Tailored To Perfection: How to Ensure a Successful Customized Training EngagementMelinda Stallings | Adjunct Faculty in Continuing Education, Louisiana State University
In each tailored corporate training interaction we are seeking one outcome: success. The challenge arises when we are fully cognizant that there is another party that is also seeking that same outcome. Our definition of success and their definition of success may be similar or vastly different.
In order to be truly successful in affording the ultimate success to our clients, it is imperative that we begin to think from the perspective of their needs. How do they envision their success?
An easy way to remember the necessary components to supporting a client’s success is to use the acronym SERVE.
S: Seek information
The first step of SERVE is critical. This step will form the foundation of whether your deliverables will be successful. It is imperative that you uncover the real reason behind the need for the learning program in question. Many times, those who are requesting the training are describing symptoms of a much greater issue. In consultative discussion, it is your responsibility to ascertain as much information as necessary to ensure that you will be reaching the correct target audience on the target subject material. Sometimes clients don’t know exactly what they need, they just know they need something to be different. Here are a few powerful questions that can be used in your discovery process.
- What will indicate to you that your organization has achieved success in this area?
- What does your ultimate outcome look like?
- What key behaviors are you seeking to influence?
- What situations are manifesting resulting in your desire for training?
- How long has the situation(s) been affecting the workplace?
- Will this be face-to-face or on-line learning?
- What is your anticipated window of employee engagement?
- Who are the constituents involved and in what numbers?
In this second step, you are engaging the client and bringing together all necessary materials and information to further ensure the success of your learning program.
Consider the stakeholders and participants. Sometimes it is important to develop and administer an assessment to those who will be participating in the program. Assessments are an effective way to obtain more objective information about the people and the processes involved in the recommended program of action. The view of a situation from an administrator’s standpoint and an employee’s standpoint can sometimes be different. Using some form of assessment can offer you greater input into facilitating a program resulting in success, based upon the questions initially posed to your client. It is important that you utilize the assessment(s) that will best fill your client’s needs. Formal assessments include 360’s, conflict resolution, change, process management, etc. If a formal assessment is not called for, at least a 5- to 7-question assessment independently developed, based upon the information discovered in the “seek information” step should be sent to those involved. I have realized great success with this latter approach—people will volunteer information to a consultant that they would not otherwise divulge to organizational administrators. An additional benefit is the opening of dialogue and the building of trust through this initial participant contact with you, the provider of services (facilitator).
You as the provider must also engage in determining which of your already existing materials are relevant and necessary to the success of this program. If there is further research that must be done in a particular area? If there is an area of focus in which you require more salient information, you must compile all information necessary to form the outline and the subsequent engagement materials to ensure “success.” Engage with other subject matter experts if necessary, even bring them on board if you feel that action would further contribute to the success of your learning program.
And finally, plan how you will actively engage the participants. Research has shown that we retain more by “doing” than by just listening or watching or a combination of both. Be engaging with your audience to encourage actionable takeaways from your program. This will certainly take on a different tenor if you are conducting an on-line learning program rather than a face-to-face program. On-line requires that built-in quizzes, task animations and such must be utilized to ensure engagement. Face-to-face learning lends itself to individual, partner and group activities as well as role-playing and presentations. In every instance, the more transferrable the activity, the more likely it can be successfully assimilated into the workplace.
The behaviors and outcomes that employees are currently exhibiting are obviously not working. Hence, the necessity for a learning program. In this step, it is your responsibility to re-educate participants in other ways, more successful ways, of approaching their given situation. They already possess what they believe to be the education of how to complete their tasks, whether that’s interacting with co-workers or working on a multi-million-dollar expansion project. As the provider of services, you are accountable for re-educating these employees to a more success-oriented strategy.
It is here that employees need to be engaged. The range of years of performing tasks in a certain manner range from less than 1 to more than 25 in many situations. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to connect the importance of this learning program to each participant’s task orientation. Remember also that you are engaging all types of personalities and perceptions of reality. You are the expert. Based upon the work you’ve done in the previous two steps, your goal is for each person to be accountable for implementing actionable items from the learning program.
Assessments have been conducted—perhaps even a pre- and post-session assessment will be administered. Learning objectives are set. Program parameters are firmly outlined. Participant guides or on-line learning modules are polished to perfection and prepared to facilitate further learning. Activities are engaging and in line with the learning outcomes and success determinants. You are keenly aware of what success looks like for these participants and your client. All due diligence has been used as you re-educate your participants to the success parameters outlined by your client.
Successful relationships are built upon trust and respect. In every instance where a client has indicated success in achieving their desired results, there has been a correlating high degree of trust and respect. When you verify, through evaluation of the program and through follow up conversations with the client that the learning program is having the desired effects, you are further solidifying the success quotient with your client. Go beyond an initial post-session evaluation to one-month, three-month and six-month verifications. Changes do not occur overnight and people need time and encouragement to stay the course of new methodologies. Verification and assistance will continue to ensure the success of your client relationship.
Enhance a continued partnership with your client. In order to maintain that success status, check in periodically. These check-ins are not to sell anything; they’re merely to say hello and touch base. If there are articles or white papers that have relevance to the consulting services that you provided, send these to your point of contact. If you have access to emails and are authorized, send them directly to your participants. Reiterate that these are further success measures that you wanted to share with them.
When you enhance your relationship with clients in unexpected ways, you will continue to enhance the success relationship that will build your stellar reputation. Your client will feel more at ease referring your services to another friend or colleague who may be facing a similar situation. They will definitely be more inclined to enlist your services if future needs should arise. Relationships rule. Successful relationships soar!