It’s easy to fall into the trap of planning details before really agreeing upon a desired outcome. Trainers are particularly susceptible to this pitfall, because these road warriors deal with location and schedule changes on a regular basis. They are often comfortable with last-minute requests and pride themselves on being nimble and responsive.
It is important, however, to take a step back and ask, “Why are we doing training?” Often, our clients or stakeholders lead us to a transactional mindset. They often focus their attention on the tactical details, asking if we have anyone available on such-and-such a day with such-and-such content expertise. As learning leaders, we know it’s a continual battle to identify the “why” behind the request, but because of the constant need to push back, we sometimes default to what is easiest.
To make it easier to start a needs-based conversation with stakeholders, we’ve created a simple mnemonic that both learning leaders and trainers can use to ensure that they’ve established a clear destination before they start their journey. The acronym is ROADS, and it includes five high-level questions for mapping out the reasons you’re doing training in the first place.
- Results: What do we expect the training to accomplish? What are the business needs?
- Objectives: What will learners take away from the experience?
- Audience: Whom are we targeting for this training?
- Delivery: What do we know about delivery, and what does this information tell us about the need?
- Success: What will define success for the training?
Of course, each of these questions is a prompt for a short conversation. Let’s take a closer look at the value of each variable and the preparation that it can provide for the trainer. As an example, we’ll use a case study for delivering training on organizational culture change and highlight how each of these five key elements led to a successful delivery.
Business needs are often not what they appear on the surface. For instance, the need for training on sexual harassment prevention may be to meet a compliance requirement, to respond to specific instance of harassment or to shape a positive culture. A training approach that aligns with the compliance need might include some off-the-shelf e-learning. If the focus is culture, in-person delivery with scenarios and group work, combined with reinforcement, would be more effective. Regardless of the topic, however, it’s necessary to understand the real drivers so you can consult on the best approach and achieve real results.
Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) was implementing a major national organizational sales transformation that included updating systems, processes and practices to support its new approach to customer service and member recruitment. With the new sales strategy on the horizon, the Wilderness Road Council’s (Kentucky) newly appointed chief executive officer and chief of staff recognized that before they could successfully adopt the national sales strategy, they would first have to completely change the Council’s current business model and culture. The executive team realized that workplace culture was hindering growth. The question was how to transform from an unenthusiastic legacy culture to one of inspiration, collaboration and empowerment to support the new sales strategy.
To keep training aligned with the organization’s goals, it’s important to clearly outline learning objectives and tie them back to those goals. Map out a clear understanding of what the learners will take away and apply from the training event. Content customization can impact a training event; it contextualizes the content for the organization’s culture and brings relevance to the learner’s experience. You can also add additional activities and case studies to reinforce the outcome of the training for the learner, helping meet your learning objectives.
The Girl Scouts clearly recognized its need to define the initiative in advance of the training. In this case, a high-energy expert consultant and facilitator with over 20 years of experience advised the organization on both the end objectives and the smaller milestone objectives that would help it achieve its goals.
Targeting learners’ needs within the context of the business’ needs necessitates an analysis of skill sets, attitudes, availability and preferences. This analysis informs your design approach, ensures learner engagement, and supports the outcomes and success of the training. Focus on the head, heart and hands of the audience. What do they need to know? What do you want them to feel? What do they need to do?
The driving force of the Girl Scouts program was coaching managers on the importance of communicating effectively. Analysis showed that managers were yearning for more trust and transparency. They preferred a coaching model over a traditional training approach, and they were skeptical of realizing the end objectives. Learning leaders needed to effectively manage change in addition to training managers on key leadership behaviors.
There are many factors to consider when creating an impactful delivery, including modality, logistics, learner engagement, culture fit and the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me) for the learner. Each of these areas requires careful consideration. Adherence to a delivery schedule and the ability to be agile when you need to make changes are important when delivering any type of training. In addition, budget is always top of mind for clients and stakeholders. Maintaining a project plan with regular client meetings will keep everyone aligned and on track.
The Girl Scouts’ leadership training was delivered on site to managers and included monthly one-on-one virtual coaching sessions. Throughout the project, monthly management calls shared successful results, roadblocks and opportunities for refinement. At the end of six months, a tailored professional development training program developed leaders into enablers of change.
Impactful learning is learning that has a lasting effect and inspires organizational change. It must resonate with the learners; their experience is what constitutes a successful training initiative. Without their engagement and application, even the most elaborate training will fall short.
Organizations always want to measure the value of their investment, but evaluating the effectiveness of training can be tricky. Focusing on stakeholders’ desired results is the only way to understand if the training was a success.
The Girl Scouts’ professional leadership development program transformed the Wilderness Road Council. “One of the greatest achievements of our organizational transformation is to see firsthand the professional growth by our staff,” said Susan Douglas, CEO of the Council.
What started as a culture with low morale and fleeting accountability transformed into a culture of collaboration, empowerment and transparency. Beyond making the Council a rewarding place to work, the training program successfully delivered the following results:
- Staff development: A formal professional development training program nurtured employees’ growth and retention.
- Employee turnover: Staff turnover decreased by 22%.
- Culture change: The foundation of professional growth transformed the culture to one of empowerment based on new organizational expectations, standards and training.
- Sales strategy: A phased communication and sales training plan guided employees at all levels of the organizational to support the GSUSA’s new national sales strategy.
- Annual membership renewal: Membership renewals increased by 10%.
- Membership retention: Membership retention increased by 10% in two years.
When developing and delivering training, it is important to start with “why” and keep the end in mind. The learner experience is shaped before, during and after the program; even something as simple as how you introduce the training to the learners will influence their attitudes toward the training and, ultimately, their engagement. Organizations must positively engage learners up front and overcome any objections prior to the delivery of the training. Asking the right questions at the beginning will ensure the right approach. If you follow the road, it will lead you to success.
“Change is the end result of all true learning” (Leo Buscaglia).