Training Mojo – Developing a Culture of Training

When the training department is up and running and your courses are being delivered regularly, does that translate into your firm having a training culture? Without buy-in from stakeholders and training staff, you don’t. Here are some ways to create the culture by involving stakeholders and your staff.

Your department’s stakeholders are often subject-matter-experts in the field – they could be the company’s executives, department managers, and even high performers. Far too often, training programs are developed and delivered without any input from this important group. To avoid that mistake, involve your stakeholders from the beginning, with the development of your training. Ask them what material should be covered in your courses. Obtain step-by-step procedures from the subject-matter-experts and stakeholders. Gain approval from the executives with a simple but clear explanation of what is going to be covered in a training course and program. Your benefit is twofold: first, you’re getting stakeholder buy-in. Second, you’re getting the most accurate, field-worthy information to include in your training.

Now that you have stakeholders involved in development, don’t leave them at the door of the classroom. Involve them in the evaluation of your training programs. Let’s say you conduct an application survey of training participants at 30 or 45 days after class. Invite your stakeholders to analyze the results with you – that group may be able to provide a perspective that the training department simply doesn’t have. Invite your stakeholder group to make suggestions about the content or the suitability of the instructors. When stakeholders are constantly involved in training development and evaluation, you can maintain buy-in and create an effective working relationship.

Identified stakeholders are an important group, but what about field managers and supervisors? Many people in these roles have great ideas for training programs and development, but do not want to make a career move because they like being in the field. Just as you involve stakeholders in development and evaluation, it’s a great idea to involve middle managers and supervisors, as well. Invite them to help you determine content for new courses and suggestions that might be made to existing program and materials.

Have them explain how they came to answer your application surveys – what criteria did they use to judge an employee’s success or lack of success? Again, you’ve created, identified and communicated with a group of managers and supervisors that have a stake in training and development.

What about the training staff themselves? Training managers make the mistake of “pigeon-holing” staff, that is, they see a good niche for an instructor or developer, and they leave him or her there. When the staff burns out, you lose their buy-in. Do not assume that they’re happy just because they consistently receive excellent evaluations. To create and maintain buy-in from your staff, be sure to accurately determine what their area of expertise is. An instructor may do a good job delivering certain courses, but is the course his or her true area of expertise? After you determine expertise, find out the staff’s area of aspiration – where does each staff member want to go with his or her training career? Some may be perfectly happy doing what they currently do, but some may want to design courses, manage functions, or move on to other areas. Don’t be afraid to sit down and have this conversation annually with each staff member. By showing your interest, you’ll maintain a training culture – and the all-important buy-in of all of the training staff.

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to obtain buy-in with the key stakeholder, they are the money holders. Financial officers are sometimes the hardest to convince, especially if you can’t show metric analysis -supporting a return-on-investment for every program of training you offer. Obtain buy-in on the front end by showing what you plan to accomplish. Don’t simply say you’re going to develop 10 new courses in 2008. Tell the financial officer, as well as all stakeholders, exactly what courses you are going to develop, who the target audience will be, and how these program are expected to impact the bottom line, increases in production, decrease in turnover, or increase in customer satisfaction.

This tactic may not win every time, but you are still going to create a more functional working relationship with these stakeholders who ultimately control your budget.

By taking addressing these areas early and often, you can create and maintain a training culture with your stakeholders, managers, training staff, and financial staff.