This is not just training…

…this is a performance improvement strategy.

There’s a lot of talk about blended learning and a lot of hype around leveraging social media to help learning. But in my experience – and by no means am I suggesting that this is always the case – training providers are often still engaged to work on projects that have already been scoped and defined. By the time the client gets us involved, they’ve decided what the business need is, that e-learning is the best way to address it, the drop dead go live date and, of course, the budget.

By this time, it’s really too late to make substantial, effective use of other tools and methods. So often, once we get stuck into the material we realise that actually it lends itself better to an i-Cast course, or once we’ve had the chance to engage with end users we think a combination of e-learning and classroom training would be the most effective route. In principle, the client might be thrilled with these suggestions – until you mention that they’ll need a bit more money or a bit more time.

In these situations, all those great ideas get put on the back burner. Of course, we meet the client requirements, often we exceed their expectations, but so often we aren’t in a position to really add the value we’re capable of adding.

In his recent session on creating a successful technology based learning strategy at the eLearning Network’s ‘Making the case for eLearning’ day, Charles Jennings highlighted manager engagement as a key challenge facing training professionals. The role we can and should be filling is that of consultant – helping managers to identify and address their business needs – rather than that of simple supplier. More often than not a manager’s learning priorities are how it contributes to growth, productivity, transformation and strategy.

One of the most interesting things that came out of the presentation for me was his discussion around who has the biggest impact on improving performance (based on research carried out by Broad and Newstrom in 1992 and 1998). He asked the group who they thought was the most important in terms of improving an individual’s performance following a training intervention: the manager, the training designer or the learner, either before, during or after the intervention.

The result? Roughly a third of the audience thought it was what the manager does afterwards that has the biggest impact. The reality? It’s actually what the manager does before the intervention that has the biggest impact, followed by the training designer before the intervention, and the manager afterwards.

So the person with the biggest influence on improving performance is the manager. So managers need to tell users what’s expected of them, what it’s about, what they are expected to do before, during and after the session, and how they will be measured. And designers need to think about who they are designing for, what their needs are and how the intervention can meet those needs and the business needs.

What I’m asking for then is for clients to recognise the added value that comes from a close relationship between business managers, training providers and users at this early stage. Work with us as consultants – don’t just come to us with a brief. Let us work with you to assess your business needs and training requirements, to develop a plan for the best way to achieve those needs and requirements, to help you maximise your influence by getting that crucial buy in from end users before they sit down to take the training, and to actually measure results and monitor performance afterwards.

In the end, this kind of partnership – buying not just a training programme, but a performance improvement strategy – really does drive the benefits, delivering learning solutions that don’t simply meet an immediate business need, but really do contribute to growth, productivity, transformation and strategy.