One of the most frequently asked questions from a new client is, “How do we make a real impact with our new training initiative?” In my opinion it is a simple answer, Open Communication. This means openly discussing strategies and what is truly getting in the way of people doing their jobs more effectively, thus preventing the organization from achieving those strategies. I often compare it to a “two-way” street: the more we understand the client’s issues, the better we can help in providing a solution that will yield tangible results.
Once we understand the solution, communication becomes critical. Some clients think that this only applies to the communication I have with them, such as materials, training dates and facilitators. But in reality, communicating the logistics is the smallest part of the communication pie. Let’s discuss the power of communicating to both the participants and your training partners.
Communicating with the Participants
Training is a critical growth component for organizations. Training allows companies to capitalize on increased efficiencies, knowledge and motivation that a properly executed training program can harness. Isn’t the training itself the catalyst for the improvement? The answer to that is no. It is just one component of it. The greatest return on investment for our clients occurs when the organization continues to communicate not just prior to the training, but during and after the training.
Prior to Training
When a CEO of an organization speaks, do people listen? They would be foolish not to, right?. Communication from the highest level of management goes a long way in establishing a blueprint for success. Fear of the unknown and the reason for the training are the leading hindrances to a successful initiative. When the CEO shares the reason for the training and how it fits into the long-term vision of the organization, and you get committed participant who understands the reasons why they are attending a session on a topic, that for some, may be considered second nature. Human nature leads us to want answers any time we are asked to change something or improve it. Most likely we will have a few questions for our leaders. In our experience, there are five key questions every employee has when asked to change or improve something. They are:
- Why are we doing this?
- Why now?
- What is in it for me?
- Where do I go for support?
- Who is going to provide me with feedback?
Answer those 5 questions upfront and you are likely to have an engaged audience. An example would be something as simple as this:
We are embarking on a new training initiative to help our sales team negotiate better agreements with our clients. We decided this is important because our number one strategy is to increase our share of spend with our current clients, and number two, our analysis shows that in our negotiations there have been some unhappy clients who decided not to come back to us after the first sale. We believe these new skills will help us all negotiate win/win agreements that all parties feel good about, which means you won’t lose these clients you worked so hard to get and you will be able to maintain or increase your compensation. We will support you in these new skills with coaching. Your managers will assist you in your first negotiations to be sure we are using the new skills to our best advantage in maintaining happy clients, and to provide feedback on how well you are doing.
During the Training
Nothing gets the attention of the class participants like the CEO or a high ranking executive taking time out of their day to introduce the training and reinforce the message that was delivered prior to participants coming to the session. It builds credibility for the training and ensures engagement and participation. The message is clear to everyone: THIS IS IMPORTANT!
Here is where involvement from upper level management is most critical. According to a study conducted by Wilson Learning, 50% of your training’s effectiveness comes from activities you do during this time. The message needs to be clear: this is important enough that we will spend time coaching you and giving you feedback so you can excel in this new skill. Ask yourselves: Is the company delivering on the promises made before and during the training? Are the participants being allowed to implement their new skills in an environment open to change? Are their direct supervisors hindering the execution through their own fears that the training was not effective and is thus affecting their work group’s performance? Senior management down to direct supervisors must be behind the initiative from beginning to end. Leaders can eliminate the threat of “training sabotage” through regular reinforcement of the newly learned skills for both the coaches and the users. Providing communication on its importance and coaching on how to use the new skill, employees will feel supported and adoption becomes easier.
Communicating with Your Training Partners
Companies decide to do training for various reasons and at various intervals because, as we all know, every business is different. And because every company is different the communication you have with your training partner is an important part of its success.. We know that in order for training to be transformative for adults they need to know that the training is Relevant and Applicable.
When we understand your business goals we can work with you to make the training relevant to your specific situation. Understanding your business strategies, barriers, strengths and weaknesses helps us in shaping the right solution to accomplish what you want it to and to get the results you are looking for.
This is one way we can ensure that the results you want become achievable.
Training can be fun and motivating. But we also want it to be transformative in a way that applies to accomplishing the goals we set out in the beginning. Keeping an open dialogue between your organization and Strategic Enhancement Group allows us to bring real-world examples to the training experience that help participants see how they can use the skills in their everyday work. The more we can relate to their day-to-day experiences, the easier it is to help them make connections between the new skills they are learning and how they will apply it when they go back to their offices.
As you begin to look into new training initiatives and options, remember that painting the whole picture will greatly improve on your return on investment. Open communication prior, during and post training builds the expectations for the participants and ensures adoption. Open communication between the company and the training partner allows for more relevant and applicable solutions that will get the results you want. And, you will be ready when someone asks you,”What did we get in return for the money we just spent?”