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The Strategic Thinker’s Guide to Managing Training Requests

How do you know whether your employees want training? (Chances are, they do.)

And how do you know whether training requests are worth your and your team’s time to develop?

First, a system or mechanism needs to be in place for fielding training requests. This mechanism is essentially finding out who wants training and in what areas, then assessing the viability of the request becoming an actual learning experience.

Training requests have traditionally been handled by managers, directors, or division heads. Technology exists today to allow for every employee in a company to submit a training request, and for L&D to manage and prioritize these requests.

This system for requesting training should also include a mechanism for L&D to approve or reject the request. The team should devise the criteria for approvals or rejections by considering the following questions: What will be the ROI if we were to develop and deliver a course on this topic? Will it increase sales? Will it speed up production or improve service levels? Will it increase quality?

Further reasons to accept or reject a training idea might also include:

  • How long will it take to develop this course?
  • Will course development incur additional, unusual expenses in equipment?
  • How many Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and instructional designers would be involved?
  • How many employees will benefit directly or indirectly from this course?
  • What is the expected shelf life of this course? How long until the course needs to be updated?

In addition to formal approval and rejection criteria, the training request system should include a routing or alert system to inform the requester of the L&D team’s decision.

For example, when a request for training is rejected, the employee can be notified quickly and provided with a reason for rejection along with alternatives for the employee to obtain the necessary training in the absence of the creation of a formal in-house course.

In this way, the training request doesn’t fall into a black hole: everyone’s request is analyzed, and everyone receives a response.

Too Much of a Good Thing

What happens if you get overwhelmed with too many training requests? (Hint: this is a good problem to have. It means that your employees are aware of their needs and are willing to take action!)

As discussed, your decision to accept or reject the request could also include a system for prioritization. Prioritize based on the level of business impact. L&D cannot follow through on all training requests, no matter how valuable the concept or how passionate the requester might be.

“There is a supply and demand problem of evaluating requests and a supply and demand problem of producing content,” explained Mark Hellinger in a recent webinar.

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Order Taker vs. Strategic Thinker

However, handling training requests cannot be left to algorithms and processes alone. The ATD asks, in the eLearning Industry article, How to Deal with Misguided Training Requests, “are there times when we should just acquiesce? Is there a justification for accepting a ‘training request’ that is not training at all?”

While the usual list of questions should address ROI and feasibility, such as those offered above, there are some other questions to consider as well.

“Are there political gains to be made by accepting this request—gains that will advance your department’s strategic goals?” the article poses.

The ATD’s response to this is simple: “A smart balance of doing for others and doing for you can lead to a position of influence. Do not confuse political will with being manipulative or conniving. Helping others can result in help for you and your department in achieving its strategic goals.”

As such, L&D managers can leverage training requests as part of the bigger picture. Selecting which learning experiences to pursue and which to reject could reveal additional opportunities for the training organization as a whole.

Striking the right balance of gathering training requests via automation or executive mandate will ensure that all stakeholders will be satisfied in the end.

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