Learning & Development Branding: Two Case studies

I’ve been fortunate enough to have set up learning functions from scratch more than once, and each time there were particular reasons that made it right to create a brand. I’m going to share two case studies with what I did and how and why I did it.


A ‘progressive’ local authority brand

My first example was a local authority of 600 employees. Until I joined there was no ‘central’ training – just things being organised ad hoc by managers or by members of the HR team. I set about talking to managers across the organisation to understand their training needs and to build a programme of courses. Encouraging them to talk to me when they had a training need rather than outsourcing meant I had to win their confidence. Very early into the process, I realized for employees to ‘book’ onto courses I’d arranged I had to get very good at communicating what was happening and sending out something entitled ‘Training Courses’ didn’t really have a great ring to it.

Soon enough I got involved with some of the wider conversations with the senior team about setting the direction of the organisation. At a particular strategy day, with all the managers across the business, there was discussion about what the organisation needed for its people. I had volunteered to facilitate some of these discussions and used post-its and flip charts to capture thoughts from the various tables around the room. I clearly remember one manager saying, ‘we want our people to be progressive’ – and there it was. It was like a light-bulb moment for me. I went away and created the ‘Progressive employee’ brand, which worked well as it meant more than just a training offering. It also captured aspiration from the employees’ point of view – which suggests (and I used it this way) employees taking ownership of their own learning and development. It also was broad enough to be used not just as a brand for the training offering, but also for wider strategic HR initiatives.

I had a logo designed by a professional graphic designer, using the corporate colours, and used it on everything, our annual training programme, individual course posters, course completion certificates and powerpoint templates for our training courses. This meant I had something visually eye-catching and easily distinguishable as our brand, representing anything to do with our employee’s learning and development.

In time we extended the brand to also include the ‘Progressive Manager’ with different colours. We used Progressive Manager branding on all of our manager courses and programmes, and it became the title of our standard leadership programme, the Progressive Manager Programme.

When I came to update the performance management system, I created a competency framework, which fit nicely into the Progressive Employee branding. The logo and the branding worked really well any time I had to produce any collateral, like the competency leaflet.

Things that work have to be relevant for their time, and that was relevant and right – for that organisation, for that time. But what I was most especially proud of, was that the words came right out of a focus group discussion, which everyone heard, so there was immediate buy-in, it wasn’t just a random label that had been stuck on.

In all the time I was there, the Progressive Employer and Manager brands were talked about positively and were always mentioned in recruitment publicity materials as a strong selling point, and more than that, managers could convincingly talk about a good L&D ‘offer’ under the Progressive Employer brand.


Branding to create a ‘one-organisation’ feel in a group structure

When I joined this housing group of 1000+ employees, there were six different organisations under a group structure. Each had its own HR team, with their own policies, procedures and HR team members. The group’s ambition was to ‘gently’ move towards one way of doing things, without rocking the boat and causing upset along the way. In my newly created group-wide role, I had a blank canvas to create a learning and development function. There was some cultural resistance to anyone that worked for the ‘group’ rather than the operational businesses, and as I was keen to create a more positive feel toward centralized activity, I knew a brand for all L&D and related activity would help.

I opted for the name ‘The Academy’ as our brand. Maybe not so original now, but then it was a perfect fit.

For the organisation, this was new and fresh. It suggested ‘more’ than just a collection of training courses, but also a sense of place – where all learning and development information could be held together.

To get buy-in across all the organisations, I did a ‘launch’ of The Academy. I did a series of mini-workshops, presented to senior leaders, and invited all employees to ‘drop-in’.  I talked about what The Academy could offer, introduced the idea of ‘self-directed learning’ (Yes I was talking about it back then!), had displays around the room using our new branding.

To raise awareness of new ‘offerings’ I was putting out there, and to start to build traction towards one way of doing things, I started ‘The Academy Newsletter’. In time this was replaced with web content as we had online systems created.

The logo and branding complimented the corporate colours (but were different). I’d worked with the in-house communications team on getting this work done and having their buy-in was invaluable.  I knew from the outset that I would extend the brand to the ‘Management Academy’ once I had a management programme in place. This logo had a different colour yet again.

We evolved to putting on regular events for the executive teams, so added the ‘Leadership Academy’ to the mix. Each was clear and distinct in its offering, and again gave good currency for recruiting managers talking to potential new recruits.

When we took another housing association into the group, with my team I headed down to the new location and put on a ‘drop-in’ event in their conference room, so showcase what we could offer and to educate in a gentle way that there would be a new way of doing things. By then we had a large number of tangible assets, folders, bookmarks, careers leaflets, all branded beautifully.


For our top tips on how to create a L&D brand, read our blog L&D branding: how to market L&D for higher visibility


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