How can we, as training professionals, leverage partnerships to deliver effective learning and development (L&D) opportunities? Stakeholders are not always aware how L&D leaders can help them increase employee productivity. So, if you want L&D to be seen for the asset it is to the company, start by building the three skills that are a must for building your L&D consulting infrastructure. Next, implement Training Industry’s Comprehensive Internal Consulting Model to ensure success as collaborator and finally, commit to four areas of practice that support your consulting role and will help you remain a valued and credible consultant for solving business problems through the development of employees and processes within your organization. Let’s dive in.
3 Must-have Internal Consulting Skills
Knowing the business well enough to deliver technical training that builds critical skills will help boost your brand as an effective internal consultant. Instructional design and/or delivery, and specialized business skills, are a core part of any learning leader’s technical skill set.
Sometimes referred to as soft skills, these include core skills like communication, conflict management and team building, which are required when in the consulting role. The L&D leader must be able to clearly communicate information and be able to listen for understanding and engagement while developing learning solutions.
Problem solving, change management and flexibility, in combination of the technical skills and interpersonal skills mentioned above, are going to make you the essential business partner valued by employees and business leaders.
The Five Phases of Consulting
The five phases of consulting, as outlined in Training Industry’s Internal Consulting Workshop, include:
This first phase is the time to define problems and understand what is motivating the client to seek solutions. Stakeholders, key roles, resources and access to learning are identified during the meeting so expectations and objective(s) can be clearly stated. You will want to establish a timeline with your client and most importantly, establish clear boundaries for everyone involved in the process.
Training is not the solution for every problem encountered in business. Use data to inform your recommendations and consider the business dynamics of the clients. Look for root causes to gain insight into the issues. It may be that training will not provide the “fix” the business needs.
Recommendations and Agreements
Clear and concise findings from your needs analysis should form your recommendations, including how success will be measured. This is a good place to revisit the timeline established in the contracting phase to determine if it will work. Just as important as the timeline is resources; do you have the resources available to deliver the project on time and with the desired results? Finally, address any resistance there may be and find effective approaches to gain participants’ buy in.
Good contracting, data driven analysis and clear agreement to recommendations will lead to more effective implementation. Ensuring consistent communication between L&D and the client (which, if operating internally, are your business stakeholders) will allow for course correction during the delivery of the recommended learning solution.
Provide data to the client using the agreed upon success measurements from earlier in the planning phases. Ask for feedback from the client and participants to get a well-rounded set of data for measuring success. This is important for when it comes time to communicate what the next steps will be.
4 Best Practices to Follow
- Stay Informed
Priorities can change often and quickly. Ongoing communication with project participants is essential to be ready for real time consultation on business needs and employees’ skills gaps. For optimal effectiveness, the L&D team should be on the agenda at team meetings, project meetings, etc. Wherever the stakeholders are discussing company business, listen for prospects that can become opportunities for learning. Be curious about what your business colleagues are doing in their day-to-day activities and follow up to make connections through these conversations. These connections will grow opportunities that are useful at all levels of the company structure.
Often, your stakeholders won’t know what they don’t know about training. Keep them informed about relevant training programs and initiatives. Share trends in training and workforce development.
While working with external clients, keep them up-to-date on the progress of their training requests/projects. Check in regularly to ensure everyone is still traveling in the same direction on the same consultation request.
Negotiation skills are a must-have when advocating for L&D resources. Whether it is a learning management system (LMS), eLearning platform, authoring tool or off-the-shelf content, you will find yourself negotiating with training vendors as well as your company’s leadership to acquire the necessary resources for L&D.
- Business Acumen
Build up your knowledge of the business to effectively contribute to the goals of the company. Understanding how the company makes money, how it operates and how it is positioned within the industry will help you strategically align learning initiatives to business priorities. Your business acumen is vital to your role and credibility as an L&D leader and internal consultant.
You may not feel it today, but when it comes right down to it, learning leaders are the leaders in the business responsible for connecting with stakeholders to deliver training that is strategically aligned with business priorities. Whether you are a team of 20 or a team of one, L&D leaders that become the best internal consultants are those that partner with business stakeholders.