IN MARCH 2023, WE (NINA, ZOË AND LEWIS) WERE INVITED TO THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION HEADQUARTERS IN GENEVA. CASUAL. WE WENT TO PRESENT AND FACILITATE A DISCUSSION ABOUT THE NEED FOR STRATEGY AND CREATIVITY IN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS, INSPIRED BY THE MARKETING CAMPAIGN DEVELOPED BY SHAPE HISTORY FOR THE WHO LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT (L&D) TEAM LAST YEAR.
In attendance was a cross-section of learning professionals within the UN, all working to inspire theirstaff to engage with training. Together, they are aiming to develop a one-UN approach to learning that places staff, culture and values at the centre.
And we thought we’d share with you a little snapshot of the day…
So let’s go back to the beginning. Back in 2021, the WHO’s L&D team came to us with a problem. One that is familiar with L&D professionals everywhere. Staff were simply not engaging with their learning platform, iLearn. Mandatory courses had relatively low completion rates, which was a significant issue, and the amazing breadth of training on offer was not being utilised. And we knew why.
Yep, you guessed it… communication. Much of the language used to communicate learning lacked the emotive link between the audience and the content. The sweet spot that would make staff want to learn was missing. So we tackled the problem in the way we know best – with smart strategy and creative communication. – to create a campaign, aimed at staff, that cut through the noise of their day-to-day tasks and connected with what they care about and value.
When iLearn, WHO learns.
Through a series of workshops, interviews and staff surveys, we uncovered some big insights to figure out what drives our audience, and what stands in their way. Nuggets of gold to a strategist. Then we used those nuggets to craft a creative campaign that spoke directly to our audience, and made them care about learning.
INSIGHT 1: STAFF VALUE VALUES!
People demonstrated real commitment to serving the organisation, they were proud to work there, and they were inspired by the culture and values of the organisation. To the WHO staff, those values include humanity, impact, diversity, collaboration, and, ultimately, making a difference. Our favourite soundbite? “We feel like we are one WHO family.”
Idea 1: A narrative that focused on the WHO family, taking the focus away from individual responsibility to take part and towards the core WHO values of collaboration and excellence. When iLearn, you learn, we all learn (for ice cream). The TLDR of the narrative sounds something like this:
We’re all proud to work at the World Health Organisation, and we all want it to be as good as it can be. To inspire innovation and excellence, and to foster a culture of diversity, collaboration and respect. To get even better! But growth doesn’t happen on its own. For the WHO to thrive, all of us need to learn new skills and push ourselves. When you learn, we all benefit. So thank you from the whole WHO for the part you play in making us even better.
IMPACT 1: 16,000 staff reached globally.
INSIGHT 2: REWARD & RECOGNITION
The staff wanted to feel rewarded and recognised for putting in the effort to learn. As technicians, scientists, researchers most WHO staff are naturally curious and there’s a real appetite to continue learning and excel. Yet, there is little motivation to complete courses when there is no formal recognition inside or outside of the organisation.
Idea 2: So we rang up our old friend, the Director General, and asked him to deliver our message to his staff directly. (Ok, so it didn’t go quite like that). But we recommended using senior buy in to make staff feel like their learning mattered, and they were appreciated. The video (created by Shape History) went down well with staff, who felt like they would be recognised for completing training.
IMPACT 2: 50% increase in the completion of mandatory courses. (Huge!)
INSIGHT 3: THE NETFLIX EFFECT
We found that staff suffer from a serious case of the ‘Netflix effect’. With so much content on offer, they don’t have the time to decide what to take up. Too much information means no messages cut through – not even mandatory ones.
This gave our creative team two jobs: make something that cut through, and make something clear. The WHO staff receive a lot of internal communication and we needed ours to stand out. So we went for bright, engaging colours, and a playful look and feel that felt different to the usual, quite serious, WHO content. We utilised scribbles and doodles to bring to life the feel of learning: drawing in the margins, annotating and crossing things out to start again: learning is never finished, so why should our iLearn campaign look neat and tidy?! Our designer Zeina hand drew new icons for all of the courses, which made staff stop and look at them anew.
Content wise, we created simple assets that made things really clear for the audience: exactly what each course is, what it involves, and why it’s important for the entire WHO family for an individual to complete.
IMPACT 3: Huge uplift in qualitative staff feedback
Presenting this case study to a room (and zoom) full of over 150 UN learning & development professionals was a highlight for all of us, and we received some wonderful feedback. But it didn’t stop there. Following our presentation we ran a workshop, aiming to support other UN organisations with engaging their staff in learning using smart strategy and creative communication. Don’t worry, we won’t go through everything we learned now, but rest assured that it was a pretty inspiring afternoon.
We had a very exciting day at the WHO headquarters – and Geneva wasn’t so bad either. We want to give a big Shape History thank you to Jen and Anna-Karin at WHO for the opportunity, and to everyone that attended.