As trainers, we are often in front of groups of professionals, guiding them, inspiring them and managing knowledge transfer to ensure a positive business impact. We use examples, case studies and stories to convey key ideas and bring to life abstract concepts. Yet, when we’re in front of the business owners or clients, we often struggle to adequately explain how training measurably supports the organization. We should leverage the very skills that ensure a positive classroom experience to tell the learning story to our stakeholders, sponsors, owners and leaders.
The classic bubble or smile sheet sent after a class fails to deliver a compelling business story, much less garner the required business support. Anyone who has access to your final story should be able to understand and see the value of it. To craft your learning solution story, use the following guidelines.
Understand the Setting
Whether you’ve been working at the company 15 years or are a consultant brought in for a single project with a set time frame, always be sure to research and study the environment. Environmental factors can hinder the greatest class. You may not be able to control all of them, but understanding them ensures you can mitigate risks or call attention to them with the stakeholders so they can address them. Through interviews and research, answer the following questions:
- What is the business or talent need?
- What has the organization done in the past?
- What is currently in place?
- What is the available data in terms of the problem, the audience, the industry, the skill area, the customers, previous learning and/or existing learning resources?
- What brought attention to this issue, need or gap?
- What support is available for both immediate and long-term solutions?
It’s best not to assume that everyone you need to share the learning proposal and results with has the same level of understanding. Through your due diligence, you will build connections to help inform the solution and increase buy-in for the overall effort.
Identify the Characters
In this case, the target audience are the people who are experiencing the story. Again, even if they are people you have been working beside for years, you need to set a different type of engagement for the learning experience. Use interviews, focus groups and surveys to gather information that answers these questions:
- What classes or training have you taken most recently?
- What do you do when you need to develop a new skill?
- Who is your contact when you have an immediate on-the-job question?
- What skills do you think will be important in your role in five years? 10?
- What is your preferred way to learn?
The process of learning about the intended learners not only helps you refine the solution but builds buy-in with the audience. Knowing that their voice is heard and their input is part of the process can better ensure a solution with increased and long-lasting impact.
Be Able to Describe Your Happy Ending
Don’t focus on the number of classes or even attendance, as those numbers do not measure the actual impact the learning has on the organization in terms of performance or productivity. You should have that information, of course, but as one data point, not your proof or full story. Use qualitative and quantitative data to tell the full story, including:
- Employee perceptions (e.g., net promoter score, scrap learning).
- Leader observations (e.g., scrap learning, performance changes).
- Customer feedback and/or ratings.
- Productivity scores or rates.
- Quality scores or rates.
- Talent retention.
It’s a data-driven world, and learning is no exception. Work with your team members, leverage online survey tools and even tap into available data specialists in your company to have a robust and relevant data set to tell your story.
In the same way you approach a case study to tell a story in your class or learning module, be able to explain to stakeholders and leaders the story of a learning solution. Use this guide to craft your story so that the work of your learning team is clear, data-supported and inspiring.
For more on this topic, come to TICE 2019 this June, and attend Megan’s session.