A thoughtful content strategy is crucial for learning. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made this reality even more clear for organizations. Quality content is needed to ensure that employees continue to learn and develop professionally when in-person training is simply not an option.
But today, 70% of all spending on learning content is either redundant, low quality or both. This means that 70% of the money you spend on learning content will likely go unused. For an organization of 5,000, that means throwing away over $876,000 a year.
We all know we have a content problem in our organizations. It’s a cold hard fact. But it’s not one that immediately rises to the top of our priority list. However, content is at the heart of talent management, and making it better must be a priority.
How can learning and development professionals improve the quality of content, and reinforce its importance to executives making decisions about content investments? During my recent webinar, "How to Design Your Content Strategy for Learning," my colleague Lyn Craven, senior principal of thought leadership strategy at Cornerstone, and I shared strategies for developing more engaging and modern content—and advice for how content leaders can make the business case for it.
Three Key Content Themes to Consider
Though organizations have unique learning needs depending on their industry, business model and other factors, there are common areas of required learning that all organizations share. The three areas where organizations now spend the most on learning are professional skills (i.e. communication and digital tool proficiency), learning and management (i.e. delegation and career development) and modern compliance (i.e. courses on workplace safety and harassment prevention).
As organizations create content around these areas, it’s important to keep in mind the goal of each piece of content—and how effective it is at reaching that goal. Every new piece of content should aim to improve learner experience, increase adoption and engagement, align with organizational priorities and reduce administrative burden.
Remember, as soon as you create content, it starts to age and very quickly becomes out of date, so assess your current content offerings regularly, evaluate your methods of delivery, increase content variety and provide clarity to users to increase consumption. Usage is about usefulness.
The Value of Content Goes Beyond Simple Math
Often, improving content requires a new investment, and making the case for additional funds isn’t always simple, Craven explained.
"A content business case is how you get what you need, but the real problem is that too many organizations aren’t as demanding, rigorous or creative about the human element in their organizations as they are about finance, marketing and R&D," she said, citing a report from HBR.
But there is a strategic approach that organizations can follow. The goal is to identify a content strategy that aligns to the organizational priorities of your organization. "Consider what organizational goals can be measured or achieved if content is changed, and ensure that your effort always includes strategic outcomes," Craven recommended.
For example, when speaking to executives in the C-suite about additional content budgets, it’s not enough to simply say your aim is to consolidate content, reduce the time it takes to manage content and improve completion rates. A slightly better approach, according to Craven, is to show how these content changes can strengthen operations. For example, better content means faster skills development for workers and an increase in required compliance. However, even this reasoning isn’t the best way to secure buy-in from high-level executives.
To ensure that you’re making the business case for content most effectively, it has to be tied to the organization’s most fundamental goals. Craven’s suggestion for learning and development leaders: Demonstrate how content will meet innovation and growth goals and improve effectiveness, reduce operational costs to strengthen efficiencies and mitigate risk and liability.
"Ultimately, organizational priorities must be aligned with people priorities and content priorities," Craven said. And when all else fails, look for low-hanging fruit. Get rid of content that’s outdated or no longer useful. Eliminate administrative costs when possible—that’ll free up some funds for new content ventures and improvements.
To view the full webinar and learn more about content strategy for learning, click here.
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