Do you have the Right Approach to Training?

If your initial response to that headline is “of course,” I hope you’ll read on. Because as simple as it may seem, approaches to training continue to evolve. And, the “best approach” can get lost in the rush to deliver or the desire to fit a program within a certain time frame. Time is a reality and costs are, as well. But skills development should trump them both. As the pace of work and expectations of workers continue to increase, employees have to be given the skills to be successful in their roles.

In the last few years, we’ve noticed that some companies pick a training model and push all training through the same approach. So, an employee who is being onboarded goes through the same approach as an employee who needs to renew health benefits. An employee who needs to get certified as a scrum master is following the same approach as someone who needs to learn how to access reports on Salesforce.

That can’t be right!  

We explored e-learning as part of our approach several years ago. At the time, we had access to initial work that a few clients were doing, and we explored formats and approaches with them. As those conversations progressed, I quickly realized that the success of e-learning was based on scale and not impact. Several months after the kick-off, I asked about results. The metrics they shared were accessibility and completion rates. There were no metrics tied to impact. 

For the SW&A team, that was a big concern because we’re vested in an approach that drives change and delivers impact. So I went back to hear from participants who had taken part in e-learning and found that their focus was on completion as well. They were pleased with how quickly they had completed a course, even though follow-up testing revealed a less than 20% retention rate on applying what they learned. I asked the leader about those dismal results, but she didn’t see it the same way. She told me that she was OK with a B- on impact as long as she could show that she was delivering access and information.

And that’s when I knew it wasn’t viable for us. That’s not a criticism of e-learning; it’s confirmation that one approach doesn’t fit every training need. And if you’ve met anyone who watched a 30-minute video on impactful communication and then delivered an impactful message, I’d love to meet them. It’s not an easy skill and few have mastered it.

It’s also a different expectation. And it illustrates the difference in awareness and adoption.

Awareness vs Adoption

One group with a large training need is the sales organization. This “go to market” group needs to understand products they sell, understand tools they use for forecasting, and execute really well on leading a customer conversation. If you were a sales leader thinking about the best approach to training in all these areas, you’d be smart to think about expectations.

Where are the expectations highest? Where do you need a salesperson to understand information and where do you need a salesperson to adopt new skills for impact?

A salesperson needs to know the products and the different capabilities the products deliver. But no one is going to ask them to build the product at the customer site. In fact, once the conversation advances to product adoption or implementation, the salesperson is going to get a lot of help from sales engineers and product designers; those are the groups who have mastered adoption of the product.

A salesperson has to adopt skills to lead an effective customer conversation. It’s not just knowing what a good conversation looks like or having tips for connecting with a customer. It’s learning a skill and adopting it in a way that you can repeat it over and over again.  It’s driving change and helping a salesperson drive impact.   

A smart sales leader will invest time on the adoption skills and leverage time on the information skills.

And, here’s the most interesting part. Every company is talking about change and trying to help the work and people evolve with that change. But the process of how people learn hasn’t changed as much, and a lot of companies get confused by that. You may have employees who are impatient and easily distracted, and they want to control the way they get information. That’s not the same as the pace at which they learn and adopt a skill. Adopting a new skill takes exploration, a deep understanding of fundamentals and repetition to build confidence and consistency.   

We’ve put a stake in the ground on the best approach to building effective communicators. We believe it takes a deep dive upfront to understand fundamentals and set personal goals. And then a communicator needs practice to reinforce progress. Our training has remained consistent on the best way to embed the fundamentals and continues to evolve as we expand to innovative ways to support practice and build communities for coaching. We believe that’s the best approach.

Do you have the right approach?

We can help you figure it out. With the new year ahead and a new set of expectations defined for your team, we can help your communicators adopt new skills to drive results.

We’re here when you need us.

Sally Williamson & Associates