Too often an organization will schedule training and then do nothing to ensure its success. The results are somewhat predictable. Some of the participants take advantage of the opportunity to learn, but the vast majority don’t get as much as they could out of the experience. The following recommendations can help you maximize your training investment by engaging participants in the process and creating buy-in about training throughout the organization.
Communicate and Sell
- Communicate the purpose of the training in advance. Make sure that every participant knows the purpose of the training and why it is being held.
- Sell the benefits of the training. Be sure to emphasize the advantages of the training and how it will help participants specifically. (For example, you can say in your advance communication, “This leadership program is top notch, and I know it will benefit you in acquiring new skills that will make leadership tasks a little easier.”)
- Sell the program content. What makes this content valuable and relevant? (For example, you might say, “I have done lots of research and attended many programs, and this is the top program in the world on this topic. It is world class.”)
- Sell the facilitator. It is important to sell the facilitator’s qualifications and background in order to build real excitement about the course. You can mention the person’s background, credentials, and experience as they relate to the topic.
- Make it personal. The communication about the training should be addressed to each person in an email or a letter. It should not be a blanket email to all people, if possible.
- Make it special. Let people who are attending know why the training is special. Is it exclusive? Expensive? Limited to a certain number of people? Only for a certain department? In a great location?
- Have the communication come from an executive. If the communication comes from an executive who is higher up the ladder, it signifies a higher level of importance.
- Keep it positive. Don’t position the training as a negative event, even if it is for negative reasons. (If sales are down 50 percent over the year before, don’t say, “Sales are way down, so we are having training.” Say, “I know that you are all talented and smart, and I want to make sure you are all hitting your numbers this year and reaching your goals. I have decided to invest some time and money in training that I think we can all benefit from for the rest of this year. I think you will find the session to be fun, useful, and well worth your time.”)
- Take a survey. Send a survey or a questionnaire in advance of the session and ask participants questions about what they want out of the training. This can create a little positive “buzz” about the training. Here are some questions you may want to include in the survey: Why do you want to attend this training session? What do you want to get out of the program? What are your biggest challenges as they relate to __________? What are three topics you would like to have covered? How do you think this program would help our team? How do you think this program would help our company? What would be the ideal start time for you? Do you prefer frequent breaks more often, or longer breaks less often? Do you prefer a 45-minute lunch and a slightly shorter day, or a 1-hour lunch and a slightly longer day?
Communicate logistics. Far too many programs start off in confusion because of poor pre-session preparation and communication.
What the Facilitator Needs
- A clear idea of your objectives for the training.
- Someone to meet him or her an hour before the training.
- Emergency contact information.
- Confirmation that you have received the materials and can easily locate them the day of training.
- A clean room set up for training.
- Good communication from you to the participants in preparation for the program.
What the Participants Need to Know
- When the session is being held and how to get there.
- What time the session starts – really starts. (Some memos I have seen have said, “Starts at 8:00,” and the session actually starts at 9:00 a.m. with breakfast at 8:00 a.m. What if you don’t eat breakfast?)
- What they should bring (A pen? A notebook? A pre-assignment? Reports of some kind? Tell them.)
- What time the session will end (Many people have child-care issues and need to know in advance.)
- Dress attire. (How should they dress? Should they be in business attire or business casual? If one of those categories, what does that mean? I have found business casual can mean many things to many people.)
- Meals. Will they be provided? What should they do if they have special requirements?
- Contacts. (Who should they contact if they have questions or a problem?)
- Travel. (What are the details, and who is handling that?)
- Lodging. (Where are they staying, and who is handling that?)
Make It Special
If possible, make training by invitation only. Have a training session that is available only to people with a certain level of performance, or who have been promoted to a certain level, or who have applied and been accepted into “the program.” (I once was in charge of the leadership development program for a large division of a Fortune 100 company. I set up a leadership development program for employees who wanted to eventually become a leader in the company.
We communicated out to the field that this was an elite program and only a select amount of people would be admitted to the program each year. (Out of 1,200 employees in this division, only 50 would be admitted into the program. For admission consideration, they had to take a leadership assessment and complete a ten-page, essay-style application. The information packets were reviewed, and an objective point system was applied to evaluate candidates and rank them.
After all was said and done, 47 people were admitted into the program. They received this great news in a very impressive letter written by the head of the division. When the program started, the participants were excited because they were part of a very exclusive program, and they had won! They felt special just to be there.)
Use the session introduction to build enthusiasm for the training. I was facilitating a one-day session at a very large company, and there were about 45 people in the room. I asked the leader of the group if she wanted to do an introduction to the session and present me. Her reply was “No, just go ahead. We aren’t real big on introductions.” That is a huge strategic error: The introduction is the last chance to position the training program before it gets started. I have also seen introductions from leaders that were so poor and so unenthusiastic that they might as well not have happened. An introduction should be short, and it should build excitement for the session as well as pre-sell the benefits.
I’ll close by suggesting that attitude is an often overlooked and underestimated aspect of training. A bad one can sabotage an otherwise solid training program. By following the above recommendation, you will reduce the likelihood that your program will become a victim of neglect, indifference, or both.