Picture yourself in a conference room with your team, excitedly filling a whiteboard with the designs of your next great training program. It’s going to be the most valuable thing the organization has ever seen.
Now imaging down the hall there is another conference room filled with people equally buzzing on the best way to limit new ideas.
You know a day will arrive when the thinking of both rooms collide. You’ll be facing the inquiry of “is it worth it?” sooner or later. As part of the creation process, add a game plan for proving worth before you launch. Draw at least two or three ‘rings of defense’ on your whiteboard. Here are a few of my favorite:
Proving worth by the numbers is certainly an attractive and fashionable approach. These are the Return on Investment calculations that yield quantifiable benefits. Unfortunately, not all learning can easily produce tangible results, such as sales gained or productivity increased, based on the isolated input of training. I’ve seen the ROI approach stretched beyond its credible limits in some cases. If your CFO won’t buy it, don’t try it.
While not meeting the quant hurdle, finding indicators of impact does show a business bottom-line mindset. Discovering good impact stories is a challenge so don’t go it alone. Set up a learning scheme where the participate feels equal ownership for application and validating value. Too often we cut out application planning time for the same of stuffing as much content in the program as possible. Consider dedicating 70% of the program time to content and reserves 30% to work application, including realistic simulations and practice sessions. The key is to set an upfront expectation of application and partnership in creating the ‘worth’ of the program. Then follow with rigor and accountability to document business outcomes.
Strategy Enabler Ring
Linking the learning effort to an important business objective seems fundamental to our work yet we sometime times fail to make a clear and credible case. Good examples of learning-as-central-to-strategy include sales skills training to drive new product introductions, next-generation media marketing development for new customer insights and proven lean productivity and execution tool mastery. Make sure it’s a real contribution and not some vague training sideshow to the main stage of running the business. Be an active student of the strategy formulation process in your organization so you can identify the mission-critical opportunities for learning.
Perhaps the best approach is to have some of the folks in the other room join your cause. Convert a skeptic to a champion by drafting supporters in one of three ways.
First, recruit for an engaged and credible senior sponsor. Support from above does makes a difference but I know it’s hard sell sometimes. Their resistance is because they are are quite distracted due to overcommitted calendars with competing demands on their time and attention. But they also have sincere interest in contributing to worthwhile endeavors – if it makes sense to them. Your job is to understand his or her business agenda and how your learning program fits.
Second, nothing beats the first-hand experience of leaders in the classroom being part of the teaching. I’ve seen over the years the enthusiasm of senior leaders for learning programs as they become part of the event. By serving as faculty or guest speakers, they see and experience the energy of a motivated room of learners.
Third, the immediate manager of the training participant should be considered a sponsor. In most cases, the immediate manager will be in the best position to see the ‘worth’ of the learning and should be beneficiary of employee improvement. Why not make the effort to bring him or her along as value partner? Some of the most productive ways include briefing managers in advance on the learning objectives, content, and how they can reinforce the learning after the program.
In summary, the way to win the ‘worth’ challenge is to plan ways to capture value before you initiative the program. Think of it as creating rings of value that draw in the skeptics.
(c) 2015 Kevin Wilde