I’ve experienced many L&D people give a knowing look with a raised eyebrow when you mention Communications teams, but the two functions actually have common foundations and complimentary skills. If you haven’t yet fully embraced partnership working with your Communications team – here are four tips on how to get the most from the relationship:
Partnering to create a powerful internal brand
The battle lines between L&D and Communications teams are often drawn with a clash over internal branding. The communications team’s remit is to establish a corporate identity across the whole business that is consistent, uniform, and, usually the same internally as externally, and therefore may resist any suggestion of an internal brand.
The L&D team, however, have to regularly promote their training ‘offer’ and having an internal brand to bring together all the different elements they are regularly pushing out can be helpful.
To win the Communications team over, L&D will need to highlight the fact that an internal brand can be a great foundation for setting the tone for the culture the business needs and can go a long way to delivering all-important employee engagement. Having the communications team help with this brand creation will mean the result will be aligned with the main corporate brand, ensuring longevity. Also, their expertise will mean the end result will be professionally produced and you won’t end up with a home-made logo that is never quite the right size when you cut and paste. Communications teams can also add extra value and help you think about ways you could use the branding that you may not have considered.
L&D teams understand internal customers
L&D are one of the few business functions that has direct access to all employees. Every training course that is run provides the opportunity for direct feedback and engagement from a cross section of employees meaning that L&D teams often have their finger on the pulse regarding the mood of the business. Add to that the fact they have to ‘market’ their offering, any L&D team worth their salt will have identified over time the best ways to reach their audience, whether this is by email, an intranet, posters, a newsletter – they will know what gets the best results.
Some Communications teams however, want to ‘control’ internal communications. This is challenging, and not an ideal situation in my experience, as the time delay in getting information approved, and the risk of having messages ‘watered down’ can lead to frustrations. Far better to have straight forward communication channels that can be used as and when it suits, and while these may be restricted for most – L&D are one of those teams that can be trusted to be on message.
Complimentary tools & skills
With L&D shifting away from traditional classroom delivery to blended content – which can include anything from blogs, e-learning, video, workbooks etc., the L&D professional may be stretched to cover all the new skill areas required. Communications teams however, may possess specialist skills such as writing, editing, and graphic design – so drawing on those skills can help the L&D team that does not have its own specialists in these areas.
Communications teams have the pick of the majority of the latest presentation tools and resources that can make the modern learning professional’s life much easier. So, it would make sense that information sharing (which is the essence of an L&D team’s role) would draw on the full range of resources that the communications team may have at their disposal.
L&D professionals understand face to face engagement and will be able to run a mean focus group using expert facilitation skills and will have the art of story-telling mastered as a device to share learning. Communications teams working on internal communications need not reinvent the wheel when they can turn to their L&D colleagues for insights and suggestions for gathering information.
Overall both parties will have creative insight. It’s worth remembering it’s not a competition and no one has the monopoly on being creative.
Sharing the Big Picture
The trick with all of this is to build relationships from the outset. Rather than a piece by piece approval process, regular conversations about your big picture goals will help you work out where the overlaps are. Calendaring a monthly chat to go over what’s coming up can identify opportunities for joint work and collaboration. This in turn will lead to the removal of any barriers and better outcomes for both parties in terms of achieving their strategic goals.