Will Kenny

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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
612-978-3050

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What good are your best business practices if employees don't use them reliably?

If you run a function, a department, or a business, you have probably experienced the frustration of collecting and refining best business practices, only to see them fall by the wayside as employees respond to daily demands. Or perhaps they are applied haphazardly, with wide differences in execution among different locations or different employees, eroding the return on your investment in strategic and tactical planning, in identifying and communicating how business should be done.

When you first realize you aren't getting the results you want, you push harder. Sometimes, by the time they ask for my help, clients are suffering from what I call "American Tourist Abroad Syndrome":

You know how sometimes Americans travel to other lands, only to find themselves trying to communicate with people who don't speak English? Their response may be to talk more and more slowly, and louder and louder. All that does is expend more and more energy, amid growing frustration, without getting results.

Sometimes it is easy to jump to the conclusion that employees are not listening, or do not care. But that's usually not the case (or when it is a factor, it isn't the only one).

You don't need a change of employees, you need a change of employee communications and training related to the best business practice you are promoting to the workforce.

Are You Like My Clients?

If you are struggling to establish and sustain best practices for your company, you could be:

  • a business owner searching for a way to get all your employees on the same page;
  • a training director of a large organization, tasked with onboarding new talent;
  • a project manager launching a new product, service, procedure, or program;
  • a regional manager frustrated by the inconsistencies in the service delivered by different locations;
  • a sales/marketing director striving to duplicate the success of your best performers among the rest of your sales reps;
  • a manager of a function such as audit, quality assurance, legal affairs, compliance, HR, or any other key unit that depends on employees who are not direct reports to apply best practices;
  • an independent professional looking for ways to bolster your influence on clients, to get them to actually take your good advice.

. . . or anyone else whose job is to get other employees to do their jobs right!

What They Have in Common

My clients come from a variety of industries and types of organizations. I work with very large corporations (>100,000 employees) and with individual consultants. While some contacts are just around the corner, I have completed large projects for clients I have never met face to face, around the country (see a sampling of my client list).

My direct client contact could be the business owner, or a training manager/director, or someone who is in charge of "something else" (e.g., enhancing credit quality, boosting sales team performance) who relies on effective communication of best practices to get results.

But whatever the demographics, job title, industry, or business environment, many of the clients who work with me fit this pattern:

  • They see a problem with how employees do their work. Things aren't working as well as they should, or too much work goes into fixing things that shouldn't be happening in the first place.
  • They are already engaged in communicating best business practices to employees (or to their own clients), but they aren't getting the results they are aiming for.
  • They know their current communication/training efforts aren't effective, but they don't know why. Frequently, they just pushing harder with what they are already doing until they can't ignore the fact that it isn't working.
  • They use their own staff to deliver at least part of the message (perhaps with support from online tools, standard documentation, etc.). Using internal staff strengthens the culture, customizes the content in real time, and conserves resources. But they need a blueprint their own people can follow to communicate more powerfully.
  • The best practice at issue is a core practice in the business, meaning that the message of its value and application need to be repeated regularly. Typically the best business practice is shared again and again, both with new hires and with continuing employees.

Above all, they know that . . .

It Doesn't Have to Be That Way

Great companies, large or small, thrive on effective communication. In fact, no matter what your job title is, communication is the most important part of your job. (Don't believe me? See my article, "Your Job Description")

Some companies share a common view of "how things work" across levels, across departments, among new employees and the old hands, at every location where they do business. These companies enjoy some significant benefits from their common culture:

  • Efficiency. When everyone does things in standard fashion, common systems and tools can support their work. You don't have to maintain different infrastructure in different places, or among different (but similar) functions, to achieve the same thing.
  • Backup/Redundancy. When someone is out on leave, or even leaves the company, the next person who tackles those duties will already be doing things the same way. The capacity of your employees to cover for one another, without dropping the ball, is greatly enhanced.
  • Cost Savings. It is almost always more expensive to fix a problem than it is to prevent it. Smart companies invest a little more in getting things done right the first time, and a lot less in fixing things that have gone wrong.
  • Disaster Prevention. We have all seen businesses killed by crucial lapses in policy, ethics, or public relations. When regulators, or the media, or a lawsuit can turn employee errors into life-threatening events for your company, consistent and effective communication and reinforcement of best business practices is your best insurance policy.
  • Scalability & Responsiveness. When everyone is working from the same "script," you can push new ideas through the organization much faster. That great new product opportunity, powerful new customer service initiative, or best practice that you have uncovered in one location or function can be implemented organization-wide in a fraction of the time it will take the competition to do it.

The difference between companies that are struggling and their more successful rivals is:

Whether or not regularly communicating and reinforcing best business practices
across the board is a core activity of the organization,
or something they "mean to do better when they can get around to it."

Everybody means to communicate best practices, with impact, to their employees. In fact, sometimes the company puts a lot of resources into establishing best practices, with mediocre results.

How does that happen so often?

What Goes Wrong?

My clients are dedicated, intelligent people. Why, then, are they having trouble getting employees to reliably execute their best business practices?

