Everything I Need to Know about Learning Came from Clark Stark

staples clark stark characterHave you met Clark Stark? I had the privilege of meeting him and his boss, Ken Bouchard, the other day. You see, Ken is the senior manager of Executive & Leadership Development at Staples. And Clark is an imaginary spokesperson. The two of them have been on a pretty interesting journey over the past year, a journey you can hear more about when they both join me for a webinar on April 14. So what can we learn from Clark?

You may remember me blogging a while back on the parallels between marketing and HCM. And in particular, marketing and learning have a lot in common. Both have a wide variety of constituents to reach, a huge stack of possible topic areas to cover, and an ever-growing network of ways to share information. Content marketing in particular is a strong parallel, with its focus on building knowledge and relationships to move buyers into action. Learning organizations are all about delivering the right information to help move someone’s performance or development along. But with this evolving environment for learning, finding ways to measure and manage it is challenging.

Ken and his team at Staples underwent a major reinvention starting in 2013, and without realizing it, began to fully embrace many marketing principles and how they rethought the structure, format, and capabilities of their learning organization. This started with what Ken calls “sifting through the pile” – something marketers may recognize as a content audit – taking stock of what they had and filtering it through some simple but important criteria. Then they rebranded the learning organization, and gave their brand a voice through Clark. And Clark became their guide through an ongoing process of prototyping and iteration as they learned what kinds of content, what kinds of messaging, and what kinds of delivery mechanisms worked for their environment.

As an animated entity, Clark can do things that an executive might shy away from. He can take calculated risks when it comes to experimenting with messaging, and he never calls his agent if he doesn’t like the text the writers give him. And Clark has even entered the external marketplace on twitter – you can find him @askClarkStark – helping learning become part of Staples recruiting and employment branding effort. Clark is just one of many examples of how Staples has embraced strategies straight out of the marketing playbook to revolutionize how they deliver and measure learning and learning impact. Ken and Clark have a fascinating story, and I hope you can join us on April 14 to hear about what they’ve learned.

Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst,
Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group

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