As we step into the end of the year, most of us will begin reflecting on the hard work we’ve been putting into driving learning and development in our organizations over the last ten months. Not only does this set the tone of our strategy for next year, but it also forces us to ask ourselves some important questions. How do we get more staff enrolled in courses on our LMS? How can we improve the online learning experience? What kind of new courses can we offer to motivate them to want to continue their learning journey?

As learning and development advocates for our organizations, it’s safe to say that we all want to continue increasing learner engagement and make sure our colleagues are always growing their knowledge to apply in their roles and create a bigger impact.

But crafting a new strategy to make this a reality isn’t something that just happens. We need to look at our existing data, identify elements that are not working and think of new and innovative ways to deliver learning. Using all this information, we determine strategic steps that will put us in the best position to hit our L&D goals.

Which is why the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS), our Member of the Year, really inspired us when they shared their story about WCS U at our recent Global Learning Forum in Seattle.

glf-winners-crop
2016 award winners: LINGOs Rising Star, Ennie Chimpembere with Michelle Turchin, Carolyn Gibson & Caryn Carman of WCS, LINGOs Member of the Year.

WCS’s mission is to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. It’s a mission that’s shared by their 4000 employees in 60 countries. Their online L&D journey started in 2008 using the IntraLearn platform via LINGOs. By 2015, only 80 staff had enrolled in courses (an average of 10 learners per year).

In 2013, WCS undertook an organization-wide strategic planning process. As part of this process, a core team was formed to study the current state, conduct benchmarking, and determine ways to attract, develop, and retain great staff worldwide. One of the Human Capital outcomes was for at least 80% of staff to engage in professional learning and development by 2020. In 2014, WCS gathered feedback from staff worldwide via an internal survey on a range of topics, and learning emerged as one of the top priorities. Additionally, Human Resources conducted additional focus groups and surveys to uncover key insights that would shape their new L&D program.

WCS U became their new and robust platform to foster continuous learning and improvement for greater conservation impact. WCS U includes live and online self-directed learning for all staff. Courses on WCS U are a mix of off-the-shelf courses and courses led by WCS experts. The new Learning and Capacity-Building team, headed by Michelle Turchin, meets with managers to help them customize collective learning goals and plans for their departments. Employees can also level up their careers through new management and leadership programs . The original core team grew to a cross-functional WCS U Learning Community of 70 employees worldwide – all committed to promoting learning among their colleagues.

WCS launched WCS U in February 2016. By October, 500 employees had enrolled in 1,100 courses, with a 64% completion rate. Forty percent of learners enrolled in more than one class. The numbers to date speak for themselves, and plans are underway to grow engagement further over the next year. “Championship by senior leadership combined with the energy of the WCS U Learning Community were key to the successful launch of WCS U,” says Michelle Turchin.

WCS U’s early success reveals the importance of tracking metrics and how continuously measuring, monitoring and facilitating learning plays a big role in sustaining their organization’s commitment. More importantly, it demonstrates that linking L&D to their organization’s strategic plan and core values is key to helping their employees become more engaged. Employees now understand that their professional development helps WCS achieve its goals. The WCS U tagline says it all: “Together We Grow.”

So as you start pondering this year-end and start thinking about how you can improve L&D at your organization next year, ask yourself, is L&D part of your organization’s core priorities? If it’s not, taking a strategic approach could be one of the missing links to driving more learner engagement.

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