Do Your Clients Understand
What You Do? Do You?
is "being the training department" a contribution?
(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)
When other areas of your organization think about the training function, and particularly when they are thinking about whether to get you involved in some change effort within their own units, they are working with their own image of what you do. That image is constructed partly from assumptions, partly from experience (not only of your work, but from training delivered by others), and partly by the way your present yourself in interactions with internal clients.
There's only so much you can do about the assumptions and the other experiences. But you can do a lot about how you talk about yourself and your training department.
After all, turn this around: how do you envision the work of other functions within the company? If you met someone from another part of the company and asked the usual, "What do you do?", you might get a range of answers:
- "We work in Quality Assurance."
- "We track reports of defects and returns, line stoppages and warranty claims, and perform statistical analyses that show whether we are meeting our quality standards."
- "We work to ensure that the quality of our work enhances our reputation and minimizes costs due to things like warranty claims, repairs and replacements, and time spent on customer service ."
The first answer is simply a label or title. With that kind of answer, all you have to go on is your assumptions, and maybe some experience with quality assurance in other settings.
The second answer is a very literal "what we do" answer. It focuses on activities. If you are not already fairly expert in their function, you may not even be able to envision how they work.
The third answer connects their work to the success of the organization. It identifies the benefit of having them as part of the company. It isn't just "what we do", it is "what we do for the company" that they are talking about.
Now, when you talk to people from other parts of the organization, whether informally, or when invited to propose ways to get involved in a project, or in staff meetings that bring various functions together, how do you describe what you do?
Do you just invoke your name -- "We're the training department" -- in various guises, again and again? Do you start with the practical details, courses, delivery channels, and so on?
Or do you talk about how you help internal clients achieve their goals, so they can deliver a benefit to the larger organization?
In my experience, corporate training staff are much happier talking about how they do their work than they are talking about how their efforts help the company. But there are powerful reasons for learning to talk in terms of benefits as much as possible, and especially in the first contact with an internal client who is considering a new project.
First of all, benefits-focused discussions appeal to the client's self-interest. When you start the conversation with your determination to help them succeed in achieving their goals, instead of with how you do your work, you immediately establish some common ground.
Second, you also establish common, comprehensible language. Instead of talking about learning objectives and on-line course delivery and training details, you are talking at a level that your client can grasp immediately. Just as importantly, they are talking about their work at a level you can grasp immediately.
Save the details for later. Find that common ground based on the contribution you will make, together, to the company's success.
We generally find people who talk on and on about what they do to be pretty boring.
But we find people who talk about what they can do for us pretty interesting! So be one of those people when you deal with internal clients, and you'll not only find that designing effective training projects for your clients is a lot easier. You'll find that you have much more support, during and after training, from your clients when you focus on benefits instead of actions.
© 2013 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny
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