The typical path to an effective best practice goes something like this:

  1. Company Leadership Devises Strategy. Top management chooses strategies, standards, and values that will guide employee behavior and performance. They set goals and figure out how they, through their employees, will achieve those goals.
  2. Management Gathers Best Practices. For example, in larger organizations, each function or department looks for best practices and seeks to spread them to all their employees. Some best practices may even be disseminated company-wide.
  3. Employees Implement the "Theory". All of the above is the "theory" of how employees should do their work. The practice is what they actually do, and to the extent that it differs from the theory, company management is going to be disappointed in the results (not to mention other stakeholders).

(Of course, in a small business, these steps can overlap. A small business owner may be engaged in all three steps, for instance.)

As they say, "The Best Laid Plans . . .'

. . . go oft astray, typically between steps 2 & 3 above.

Decades of experience have taught me to look for problems first in these three places:

  1. Poor Communication Design. The methods and material being used to reach employees don't fit the goals and conditions of the situation. The wrong content may be included, or delivered in the wrong order. The delivery might not fit the subject, whether self-study or seminar training. Key audience characteristics have been overlooked in developing the message.
  2. Lack of Development Capacity. Good communication tools and powerful training are not being delivered because the client lacks either the time or the skills to create it. Training departments farm out development to me because they don't have the internal resources to get the project done. Business owners and function managers recruit my services because they don't have the instructional design and writing skills to create effective materials.
  3. Failure of Reliable Execution. As any consultant knows, good advice doesn't apply itself. Some organizations come up with a plan for developing clear, effective communications, but the crunch of daily crises and immediate demands blurs their focus, and results are disappointing. Especially for small business owners, outside coaching can help maintain the cycle of communication until the habit is strong enough to maintain itself.

I Can Help

I am dedicated to diagnosis before treatment. When you come to me with a bottleneck in your employee communications, I apply my experience to figure out why the message isn't "sticking" with employees before taking steps to fix the problem.

If your attempts to establish sustainable best business practices are not successful, I will work with you to achieve:

  • An "Aha!" experience, an eye-opening diagnosis of your situation that leads you to say, "So THAT'S what has been going wrong with this!"
  • A clear solution design, so you know what it will take to fix the problem, who is providing the resources, what it will cost, and when it will be done.
  • Effective execution of the solution, producing the tools you need, and, if necessary, the coaching you need to apply them with impact.
  • All the guidance and tools you need to implement the solution on your own, to "do it yourself" (or through another third-party facilitator). Once the project is completed, you don't have to come back to me to carry out the training or communications. (But, as you'll see in a moment, most clients do come back to me, for additional projects.)
  • A long-term solution, one that you can apply again and again to continue to promote and reinforce your best business practices.

Clients rely on me to "treat" the three common conditions "diagnosed" above:

  1. You get better instructional and communication design, based on your message, your audience, your culture, your goals, your resources, and your deadlines.You get a blueprint for overcoming the obstacles you have encountered, with a clear path to addressing your best practice issues with your employees.
  2. You can apply additional "muscle power" to complement your staff (or lack thereof), filling in exactly the gaps that are holding things up. Sometimes I design and create large projects. Sometimes I provide just instructional design services, or content writing, or editing existing material for structure, clarity, and impact. Clients who don't have the training/writing staff to keep up simply contract my services to fit their needs.
  3. Particularly with smaller businesses, you can get support in carrying out the design and implementing the training. By helping clients guide their own staff to promote particular best practices, I ensure they get full value for the design and development services they pay for.

How do I know all this works?

The best evidence is the loyalty of my clients. I am accustomed to measuring client relationships in years, as each successful project generates new collaborations. My ability to create lasting solutions, and to perform to high standards during projects, leads clients to turn to me automatically when they encounter their next "best practices bottleneck."

Consider that:

  • The vast majority of my clients have done multiple projects with me.
  • I have been supporting training/communication activities for several clients for more than 10 years, and some for more than 20 years.

Here's an example: in 1989, a large bank hired me to do the instructional design, and much of the activity/content development, for a year-long "curriculum" for commercial loan officers. Apparently that design worked, as:

  • Wells Fargo is still using it (with some tweaks over the years, of course). Indeed, I'm honored to be invited, even though I am not an employee, to a celebration honoring the 100th Graduating Class of the College of Commercial Credit.
  • Both of the bank's project leaders are still clients of mine, even though they have moved on to other organizations.

Simply put, working with me is a smooth and rewarding process during the project, and produces value for your company when the project is done.

That's why, after we work together one time, you will call me again.

Please, Take a Look Around

With a little prowling around this site, you can:

And if you don't easily find all the information you want, please drop me a line!

 

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Happy No Whining New Year!

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"I help countless financial institutions and trade associations enhance employee performance and implement more reliable and efficient processes in their operations. For twenty years, I've depended on Will to create training tools that contribute to my own success, and that of my clients. From effective instructional design to clear and engaging content development, Will delivers what I need, when I need it, again and again."
-- Jeff Judy, nationally known consultant to the banking and financial services industry