Let me start with my big WHY considering most of my articles have been on leadership tips. Why am I writing this article? Being in the learning & organisation development (L&OD) space in Malaysia for the last 4 years, when introducing myself and my company to a new client (mostly training and HR managers), I find myself spending most of my time educating them on how to make training work. What was suppose to be a 30 minutes introduction meeting become an almost 2 hours education talk.
What’s worse is that I actually enjoy educating them (You would have guessed by now that I am a people person & a conceptual thinker :D). Well, that’s a story for another day. For now, allow me to share HOW to make training work for your organisation in practical ways minus the theoretical ‘mambo jambo’. If you do find this useful, do help share it so others may benefit from it.
If you are a learning & organisation development practitioner reading this, I apologise in advance as I will be using the word training and learning interchangeably for the benefit of those who are only used to the word training.
Training found its root in the industrial revolution era where people are trained to perform a specific function i.e. part assembly on the production line. The nature of work then was physical (need to fix things), simple (they only need to assemble a few parts per station) and immediate (required to be applied as it is the main part of their job). This works because what they acquire has immediacy and relevancy.
The problem with ‘training’ today is we are applying the same concept (of technical, manufacturing style training) to non-technical, knowledge based topics with the assumption that ‘if they know it, they will be able to do it’. If this is true, then we only need to view 100 hours of e-learning before taking our driving test. Let’s make it 200 hours. I think you get my message. The approach to helping someone acquire knowledge and skill are different.
To answer the WHY, in todays’ context training have 3 purposes:
- Engagement – it is offered to make employees feel valued and have a positive impression of the organisation. Example, teambuilding, onboarding, workshops based on employee’s wish list.
- Awareness – it is offered to equip employees with some new knowledge. Example, attending a seminar, a talk or a workshop of the latest knowledge (customer experience)
- Behavioural change – it is a purposeful designed series of learning/training intervention weaved together to achieve a specific measureable outcome.
While my services focuses on behavioural change, engagement and awareness are equally valid reason why organisation should conduct training.
For example, a company who has just completed an organisation reorganisation should have engagement-centered training such as teambuilding. The purpose here is to build morale and positive emotion among employees.
A different example would be of a company that is about to shift from a product-based business to a service based business. They need to create awareness of this change and understanding of this new ‘business’.
What’s important is the person in charge of training has to be clear about their ‘WHY’. When they know their ‘why’, it is easy to position training and be confident of the expected results.
Let me share a recent incident with a potential client. They are interested in a leadership development programme (I assumed by the word programme it means something long term). After presenting them our approach to developing their leaders, their first comment (I can’t seem to get it out of my head) “Wah, a lot of things to do and takes very long. Do you have something that is 3 days?”. Initially I was irritated but later felt empathy for them.”Isaac, what you are saying is good but I don’t think our senior leaders is interested. Also, our people are already very busy and if we do what you propose, they will have more things to do”.
As a training professional, selling is a key skill we need. I find Dan Pink’s ‘To Sell Is Human‘ a pretty good read.
How do we sell? Here’s my quick tip. Whatever training request you have, link it to one or more of the Balanced ScoreCard components. Learning & Development needs to be aligned to either customer, financial and/or internal perspective. This is an effective approach to selling because most senior leaders are busy and are guided by BSC. Once you have the training request and identify which component to link, join the dots and write your story..
A client of mine engaged us for a ‘service excellence’ programme. We were not the cheapest. What got us the deal was we asked “what does service excellence look like in your organisation?” After giving some thought, the client called the section manager (the sponsor) into the meeting. The sponsor told us 94% was the customer satisfaction number they are required to attain. Had we started by telling the various service excellence programme we did and how we got ‘high rating’, we would not have understood their business need, not be connected with the sponsor and missed the goal of the training. Furthermore, because we asked, we worked closely with the sponsor to identify the specific skills and behavioural challenges faced by his team. With a clear goal, we incorporated a programme 10-week programme.
3) ‘DOING YOUR BEST’ HAS A NUMBER
During our school days, our parents would tell us “Do your best”. When we come back with a report card showing a score of 15/24, the look on their face tells us they are not happy with our best. The story here is regardless of words we use, expectation usually needed to be stated in numbers. “Do your best” is a qualitative measure while “Get at least 20/24” is a quantitative measure. For example, in a leadership development programme, we use a 360 leadership feedback system and also observed employee engagement scores. These numbers gives us an idea of their improvement and if the company is benefiting from the development programme.
4) BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE IS A PROCESS
If your training goal is to change the behaviour in your employees, then you need to recognise it is a process of change and does not happen via a 3-day workshop.
Key principles to a successful change process:
- There needs to be a clear goal to be achieved for the organisation/department/ team. Identify what the sponsor wants. Then break it down into skills and knowledge required to achieve those goals. Consider SMART goals.
- Involve relevant stakeholder. This is key as they will provide support throughout the change process. Beside the sponsor, identify who else ‘will influence the success of this programme’. If it is customer service, the customer will definitely be a stakeholder.
- Make the programme value proposition attractive to the learner. Learner need to understand how they will benefit from it. I don’t mean ‘telling’ them why this programme is important, rather ‘how will undergoing this programme will add value to them’. Be specific.
- Select the right intervention. Recognise that some intervention is more relevant to knowledge acquisition and others for skills development. Doing research, completing a written assignment, group discussion would be some examples of knowledge acquisition intervention. One on one practice, being observed, testing are examples of skills development intervention.
- Make the process a journey. If the expectation on the learner is large, break it down into bite size, space them out so there’s opportunity to practice but incorporate everything so it becomes a learning journey.
- Involve learner in the change process. Give them an overview of the process, let them know what is expected, address their fears and hesitation, let them know the support they will get while making it clear success is dependent on the learner taking ownership of the learning journey.
- Ensure the workshop is engaging and relevant. Be sure to ensure the trainer factor in practice time within the workshop. This will give learner confidence to begin practicing. Incorporate organisation jargon and case study to show relevance. At the end of the workshop, get them to craft their development plan and share it with their superior.
- Ensure there are opportunities to practice. As part of sharing their development plan with their superior is to find opportunities for them to practice. Example, if they attended a presentation workshop, work with your superior to identify an opportunity to present where your superior can observe and give you feedback.
- Feedback sharpens skill. Plan for periodic session for learner to regroup and share their progress. This will ensure accountability and give morale support to those who have yet to begun. This session can also act as a mentoring session where those who have succeeded can guide the others.
5) UNDERSTAND FUTURE NEED
Helping the learner improve is just the first step. As learning professionals, I would say our value is helping our learner anticipate the future. We should strive to understand the challenges faced by the learner caused either by internal or external factors and see what can be done to overcome it.
I trust this gives you a good idea on HOW to make training work for your organisation. Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments. The more we share, the more we gain.