Launching an Employee Education Portal across your organization takes careful forethought and an abundance of communication — its purpose, goals, and requirements aren’t always obvious to everyone, especially if the training portal is designed specifically for just one or two departments within your business. A strong roll-out plan ensures that your stakeholders understand what the portal is, how it was planned, and why it’s advantageous for the company — which leads to a smoother launch, a higher adoption rate, and greater support across the organization.
Here are 11 best practices you can employ before rolling out your Employee Education Portal:
1. Start at the Top. A successful Employee Education Portal is fully understood and supported by upper-level management. Your executive team needs to know what the program is, who it’s for, why it’s important, and must be completely bought into the program’s objectives and tactics. They need to believe in the ROI the portal can achieve. Particularly important for roll out is clarity about the overall accountabilities of the users and middle managers. When the leaders have clear understanding and expectations, they can guide the launch with confidence and answer any questions or concerns will come their way.
2. Communicate to the Entire Organization. The clarity and alignment of the c-suite team needs to be translated to the rest of the organization at large. In organizations big and small, it is far too easy for people to feel “out of the loop” — and that’s where mistakes, miscommunication, and a lack of accountability can arise.
It is vital to have clear communication from the top-down that answers basics questions about the portal and the decisions behind it. Questions to answer include: What needs or goals does this program serve? Why is this launching now and why was this particular solution chosen? Why was one department selected over another? To whom does this apply and what are the general expectations? What roles and responsibilities are changing? The answers should be openly articulated across the organization — even to people or departments who are seemingly “unaffected”.
3. Host One-to-One Meetings With Key Stakeholders. Even with that top-down communication, key stakeholders (and those who are more likely to be impacted by the launch) are bound to have their own questions and concerns. One or two general communications won’t suffice for this group — the leadership team should strongly consider hosting one-on-one meetings with anyone who’s role is going to change drastically or anyone who will have new accountabilities (such as monitoring the system) added to their role. Buy-in and early adoption are crucial — one-on-one meetings with these key players can help make the roll-out (and long-term use of the portal) a success.
4. Start the Conversation Early. Wherever possible, it’s usually advisable to have these conversations sooner rather than later (e.g. before your portal is built). Communicating to your team early and often provides more opportunities to reinforce the goals, expectations, and benefits of the portal so that come roll out, they are prepared and on board. But it also provides vital opportunities to receive feedback, generate ideas, anticipate pushback and hear out any concerns before your development is too far along.
5. Support Your Roll-Out With Content and Resources. With the launch of an Employee Education Portal, there’s bound to be questions. They’ll be wondering about everything from how to register or view one’s profile, to what content to read and how to apply it in their everyday work. Too much confusion or misinformation at launch can drastically affect employees’ buy-in to the system. Anticipate this and meet it head-on with a process manual and helpful/engaging reading material to accompany the roll-out of the portal. Likewise, it’s vital that you prepare for roll-out by acquiring and setting up adequate resources. For example, if you intend for staff to use the portal on-the-go, you might need to purchase several tablets and implement a schedule for their use. Take a moment to consider how, when, and where employees will be on the portal and make sure you’re fully equipped (and tested) before launch.
6. Establish (and Communicate) Priorities. In the same vein, it’s especially important for users to know any priorities that are specific to their group or role. Your Employee Education Portal may be segmented with multiple user groups, or it may not, depending how your staff fit into the larger system and how their work affects one another. If the content is not segmented to different groups, each department will need to know what materials are the top priority for them. For example, say you’re a restaurant chain and you’ve built one training portal for all your front-line employees. Is the high priority content for the servers the same as that for the dishwashers? Probably not. The servers’ priority is likely customer service, whereas the dishwashers should probably focus first and foremost on using the kitchen equipment.
7. Bring in a Facilitator. Depending on the size of your team and your portal, you may want to schedule a facilitated training session either with the developers or perhaps with your HR team. Whether it’s several modules over a two-day period, a full- or half- day session, or even just a few hours, facilitator-led training can be the exciting and helpful start your roll-out needs. It’s also important to be honest about team’s computer-savviness. Teams with less technical aptitude benefit even more from a trainer led session, where they can go through the motions of accessing the portal, logging in, and using it.
8. Set Long-Term Expectations. Your Employee Education Portal should become ingrained in your business. It won’t happen unless your team is clearly accountable to use it long-term. At roll-out, set the expectations for the first month (for example, how many points every individual should earn, any courses or categories they should complete, etc.). You’ll also want to outline the ongoing expectations — such as courses that need to be repeated on an annual basis, or a quarterly target for points earned. Your team needs tangible mile markers and to be clearly told that their use of the portal will affect performance reviews, hiring, and firing at your business.
9. Determine How Feedback, Measurement, and Reporting Will Work. Shortly after roll-out, it’s a good idea to get an idea of your team’s feedback and initial reactions to the portal. An easy and efficient way to do this is to prepare a feedback survey in advance that’s ready to send a few weeks post-roll-out. You should also inform your team about what steps you’re taking to monitor and measure the portal’s success. You will want to establish the following (and possibly communicate some or all of this information to your staff): Who is responsible for measuring and reporting? How often are you reviewing reports about the portal? Who else will get to see this data? In what format will it be presented?
10. Define Roles and Name a Program Champion. Integrating an Employee Education Portal into your business takes a lot of moving parts. Name a champion who will be the go-to person for this program; he or she will handle the admin functions, basic troubleshooting, and be the point-person that your staff can turn to. This prevents various managers and executive staff from being barraged with questions and suggestions. It’s also important to know in advance how much support you can expect from your portal’s developer — will they be managing customer service or will they only be on call for technical glitches? Establish roles and make sure your team knows whom to go to for which issues.
11. Consider Launching a Beta Program. Beta programs can be a fantastic opportunity to observe real users in your system before launching it to the wider team. You can use a beta program to gather insights about users’ behavior, update copy, optimize buttons and CTAs, test for glitches or technical difficulties, and to get general feedback to improve the system.
The key to a successful roll-out is to do this thinking in advance. Have everything formalized, written, and available to proactively answer questions to circumvent miscommunication. The launch of your Employee Education Portal will affect processes and work across your business — prepare yourself and your team for change with clear communication, training, and guidelines.