Want Impact? Roll it Out!

Our L&D programs stumble out of the gate when we botch the implementation.  

We ought to “roll them out,” not simply “offer them.”

Let me explain.  You see, if you are putting your L&D offerings on an LMS, marketing them, and waiting for  sign ups, you are NOT rolling it out.  You are offering it.

While common, this type of implementation is less effective.  Why?  Because only the innovators and the early adopters and perhaps the early majority will enroll.  The rest?  The late majority and laggards won’t bother.  They’re the ones who say they don’t have time for L&D.

L&D ought to try to shift the performance curve, and to do so, you need entire populations to learn capabilities essential to their roles and their performance expectations.

I’d like you to consider a different approach: the roll out.  Rolling it out requires a different, albeit more challenging, implementation plan.  I’d suggest it’s project management. A roll out has:

  1. A clear business case or justification that is coherently linked to a compelling “why do I need this?” value preposition.
  2. A program sponsor, or sponsors, who by their role in leadership can advocate and engage their direct reports to participate
  3. A dedicated team for delivery
  4. A pretty good list of the target audience and how to communicate with them
  5. A communication plan (beyond just a calendar invitation)
  6. A start date and an end date, with cohorts of learners for each delivery
  7. A flexible set of policies and guidelines to schedule and reschedule learners, track attendance, communicate details, assess program feedback, and more

So, yes, this is a bit more challenging and time consuming.  Yet, this is the way to get the higher return on your effort.  I’m not suggesting this is easy, but I will say that of all the best L&D I’ve been a part of, the roll outs have had the largest impact on individual, team, and organizational performance.

Roll outs are not without risk.  You may choose to use a hybrid approach.  For example, provide a schedule and allow sign ups by sponsors in consultation with their learners.  Another approach is to work with HR, line managers, and others to nominate participants.  You could also automatically register learners when certain events occur (e.g. a promotion to first time supervisor).  Yet another is to use an ‘opt out’ strategy, not an ‘opt in.’  All of these strategies are based on the assumption that, “All y’all are getting this training, so lean in.”

The benefits of a roll out implementation are many:

  • Your late adopters and even laggards are included, and can engage in learning they’d wouldn’t have chosen for themselves (which may be the point, eh?)
  • Your organization gets to critical mass sooner, when a significant number of people learn and apply the skills they’ve learned in L&D back on the job
  • Your learners are encouraged to follow through on their learning due to social modeling and peer pressure.  You in essence “Start a Movement.”
  • Your L&D team can track and measure impact on performance improvement more readily

How much of your L&D work is implemented in a roll out?  The types of L&D that work best are programs like:

  • New employee onboarding
  • New systems/process improvement implementations
  • Management development
  • Leadership development
  • Change – job changes, workstream changes, product launches, sales campaigns, etc.

There are lots more.  Probably more than you think.  

So, identify your target audience, engage your sponsors, align your team, and roll it out.


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