By: Doug Harward, Training Industry, Inc., April 15, 2011
Please note that these actions require you to break the paradigm of traditional, non-strategic, academic thinking. For that reason, you won’t find familiar bromides such as Reduce the Cost of Training. We’re past that. I promise that if you follow one or more of these tips, you will create sustainable value for your business and gain valuable respect for organization.
- Leverage external resources. No single organization owns all of the knowledge that their business and customer base needs. Your primary role is to leverage externally available knowledge by bringing it in-house for the organization’s benefit. Resources should also be leveraged when possible. For example, external facilities like classroom space can make a good economic alternative to maintaining real estate in-house. Similarly, content development companies can help create excellent courseware on demand, relieving organizations of the fixed expense of instructional designers. This process is often referred to as “Re-engineering the Supply Chain for Learning”. Some call it outsourcing training services. The bottom line, do what you do best and let others do what they do best, and take advantage of the cost savings when available.
- Think globally, act locally. It’s important to realize that your company is part of a vast economic marketplace, one that utilizes resources available from around the globe. If yours is a multinational company, you no doubt conduct training events in many countries and languages. Just as you regard your training obligations from an international perspective, you should also consider the value achieved by global sourcing of training related services. Be sure to translate and culturally localize material to the specific audience you are serving.
Create a global learning strategy and deploy it using local talent. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen organizations make is to deliver leadership training to European or Asian employees using North American talent. Leadership styles are different and don’t always translate directly. Be conscious of using local talent for local training.
- Get closer to marketing. Companies today spend more money to train their customers than they do their employees. Why? Because marketers know the value of knowledgeable customers to the bottom line. The common denominator between the training organization and the marketing department – we are both in the business to influence behavior. We use the same technologies, the same techniques, and often the same tools to perform our jobs. Both of us use the Internet and media to deliver our message. We should work together to leverage cost. Meet with your marketing executives to see how your organization can leverage product knowledge services to drive new revenues for the business. Start thinking like a marketing executive and see how you can drive business for the company. A great example is how Clinique created a ‘training’ program teaching potential customers how to apply their products at the point of sale. They leveraged the necessary intelligence of how to use their products into a useful service which teaches customers to use the product, ultimately creating a more satisfied customer.
- Simulate real working conditions. Effective training is not about sending someone into a classroom and thinking it will change their behavior. Education may be good for the classroom, but training is best done by doing. We learn best by actually performing a specific activity, by failing to do it correctly and learning from our mistakes. By simulating the actual working environment, training executives create valuable learning opportunities for employees, customers, and suppliers. Fortunately, new learning technologies have created more simulation opportunities than ever before, and at affordable prices. Effective training means using them to your advantage. If airplane pilots can learn to handle the most risky and dangerous situations in flight simulators, maybe it makes sense for your business.
- Rationalize portfolios and consolidate vendors. Quit doing the stuff that doesn’t matter. If courses have no value to your business, get rid of them. By the same token, don’t engage multiple vendors for the same program. That’s wasteful. Begin by classifying training activities based on their strategic value to the business. I suggest doing it on a scale ranging from low strategic and low proprietary endeavors (like desktop training) to high strategic and proprietary ones (such as process and product training). If the program is of low strategic value and low proprietary value, STOP DOING IT! Rationalize and consolidate accordingly.
- Provide all-time access to information. As any younger employee will tell you, the work day is no longer a 9-to-5 existence. E-mail, Blackberries and the Internet are integral tools that have created a new freedom in time and place. This includes training, which needs to serve a client base that’s not interested in attending a classroom event for a learning exercise that could be delivered portably, and on the learner’s own schedule. This generation is accustomed to finding information when they need it. Think about supplementing your structured learning programs by providing real time access to knowledge based information.
- Leverage intellectual capital into knowledge products. The marketplace for intellectual capital is exploding before our eyes with amazing new technologies and products arriving daily to serve us better. IP is now a product in itself – not just information that manifests itself into products. As leaders of learning services, we have a responsibility to seek ways to create additional value for our company by introducing ways to leverage the organization’s knowledge into products or services the company can take to market. A great example is how Cisco provides training certification programs on technologies such as VOIP. Another example is how Pearson Learning Solutions leverages the books and materials they publish into training programs for their authors. Doing so creates new revenue streams and greater value for the business.
No, there is no magic in the number Seven. I’m sure there are other creative steps that training executives could take, and I welcome those suggestions. If you know of any other proven initiatives, please share them by sending me a note. You can email me at email@example.com.
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