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LizSheffieldBioLiz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.


People talk about how relationship building skills are a critical part of professional success. That’s especially true in the world of eLearning – designers rely on their partnerships with other people in order to deliver the content they create.

Regardless of whether you’re a freelance eLearning designer, a team of one for a small business, or part of a larger corporate training team, you can’t create eLearning if you sit in a vacuum. Any successful eLearning course is built upon the relationships you cultivate with other people in an organization.

With what groups or departments should eLearning designers focus on building relationships?

Human Resources (HR)

In many— if not most—organizations, the eLearning budget is managed and approved by the HR team. If you want your program or course to make the budget cut, you need to have the buy-in and backing of HR leaders. That’s easier to do when you have an existing working relationship and can speak to how the product you’re going to deliver will help address the concerns that keep an HR manager up at night.

What’s the worst case scenario if you don’t establish relationships with HR? If the HR team doesn’t understand how your program will help recruit, retain, engage or develop the employees in their organization, they’re less likely to support it. Without any demonstrated value, it’s easy for them to deny the budget request for your project.


The operations team oversees how the business is run. As such they have a vested and keen interest in any program that will require employees to use labor hours for anything but business-related activities. If you can establish relationships with leaders and managers from operations, you’re more likely to have casual conversations about what eLearning can deliver. Then, when it comes time to gain approval for labor hours to complete eLearning content, the operations team might just be willing to let their employees participate.

What’s the worst case scenario if you don’t establish relationships with operations? The operations team might be concerned about recent increases in overtime hours; they’re putting the brakes on any additional tasks for their employees, including your program. As necessary as the learning may be, your program requires 15 minutes of extra labor and is put on hold until further notice.

Marketing/Visual Design

The folks in marketing hold the creative key that can make a big difference in your eLearning design. When you need color guidelines, design standards, or a copy of the logo, you’re going to need to talk to someone in marketing or visual design. Having an established, working relationship with one or two people on that team will help you get what you need in a timely fashion. You might even get some tips about how you can make your design pop.

What’s the worst case scenario if you don’t establish relationships with marketing/visual design? You design an entire course only to find out you a color scheme that hasn’t been approved. You’re sent back to the drawing board to incorporate approved colors.

Information Technology (IT)

If you want to launch your eLearning content via systems supported by the company, you need friends in the IT department. From the start of the project, IT will provide you with valuable information about operating systems, browsers, players and plugins, as well as any known issues, and general information about how your program will be delivered across the network.

What’s the worst case scenario if you don’t establish relationships with IT? You’ve designed an impressive and interactive eLearning course that incorporates gaming techniques and video vignettes to engage learners. When you’re ready to enroll users in the course, you learn the system doesn’t support the features in your design and you must rebuild.

If you don’t have business relationships with people in these departments, make a goal of getting to know your cross-functional peers. Reach out and schedule time to learn more about what they do and how your roles intersect. Not only will these relationships be of use when you need or support for your eLearning content, you’ll also benefit personally from the connections you make in the organization.

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