Monday, June 28, 2010

What Training Providers Look for When Working With Customers

Here's a guest post from Sharon Daniels, president and chief executive officer for AchieveGlobal, a training and business consultancy:

Today, I am exchanging guest blog posts with Dan McCarthy. Together, we are looking at what training providers and customers look for when partnering with one another. I’m a big fan of Dan’s blog, and we thought it would be fun to share insights from both perspectives.

Below, you’ll find some of my thoughts from a training provider’s perspective and, on AchieveGlobal’s company blog, Dan has included insights from a customer’s standpoint. Whether you’re a training customer or provider, please feel free to weigh in and add your thoughts either here or on our blog. We hope both provide insights you’ll find helpful in your next partnership so both providers and customers can be successful.

I’ve seen that good training sessions rely on more than able coaches. Whether training “takes” sometimes depends on the mindset of the customer. From the standpoint of training providers, here are five things that make customers as prepared as possible for an effective training session or training initiative:

NO . 1: CHALLENGE CURRENT THINKING
Customers must be prepared to tackle the status quo. “The way we’ve always done it” attitude must be kicked to the curb and recycled like yesterday’s Red Bull can. Clinging to old ways because they’re comforting does not propel an organization. It holds it back, potentially creating blind spots.

Stopping to ask, “Why do we do it that way?” should elicit a thoughtful reply underscored by a business objective. For instance, stopping to consider why a retail sales associate asks for a customer’s e-mail address should track back to a defined objective – like opening a channel for future discounts that would encourage customer loyalty. The best organizations will challenge not only industry thinking but their own. Cutting against the grain drives true innovation.

No. 2: COLLABORATE WILLINGLY, NOT GRUDINGLY
The best training isn’t cut out from a template but instead is shaped with the input of the customer. Collaboration between the training recipient and training provider influences success more than any other factor. Everyone involved – from both the training recipient and training provider side – should be completely clear about the organization’s employee value proposition – loosely, the brand as seen through the eyes of the employees and brought to life by the rewards they receive in return for high performance.

Sharing the employee value proposition, the desired behavior and the performance results are a crucial state of collaboration that will help guide a successful training partnership. The trainer will be most successful if he or she knows an organization’s overall business strategy so that a curriculum can be taught that directly supports the desired outcome. Training must support the core strategy of an organization.

No. 3 REGARD TRAINING AS BOTH SHORT-TERM AND LONG-TERM INVESTMENT
Training impacts performance throughout an employee’s tenure with an organization, providing momentum at the beginning and wisdom at the end. Seen this way, training becomes more than a short-term fix. It is also a long-term investment. Implemented strategically, training gives employees the immediate necessary skills and a structure to grow as their needs, and those of the company, change.

Specifically, a thoughtful on-boarding process that properly reflects an employee value proposition helps prevent new staff from experiencing buyer’s remorse about joining an organization. And over time, a rich development program helps talented performers gravitate toward key organizational resources, stay well-connected with knowledge networks and exposed to the full range of activities, such as managing larger groups, launching major initiatives and leading critical turn-arounds.

No. 4 FOCUS ON RESULTS-ORIENTED CULTURE, NOT ONGOING COSTS
In some cases, managers are concerned about the training investment – perhaps weighing whether the cost of instruction will impact, say, a sales call. But, isn’t it worth it to make the call as successful as possible? You’re talking about improving the effectiveness of your people, so the return is there. The impact is what matters. Beyond a dollar value, concrete statistics that come with learning and development programs offer a predictive value: they show how and why staff demonstrated a concept learned from training. As companies evaluate their options, they’ll find that the best programs have measurements built in.

When creating a leadership program, organizations should work with their training partners to determine what type of measurements should be tracked. Flexibility of this kind ensures that business results are the primary goal of leadership training. With more sophisticated monitoring – the kind that is benchmarked against peers – a company can accurately gauge progress against both business objectives and training goals. Measurement helps organizations answer the most basic question: Did the leadership program work?

No. 5 MODEL SKILLS THROUGH BEHAVIORS OF SENIOR LEADERS
At the conclusion of training, the motto from senior leaders can’t be do as a I say, not as I do. It must be quite the opposite. At best, those actions will be labeled unconvincing, at worst, lampooned as hypocritical. The best results are achieved when key leadership is involved throughout training, from inception and beyond. Especially at a time when the economy is vulnerable, leaders who demonstrate skills and behaviors reinforced in training emphasizes its worth to employees. No memo can communicate that point as crisply as action.

Sharon Daniels is CEO of AchieveGlobal, a world leader in providing exceptional interpersonal business skills, giving companies the workforce they need for business results. Located in more than 40 countries, AchieveGlobal offers multilanguage, learning based solutions - globally, regionally and locally.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like your suggestions, but this is my question: What are the best ways to measure the results of leadership training? How do you track progress to determine if the training is worth it? What is the role of the trainer in measuring outcomes? Thanks

Dan McCarthy said...

Anon -
sharon may respond herslef, but here is an earlier post I wrote that addresses how to measure the impact of leadership development:
http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/2007/11/six-ways-to-measure-impact-of.html.

Sharon Daniels said...

Thanks, Dan, for that helpful list of measures. If I were to add some thoughts to that, I might mention a few things that are important to AchieveGlobal's approach to measurement:

1.) We believe it's important to get some indication of how the training will affect job performance, even if these are self-reported predictions right after the training class

2.) We think it's important to have an instrument created and administered by an independent third-party, so the results will be unbiased

3.) It's also important to be able to benchmark against others in your industry, or similar roles - to give you context on your performance.

Shyam Kumar said...

"Implemented strategically, training gives employees the immediate necessary skills and a structure to grow as their needs, and those of the company, change."

Great point - training today seems to have been reduced to enabling employees with 'immediate necessary skills'. (This is critical in some industries and roles; eg: technical training.)

But education teaches you to think and act in new situations leveraging the fundamental principles you are taught. Much more powerful than 'training'.

Check out this video by customer service speaker Ron Kaufman where he explains the difference between education and training - http://www.upyourservice.com/video-theater/customer-service-training-or-service-education