The Subtle Art of a Results-Driven Training Brief
When a consumer products goods (CPG) company I worked for was acquired by Unilever, I sat through a two-day workshop on how to boldly brief creative firms on the company’s objectives. This was great for the marketing team, but it left me wondering…why don’t we invest just as much time and energy briefing toward effective training goals?
With companies cutting spend, getting buy-in from key decision-makers and meetings with busy subject matter experts (SMEs) can become an uphill battle. Teams are running leaner than ever during these unprecedented times, while many have been asked to upskill and take on more responsibilities due to cutbacks. Being respectful of the already stretched thin attention spans from all with a seat at the table is more important now than ever.
By leveraging the most salient strategies adapted from the briefing playbook used by some of the world’s most recognizable brands, effective training kickoffs can align all parties and distill the essence and goals of the training program being built.
5 Things to Keep in Mind
Here are five things to keep in mind when kicking off a new training program to help you maximize both time and budget, whether you are a leader, SME, or Training professional:
1. Involve key decision-makers upfront. Inviting key decision-makers to the kickoff will inevitably align the rest of the group on measurable business results and training goals. One of my colleagues from Disney taught me that a well-organized, laser-focused meeting will save time downstream for data mining the right content from SMEs and help inform the need-to-know vs. nice-to-know content.
2. Get clear on delivery. Persuade content owners toward various delivery styles that have a proven track record. There are myriad ever-changing mediums to deliver content, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to be adaptable. Coming to the table with insight on all of the various forms of training delivery available to you can help you can ascertain if a digital or blended environment will work best to bring the material to life.
3. Press key decision-makers for ROI. Articulating the results of training is paramount to the perceived success of the training program. In a prominent training event I attended, I was taken aback to hear that this was a question frustrating many Training professionals. Aside from the qualitative metrics such as company buzz and learning management system (LMS) chatter, quantifiable metrics such as reduced churn, and increased adoption of newness can add metrics to measure the success of any training program. Part of what makes this difficult is alignment from leadership, so investing in these conversations at the onset of the kickoff is key.
4. Project manage your training roadmap. As a next step after the briefing, schedule check-in dates for the key decision-makers to ensure training content is on the right track. Between check-ins, the team can architect ideas and work together to build ideas out. Applying start-up-style agility to iterate on your versions will give leaders something to react to, and learners something to relate to.
5. Operationalize the process of content development. Training is part science and part art, all structured around the incredible philosophies of adult learning. Inevitably, new briefings will come in waves, and the team is likely to be in one stage of creation on a course already in motion, while a new training program kicks off. By setting up a learning roadmap from the onset of a training rollout, stakeholders and the team can prioritize what is most needed and impactful without sacrificing time or additional resources.
One of the biggest illustrations of this appears in this case study with a client who outsourced their software training project to us during the pandemic:
After weeks of developing training with subject matter experts, a new key decision-maker emerged, causing the bulk of the training material to be discarded and the team to nearly start over. Once this new key-decision maker was identified, they were pivotal to the kickoff of all future training program kickoffs and check-ins, cutting the development time in half. Leaders met with us every week, while subject matter experts guided the content between meetings. Leaders were able to see progress between meetings and appreciated the iterative process to guide the project toward their vision and desired ROI.
What’s more, as the pandemic slowly unfolded, we guided the learning from live instructor-led training to a full suite of e-learning tools. Because authoring content for live vs. online courses requires entirely different skill sets and infrastructures, working to find a solution to reach the newly dispersed learners was a challenge that wasn’t captured in the initial briefing. While there was no way to predict the effect COVID-19 would have on the workplace, understanding the delivery method up front from that point forward inevitably preserved resources.
Overall, 20 online courses were delivered in four months, and training objectives were measured against the ROI determined in the kickoff, which resulted in a growing appetite for training throughout the organization and the creation of training positions in-house to keep the momentum going.
Creating Raving Fans of Training
Leaders are tasked with pushing to meet business goals while being mindful to not sacrifice their team’s valuable time. Learning how to take advantage of effective briefings helps leverage your expertise while borrowing a briefing mindset to turn the workforce into raving fans of training.
Candice L. Sylvia is a former Fortune 500 sales and training expert who founded Results Training Group to offer companies of all sizes outsourced training resources. Stay connected with her for more weekly professional tips on LinkedIn.