, then the idea of using mobile devices for self-paced training won’t seem so out there. If your workforce is older or training programs have until now been entirely instructor-led, then the hurdle may be a little higher. However, keep in mind that people want more training, and almost two-thirds don’t feel that their workplace learning needs are currently being met.

Check out my article Training Mojo: Developing a Culture of Training by Getting Buy-In from Stakeholders and Staff for more ideas on how to obtain buy-in for training at all levels of your company.

Copyright 2014 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.

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