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How This L&D Leader Used Data to Engage and Change the Behaviour of Millions of Learners

Nihal Salah
Jun 04 2020

Whenever I ask an L&D leader what their biggest challenges are, learner engagement is almost always in the top three.

I've been curious as to why some learning leaders are incredibly successful at keeping their learners engaged. What's their secret sauce? 

To find out I decided to interview a learning leader who's built multiple academies and educated millions of people around the world. 

Enter Mark Kilens

Mark is the VP of Content and Community at Drift - one of the world's fastest growing tech companies. 

Mark believes that learning is the bridge between content and community. So, it makes perfect sense that he also oversees all employee and customer education.  

Let me give you some context about Drift. 

Drift is a company that's grown from zero to 50,000 πŸ“ˆ customers in less than five years. This pace of growth is almost unheard of in the B2B world - it's true hypergrowth. 

And learning and development has a lot to do with this phenomenal growth.

Mark and his team built Drift Insider and in his previous role at Hubspot,  the HubSpot Academy. Combined, these academies have educated and certified millions of marketing and sales professionals (including yours truly) πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ 

When it comes to engaging learners, Mark really knows his stuff, he's found the secret sauce recipe to shift learning from a push, to pull experience.

So without further adieu, here are the top 5 lessons I learned from my conversation with Mark.  

Lesson 1:  Start With the End in Mind dart on target on a dart board

I'm obsessed with Masterclass.

When I want to learn how to cook like Gordon Ramsey, communicate like Robin Roberts or learn to negotiate like an FBI agent, that's where I go.

But I don't spend time on Masterclass just because the content is incredibly entertaining.

I always have an end goal in mind.

Sometimes that goal is to deliver a killer presentation to our leadership team at Fuse and sometimes the goal is to make the best scrambled eggs on toast 🍳 

Learning that people engage with is purposeful. And for it to be purposeful, it has to have a clear business-aligned goal and a very clear outcome for your learners. 

Mark is really big on goals and measurement. Listen to this πŸ‘‡ short clip to find out how he sets learning goals. 

Lesson 2: Use Great Content to Build a Continuous Learning Culture

Great learning content is the key to building a continuous learning culture. 

And a continuous learning culture is the DNA of a high-growth company.

Here are some of Mark's top tips on creating content that will engage your learners.

Content should be: 

  1. Helpful and informative - it addresses the problem your learners are facing.
  2. Authentic and relatable - your learners are much more likely to engage with content created by someone who understands their world.
  3. EntertainingMasterclass has seen phenomenal success using entertainment to get people to opt into learning about all sorts of topics.
  4. Conversational - we're all human and we love to talk and share what we've learned, we use it to solidify our understanding.

If you follow these simple tips when creating learning content, you'll see engagement skyrocket πŸš€ 

Lesson 3: Use Stories and Examples to Engage Your Learners πŸ“–

I asked Mark what he thought are the most powerful yet under-utilised learning tools. 

Without any hesitation, he said 'stories and examples' πŸ‘‡ 

I know, sounds simple. But think about it. 

As human beings, we're drawn to great stories.  

You wouldn't voluntarily sit down and watch a movie or read a book that didn't have a compelling storyline would you? 

So why should learning content be any different?

A great story brings the theory to life. It captivates your learners. And if you captivate them they'll come back for more. 

4. Use Video πŸ“Ή 

The other day I decided I'd make myself a steak for dinner. I like my steak medium but I always end up overcooking it. 

So I went to Youtube and typed in 'how to make a medium steak'. 

I watched a 2-minute video by Gordon Ramsey and realised where I had been going wrong. I hadn't been letting the steak 'sit' after searing it. 

So I applied what I learned and voila - it was perfectly medium! 

I didn't go and buy a book about steaks. I didn't read a long article. I wanted an answer then and there so I could eat a nice dinner!

That's why almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube everyday

It's how we learn in our daily lives. 

So why would we want to learn any differently at work? 

When I asked Mark what his views were about video, he didn't hold back on what he thought!


I know what you might be thinking. Video is so time consuming to create and requires a certain skillset. 

Well, that is true if you want to create high production videos like the ones our content team do here at Fuse. 

As much as I'd love to pitch their services at you, the truth is you can create great videos without the expensive gear and advanced editing skills. 

In fact, my colleague Ade wrote a blog post about how he filmed a subject matter expert interview using his smartphone πŸ“±Check it out πŸ‘‰ here

If I could ask you to do one thing as a result of reading this blog, it would be to experiment with using video if you aren't already. 

It doesn't have to be high production. A smartphone video can deliver equal if not better results than a high production video if it delivers value to the viewer. 

Just pick up your smartphone or screen recorder and give it a go. Build your confidence.

I know video can be scary. So if you need a little more encouragement, check out this πŸ‘‰ post I wrote about finding the courage to pick up your smartphone and create content. 

Lesson 4: Experiment (a lot)πŸ”¬

I'd be lying if I told you that applying everything we've talked about so far will engage your learners instantly. 

The truth is there's a unique combination of things that will work best for your organisation, and it wont happen overnight. 

Experimenting with different approaches is the only way to find out what works and what doesn't.

I use experiments all the time. When I'm creating product education videos for our customers here at Fuse, I will experiment with: 

  1. Different content types like articles and videos (or using a combination)
  2. Publishing content at different times of the day (I use our analytics tool to figure out when my audience is most likely to be online and see my content)
  3. Titles and headlines for my content (I'll publish the same content with different titles and see which one gets the most views)

The best L&D leaders know that every great experiment starts with a solid hypothesis, and this has been the cornerstone of Mark's success at HubSpot and Drift.

To help you get started, I created a free guide for you 😊  It will show you how to write a great hypothesis for your experiments.  

You can download it by clicking hereπŸ‘‡

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Lesson 5: Don't Let Perfect Become the Enemy of Progress 

I'm a self-confessed perfectionist.

The mere thought of putting out content that isn't as perfect as I can get it, gives me anxiety.  But I've learned to get over my perfection paralysis by shipping more and embracing progress.

Perfect is the enemy of progress, and as human nature thrives on progress.

So, I have an ask of you: just make a start. If you're not using video, start today.

If you're not telling stories with your learning content, give it a go.

If you're not experimenting, download the guide I created for you, create your hypothesis and run your first experiment. 

And I'm more than happy to help you get started just leave me a comment below 😊

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