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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

The Training Function in Tough Times: Part III
A Better Way to Develop "Communication Products"

develop your "products" the way other company functions do

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Piloting or testing your training and employee communications can enhance the Return On Investment your company enjoys from these tools. As I mentioned in the previous issue of The Training Tipsheet, however, what I commonly see called "piloting" is too little, too late . . . or, you could say, too much too late, that is, the "product" is nearly finished before any part of it is tested.

As a result, few changes are made, even if the activity turns out to be a flop. The project sponsors are simply too far down the path to turn around, or to make anything more than the most minor corrections and enhancements.

Learn From Other Functions

Look around your company and see how other functions create and develop products, services, and even internal processes. Products don't pop into the marketplace fully formed. A series of ideas are tested, and then components of the product or service are evaluated, and the final output is assembled from parts that are known to work.

We can do the same thing with our employee communications. Let's imagine a seminar (but it could be any other vehicle):

  1. Break the seminar down into smaller units: individual steps in the procedure, explanations of simple concepts, brief activities.
  2. Test these individual units with small, readily available groups of employees -- up to five, say -- in small units of time, less than half an hour.
  3. Rework and retest things that don't perform.
  4. Build your seminar out of units that are proven to work on their own.

It is much easier, and much less expensive, to make "course corrections" on small units, early in the process. When you "test drive" the complete seminar, you can focus on true "tweaks", mostly practical matters related to delivery and timing. This approach is almost always going to produce better results, more cost-effectively, than building a complete course or event and piloting at that point.

And this approach offers additional benefits that are especially helpful when times are tough.

Better Internal Relationships

In flush times you may be able to handle training and employee communications without much interference. But when everyone is competing for much scarcer resources, your efficiency and effectiveness become of interest to managers of other functions who may have ignored you when there was plenty of money.

In that atmosphere, progressive testing and development strengthens your position:

  • It demonstrates your commitment to judging ideas by the results they produce, not by who hatched them. The best way to be able to defend your own practices is to be seen as a stern judge of their merits yourself.
  • When other functions see you using the same processes they do to develop and refine your "products," they can understand what you are doing. You establish a common language in your conversations with other organizational units.
  • As you learn from other development processes in the company, you build relationships that can be crucial when resources are tight. People who have advised you on how to be efficient yet effective have a personal investment in the success of your project.

In many organizations, training and internal communication functions are seen to develop their "products" differently than do the more typical operations of the company, to play by different rules. But being different can be a major liability when relationships, understanding, and support from other functions are crucial to your success, or even your survival.

Take a lesson or two from other development efforts in your company, and discover what you have in common. You'll not only strengthen the position of employee communications in the company, you'll probably deliver more effective services with what you learn.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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Tough Times II:
Is Your "Pilot" Worth the Investment?

Tough Times I:
ROI, or Irrelevant?

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