3 Steps to Create Training Experiences Employees Will Embrace

L&D professionals must step out from underneath the pressure of becoming experts in the relevant business area each time they are tasked with creating content. Instead they should be facilitators who create space for the actual stakeholders—those who work in that business area day in and day out—to step in and provide the right information.

When employees sense that the educational material they receive is out of date or out of touch, they find workarounds or skip it all together. They de-prioritize the training Learning and Development (L&D) professionals have poured months of effort into. 

In this world of increasing complexity, L&D professionals can create relevant, modern, educational experiences by working in concert with the business stakeholders they support—the vice presidents, directors, and managers who understand the realities their employees face and the people responsible for driving critical outcomes. This collaborative approach results in more employees feeling supported by their teams and organizations, which, in turn breeds success. 

But working together isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Many training functions are still organized so that L&D professionals parachute into departments or divisions only after an order for new training has been placed. L&D then is expected to develop the new program without real input from the team on the ground. It’s only after completion that the team might offer feedback on what was created.   

Continuing to apply these old methods to the fast pace of business runs the risk of educational content becoming irrelevant on arrival. L&D professionals must step out from underneath the pressure of becoming experts in the relevant business area each time they are tasked with creating content. We recommend instead that they become facilitators who create space for the actual stakeholders—those who work in that business area day in and day out—to step in and provide the right information. Adopting this collaborative approach helps ensure that both parties—the professionals who know how to develop engaging learning experiences and the business stakeholders who understand employee roles—agree on what’s included in the final product and are aligned throughout the creation process. 

Working together will look different depending on the company and industry, but these three essential actions can spark effective collaboration just about anywhere: 

1. Engage your stakeholders by asking questions and showing curiosity.

How exactly do L&D professionals engage the people they seek to support? If they’re working with salespeople, they can ask to sit in on calls with sales reps. Or, if L&D professionals support leaders, they could ask to sit in on team meetings, have lunch with teams, and just ask questions. These are interpersonal fact-finding missions. 

The resulting observations can help validate existing training or provide the relevant context for what needs to be created. Engaging and observing also helps build empathy with stakeholders and their employees. Imagine creating something that feels to the employee as if the experience has anticipated and answered a question before it was even verbalized. 

Building this empathy by spending time with employees also strengthens relationships across functions and departments. Over time, this is often far more valuable than L&D professionals trying to flex their educational expertise without much input from the stakeholders they are supporting. 

2. Give your stakeholders a role.

Creating space for business stakeholders to participate in the development of educational experiences also means giving stakeholders a role to play in the process. L&D professionals must take note of the stakeholder’s place in the organization before engaging. 

Stakeholders might be executive sponsors responsible for key business metrics. In this case, it’s important to find out what those metrics are and work backwards. L&D professionals can take the time to ask an executive sponsor to explain his or her view of success and all its components, and then shape relevant content. 

L&D professionals also need to interact directly with the employees for whom the content is intended. It’s critical to understand day-to-day and month-to-month challenges and realities for these individuals. This can be as easy as saying, “Since I don’t do your job, can you help me understand your world so I can make content that’s helpful for you and people like you?” 

3. Make it easy for your stakeholders. 

Once stakeholders have agreed to collaborate, L&D professionals should take the time to make their engagements feel lightweight and easy. This involves a simple, but critical tonal shift. Imagine a meeting with stakeholders that begins with the L&D professionals saying something like this: “We’re going to have a conversation. We’ll take all the notes, document everything, and summarize it. All you have to do is bring your brain!” And believe it or not, keeping a meeting stocked with some favorite snacks for stakeholders to munch on while they share and process goes a long way toward making an important meeting feel easy and comfortable. 

For business stakeholders under the pressure of aggressive metrics, underperforming teams, or changing business landscapes, this can be a relief. Especially when L&D professionals make the effort to synthesize the information they gather from stakeholders and share it back early and often, both parties can develop a rapport that helps them work together, faster. And, in turn, stakeholders may want to contribute even more. 

No matter where business stakeholders operate, the experience of seeing their ideas and their realities shared back to them in training content is powerful. In turn, putting the current experts front and center in the creation process also unburdens L&D professionals. Together, these two groups can bring a modern and collaborative approach that results in relevant, effective training. 

Juliana Stancampiano, author of “Radical Outcomes,” is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Oxygen. For more than 15 years, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, both in them and for them. Her firm’s clients include Microsoft, DXC, Delta Dental (of WA), Starbucks, F5 Networks, Avaya, and Western Digital, among others. Her in-depth experience, along with the research that Oxygen conducts and the articles she has published, has helped to shape the perspective Oxygen embraces.  To learn more, visit www.oxygenexp.com


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