Lack of support has killed more than its share of promising training programs—and sent many disenchanted trainers in search of new careers. We all probably could complain eloquently about this problem, but if we want strong support for training, we have to earn it.
One way to do that is to run the Training function as a true business. Like any department in a company, Training has clients who first and foremost want results. In their minds, training is only a means to an end, even if they don’t clearly express that sentiment—even if they come to us demanding programs we know won’t solve their real problems.
The most important aspect of running Training as a business is understanding the needs and focus of the company’s customer base, and the strategies the organization is using to address those customers. What are the organization’s problem areas and its strengths? Where do the biggest business opportunities lie? Searching for answers to these questions can help trainers be proactive rather than reactive in meeting customer needs, and help to design training in harmony with the company’s current industry mindset.
Trainers also need to see themselves as results producers first and deliverers of training second. We solve performance problems. We close the gap between what is and what ought to be. Training is the vehicle, not the destination.
Finally, trainers should take time to formulate their own strategies. What products and services can you offer that ultimately will help the organization’s customers meet their needs and capitalize on opportunities? Determine just who Training’s customers are and how Training is positioned with them. What kind of feedback can you provide all the beneficiaries of your training—the senders, sendees, and payers—so they realize the results you’re attempting to deliver? What competitive advantages do you have over any other provider of training, and how can you demonstrate those advantages so they’re viewed as benefits in your customer’s eyes?
Consider the implications of S.W.O.T. as you work to position your business with clients: the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities (where expansion has high probability), and Threats (areas where growth and existing business are in jeopardy). Threats and opportunities present the best areas for trainers to improve their clout in an organization by proactively designing solutions that address those needs.
By educating yourself about your company’s current competitive position, getting closer to the customers of the organization and clients of Training, and designing training with that new knowledge in hand, you can expect stronger organizational support for Training will follow close behind.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
Here are questions I’ve coached my clients to use any time they’re asked for training:
- What’s the problem you’re trying to solve (with this training)?
- What other solutions have you tried? With what results?
- What’s the cost or consequence if this problem remains unsolved?
- When did this problem first start? Is it getting worse—or staying the same?
- What are the results you’re looking for if this problem is solved?
How would you measure the results?
Asking these questions (as well as others of your own choosing) will help ensure that you deliver results, not just training. And using them will increase your credibility in the organization. Sometimes we show more expertise by the questions we ask than by the answers we give.
Until next month—continue to add value and make a difference.
Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Master Trainer’s Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.