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Raise the profile of your T&D function with an ‘internal identity’


Lynn Fraser of The Wayland Partnership is the contributor of the following guest article. We will be publishing more articles from Lynn during the next fortnight

Organisations invest hugely in training and development to both make the most of current employees and attract the very best potential employees. The investment is wasted if no one knows what is being offered. Training and Development Departments need to get themselves and what they have to offer noticed and understood – they need to raise their profile.

An identity, properly developed and implemented for your department or initiative, will create:

  • Visibility and
  • Value.

In organisations where so much is happening and Training and Development is often sidelined to activities seen to have a more direct effect on the bottom line (and the achievement of individual performance targets), there is a need to get people’s attention. Your offering and your initiatives need to compete for attention and stand out from the crowd. They need to be perceived as credible and valuable. A strong identity will help achieve this.

An identity is the totality of the way something is presented – the combination of characteristics by which it is recognised. In the context we’re using the term, it is the combination of what is offered (development programmes, learning tools etc) and the way it is offered (or communicated). If we assume that you have the ‘what it is’ sorted – you’re offering the right tools in the right way – then we are looking at ‘packaging’ Training and Development. In essence, we’re looking at communicating it in a relevant and distinctive way.

To create an identity, either for your department or for a specific initiative (a learning programme for example), you need to develop a consistent and unique verbal and visual language for it. This should include:

  • A name and/or tag line/descriptor
  • A design style, which could include a logo, colours, a visual theme, standard templates for documents, a graphic or illustration style, a standard shape or feel for materials
  • Key messages and a way of expressing them.

All elements of the identity should be tailored to your organisation and your target audience. For example, you would adopt a different tone for a learning programme aimed at sales people compared to an executive development programme. You may wish to position your department/initiative as part of the corporate whole or align it with a specific part of the business. You may wish to align a learning programme with another initiative – customer care or performance appraisal, for example – or make it stand-alone.

The identity must be applied and used consistently throughout all communication and over time. The effect will be cumulative. Each new piece of communication will be recognised and linked to those that have gone before. There will be a build up of awareness and understanding. The very existence of a well-thought out and consistently applied identity will lend credibility and enhance the perception of value.

An identity, however, is not about ‘gloss’. You should aim to present a clear message about what is being offered and what benefits it has. Whilst the objective is to ‘sell’, your identity and the messages it communicates must be true – ‘over-offering’ will only lead to damaging disappointment.

The starting point for development of an identity is not what will look nice or what will sound good, but what is true and what you want to achieve. You need to take account of what is needed and what is wanted. You also need to bear in mind practical considerations – like how something will be communicated and what budget you have available. Sometimes you need to think not just about what you can spend but what you should be seen to be spending – producing full colour internal communication materials at a time when people are losing their jobs or being denied pay rises is not a politically good move.

Developing an appropriate identity for Training and Development, or a specific learning programme, will increase both awareness and understanding.

Lynn Fraser is a senior partner with The Wayland Partnership, a communication and training consultancy based in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey.

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