In LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report, understanding what skills to build or what courses to develop was listed as a top 10 challenge by 22% of learning professionals. Meanwhile, 21% cited demonstrating the value of learning as an obstacle and 17% said earning executive buy-in was a top challenge.
These numbers paint a picture of what really ails L&D: working with business partners to establish exactly what is needed on an organizational level to boost performance and make an impact. Too often, L&D experiences a knee-jerk reaction to training requests, especially when they come from someone of a senior or executive position. The instinct is to support the organization by diving right into creating the requested training.
But in order for the training team to make a positive strategic impact, it’s essential to challenge those requests and act as a consultant to business partners to establish the true organizational training need that is triggering these requests.
Establishing Organizational Training Needs
In a recent webinar, Nick Howe (CLO at Area9 Lyceum) said:
“Unfortunately, many business leaders don’t know what they need. But they will often come to us as though they do. The number of times that I’ve had leaders come to me and say, “I want a three day course on this.”
And my answer, as politely as possible, is no, actually that isn’t what you need. So there’s classic consulting skills of diagnosing what the problem is. You can’t go to the doctor and say – “I want a hundred penicillin.” You go to them, and hopefully the doctor’s going to figure out what the problem is by doing some diagnosis. We have to do exactly the same thing. And that comes back to saying no. We’ve got to make sure that we’re treating the right problem.
Too often in L&D, we’re trying to be helpful and we give them what they want. But, actually, what they need is often not what they want.”
It’s a great analogy for summing up the problem and providing the answer to how learning teams can overcome it. By being unafraid to challenge training requests and get to the root of the issue, you’ll be better placed to provide training solutions that make sense and that achieve the desired business outcomes. (You can hear more of what Nick had to say about this topic and more in the full webinar recording.)
Training Intake as a Diagnostic Business Tool
Even if L&D are challenging business partners on the practicality, effectiveness, or logic of a training request, too often it comes too late or is not handled in the most efficient way. The discussion around requests of this nature is time consuming, but it doesn’t need to be.
Your Training Request Form
Your training request forms are the lifeblood of your training intake process. When properly designed, with the right questions put to the requester, they can do most of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to uncovering the real pain point that has led to a request for training.
Your training request form should ask requesters to outline:
- Who is the intended audience of the training
- What is the organizational training need prompting the request
- How will the success of the training be measured
- What are the anticipated business outcomes of the training
The point here is not that the requester should know all of this information and get it completely right. Instead, the goal should be to receive a training request form with enough information to make your consultation with the business partner more productive. The L&D team will quickly be able to assess what is driving the need for training. Or, more importantly, whether training is really the answer.
The topic, audience size, and intended outcomes (as provided by the requester) will also help you to understand what type of training is most suitable. Your business partner may be requesting a 3-day training marathon, but with enough insight provided on the training request form, you’ll be able to propose a more strategic and effective approach.
Here is an example of a training request form that will help you to better understand the organizational training needs behind a request.
Alternatives to Training
One of the first questions L&D should be asking themselves during the diagnostic stage is: are we sure this is a training issue?
It’s imperative to dive deeper into the performance problems behind the request. Too often, business partners jump straight to training to resolve issues that learning professionals know are not training related.
So, instead of agreeing to new learning experiences that will potentially be fruitless, leverage your training intake system to understand whether this is a training, motivation, or management issue.
That means collecting fairly in-depth information on the intended target audience. Are these tenured employees or new starters who are not catching up quickly enough? Has similar training been conducted previously? If so, was there any performance improvement?
It may be that job aids, on-the-job learning, or new tools would be far more beneficial to learners (and to the business) than a new training course.
Want to learn more about using training intake to correctly diagnose organizational training needs? Check out this free ebook:
Managing Training Intake for Strategic Success