By Cordell Riley
“It’s not enough to teach knowledge, skills, or behaviors just for the sake of it. Training must connect to big-picture, company-wide objectives. Team members and leaders have to ask, “What do we need to be able to do so we achieve our business goals?” and “How will we measure and show the impact of training on performance?”
– “4 Training & Development Trends for 2016” by Shannon Leahy, UnboxedTechnology.com
There are really two kinds of training. The first and most basic centers on teaching employees to improve their performance of required skills and tasks. The second kind of training does that too, but produces far more transformational results, because it also teaches skills and behaviors that align with larger company initiatives and goals.
Here’s an analogy that demonstrates my point. First think of a golf caddy as a trainer. That caddy can walk the course and hand his golfer one club at a time and say, “This is the best club for this shot.” That might improve the trainee golfer’s game. But what if the caddy added a higher level of information by giving perspective on the overall layout of the hole, the potential hazards in the path and even a strategy for playing the entire course?
Similar lessons apply in many settings. Do you want your son or daughter’s piano teacher to only teach the mechanics of pushing down a key, or to give an overview of a piece of music? If you are hiring a landscaper for your yard, do you want to discuss only one plant with him or her, or do you want to collaborate on an overall, transformational plan?
The question is, what steps are required to create training that transforms your organization by supporting and aligning with larger company goals? Here are some critically important steps to take.
Define and Keep Your Most Important Objectives in Mind
As the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, no wind is favorable for a sailor who doesn’t know where he or she wants to go. (You could also say that every wind is favorable to that sailor too.) That sounds kind of heady, but in practical terms it means that we should keep our most important business goals in mind when making all our daily decisions – including decisions about training. Another way of stating this principle is, “begin with the end in mind.” That means that instead of starting by defining only skills, work toward a vision of what you would like your organization to become and achieve through training.
If you are training your call center staff to handle incoming calls, for example, you could teach people to answer a set of predefined questions. But are you also trying to create a company that will be known for delivering superlative customer satisfaction in the decades ahead? If you have goals like that, they should impact on the specifics of what you are training your people to do.
Break Down the Silo Walls
Trainers often are brought into different company sectors and encouraged to stay in them. They might teach skills for servicing or installing products, providing customer service, preparing food, or selling on the retail floor. Skills are critically important, but what if your trainers also thought outside the silo and delivered a bigger picture of what is taking place across the organization?
For example, what if your product installers knew how to turn customers into repeat customers? What if your salespeople knew so much about marketplace trends that they can serve as reliable consultants to your clients, not just close sales?
Another critical part of silo-breaking is to initiate discussions between your training developers and the people who create your marketing and advertising, manage your supply chain, oversee your online presence, and more. The wider you spread your net, the more likely it becomes that your training developers will make discoveries that will make your training more encompassing and effective.
Don’t Create Training in a Vacuum
Whether your training developers work in-house or you use an outside training development company, engage them in conversations about quarterly reports, company whitepapers and publications, news stories about your organization, press releases, and all the other pertinent documents you can provide. In sum, do all those materials suggest any untapped opportunities to align your training specifics with larger goals and initiatives?