It’s Difficult. And It’s Worth It.
It’s no secret that building an efficient and effective global training organization is hard work. At the 11th hour, best intentions to deliver value – where the value of training often best proves itself – can be cast aside to simply show value. But shying away from the challenge would be a mistake. A world-class training organization can deliver tangible wins that help drive the business—and the metrics to prove it.
Studies show that, beyond a positive impact on employee morale, retention, and recruitment, having a world-class training organization correlates with a higher total shareholder return. It can also reduce risk (critical in today’s compliance environment) by effectively training employees and diligently tracking the training.
So what is world-class training? It’s industry-leading; it’s a role model for other industries and a known and significant strength for a company. It can impact a company’s performance enormously. If you’ve ever used the terms ‘leading the way,’ ‘outstanding training performance,’ or ‘the best at leading from within,” to describe your training organization, then whether you know it or not, you’re on your way to creating a magnificent training organization. If that’s the case, then read on; these best practices will give you what it takes to transform the desire for world-class training into a reality – and the timelines in which you can make them happen.
Transforming to World Class: Five Tried and True Best Practices
Perhaps the most important best practice – and the first step – in creating a global training organization is to establish a formal connection with the affiliate’s business, with the intent to understand the affiliate’s strategic objectives and becoming a strategic partner. Without that, a training organization may simply provide “knowledge” content for the affiliate—to do with what they will—and avoid any effort to ensure that skill levels are where they need to be in order to truly capture value.
As part of this trusted connection, you need to help your affiliate understand how focusing training on a very few (i.e., three or fewer) behaviors that are absolutely necessary for people to successfully perform the critical aspects of their jobs is the way to go—instead of focusing on more general topics in a misguided effort hit all components of the competency model. Those select behaviors connect to their strategic objectives, and that goes a long way toward enhancing personal ownership.
The training organization must define its own path and come to an agreement with company leaders on what success looks like. Do this by creating metrics and accountability to drive that success. Return on investment in training, despite all claims of having it figured out, is nearly impossible to objectively prove; but, aligning training outcomes metrics to business objectives is a useful way to put a yardstick to the training department’s activities. One way to do this, in practice, is to leverage Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model—reaction, learning, behavior, and result—to make the point. While the results will likely only be relative in nature and provide directional guidance, the point is to build a strong narrative, then share it with company leaders so that they can see the results. That will provide both value to the organization, and, over time and as more data get collected, an increasingly powerful narrative.
Identify the Gaps and Customize the Training
The next best practice for building strong global training is to use assessment and evaluation outputs to determine learning paths, laying the foundation for individualized learning. Training organizations need to first determine what good is, and then measure team member knowledge, skill level, and capability to establish their strengths and identify gaps where the training and development focus needs to be. Otherwise, the training organization will make assumptions about needs that may not match real-world strengths and weaknesses.
Further, knowledge and behavioral assessments need to be ongoing. Knowledge and skills can fade over time, and role-specific requirements may shift.
However, tread with caution; one size does not fit all. The biggest mistake often seen is when global headquarters decides that training will be delivered globally and expects one training format to work in every location. Instead, training must adapt to culture, language, regional nuances, specialty markets, changing market landscape, varying country sizes, and different styles of learning and customer needs. Therefore, because the learning format and contact approach may need to change, this assessment process is a great way to help prioritize how to effectively shape any global training organization.
Reward Peer Mentorships
Another best practice for enabling world-class training is to leverage peers for informal learning and collaboration. This unlocks the 70% of learning that is experiential, or, on the job. However, it’s not enough to simply give someone the title of peer mentor. Develop specific, reasonably detailed direction to allow informal learning and collaboration to take place, whether it is through social media, intranet message boards, or specific time set aside in team meetings to share ideas. Further, supportive structure demonstrates to participants that the company is investing in their development and has a culture that encourages and rewards coaching and the sharing of expertise.
Adopt Diverse Modalities
One final boost down the path toward developing a world-class training organization is delivering training that is adapted to the environment; that is, matching the right modality (e.g., e-modules, e-zines, podcasts, etc.) to the desired outcome and optimal effectiveness for the learner. A solution developed across a learning continuum is nearly always more effective than any single event; therefore, it often make sense to design a curriculum that delivers content via a wide array of modalities.
Keep in mind, the evolution of mobile technology can make is easier to assess, pull through, and coach to ensure the lessons have been learned and the behavioral change persists.
The Transformation Timeline
Transforming to world-class status requires commitment to excellence from all levels of the organization and can easily take years of committed effort. And while it’s an ongoing process, the first three years are critical.
Year One Dedicate the first year to setting the vision and objectives for the organization. This includes understanding the current state of affairs and identifying the knowledge gaps in key areas. From there, it is possible to develop a narrative that shares the strategy and implementation plan of the training organization. During this first year, the training organization should take the time to discuss its vision with other stakeholders, gain buy-in from management, and identify quick wins that demonstrate to the stakeholders that something different is afoot. By incorporating company leadership into programs, the training organization can establish a culture of leader-led training.
Year Two Year two is the transformative year. The training organization can begin executing on priorities and monitoring success against pre-defined and specific metrics. Successes should be shared throughout the organization, while plans are modified to overcome challenges.
Year Three In year three, the training organization may actually begin to achieve world-class status. Businesses within the industry and possibly outside it are taking notice. Stakeholders see clear value. During this period, it is important to continue to execute priorities, share successes, and build sustainability into the programs.
The organization should also benchmark against other identified industry-leading and world-class organizations to see how it compares.
While only a few companies can actually build and sustain a world-class training organization, companies can still take steps to drive effective training, even if they don’t have the buy-in and investment required to attain an elusive “world-class” designation. While chipping away at efforts to align stakeholders, they can still apply a laser focus on identifying and executing on business-critical priorities. Nothing’s stopping them from connecting with affiliates or supporting peer mentorships. While working to overcome challenges, it will gradually establish organizational excellence, show value, and become a trusted business partner to the broader company. And while it may not yet be “world-class,” in only a few short years, it could be closer to having what it takes to earn a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive industry—as it continues to work toward world-class status.