Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had to prove the worth of the work you do as a training designer? It’s a common dilemma, and if you’re like most people who work in the training industry, you’ve been there. For instructional designers and e-learning developers, it seems obvious that the work we do is important to an organization’s bottom line; but for others, it might be less clear, in which case you’ll need to make your case. So when you do, here are a few key reasons to get you started:
Time & Money Savings
When you’re training people on how to do a task, you’re showing them the most optimal and time-efficient way to carry out a process. Contrast this to a situation where employees are doing things “their own way.” You can almost guarantee some are doing it more efficiently than others. This means that without the proper training, some employees are likely wasting time (hence, money) on steps or processes that aren’t most advantageous and optimal for the business.
Consistency in Business Processes
In addition to saving time and money by standardizing how your employees perform tasks, you’re providing consistency by training your staff. Imagine if your customer service team hasn’t been trained on how to carry out a certain task, and everyone is doing it a slightly different way. Now imagine that it’s a task that interfaces with your customers. This means that a customer who speaks with Rep A will get a different response from the customer who speaks with Rep B. This leads to inconsistent messaging, which can lead to ill-informed or confused customers.
As if cost savings and consistency weren’t reason enough to adopt a training program, training will also give your employees the confidence they need to perform their job. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what to do in a certain situation, and often employees are shy or afraid to ask for fear that if they do, they will look like they don’t know how to do their job. A confident employee who knows how to do his or her job will be happier than one who has to stumble through a process, unsure about how to do things the right way.
Since training provides a lot of value, it might be confusing to hear that training departments still often struggle to prove their merit. When organizations make financial cuts, training budgets are typically the first to get the axe. Why is that? A huge part of the reason is: a lot of the e-learning that is created is not needed in the first place. This happens because managers who sense a performance problem often jump to this conclusion: “We need to train our employees to solve this performance problem!” Then, in most cases, the training is created without ever conducting a proper training needs analysis to determine whether training will really solve the core performance issue.
The problem with this “jump in and build it” approach is that many performance problems are not going to be solved by training. Training can only solve a performance issue if the cause of the issue is that employees don’t have the knowledge and skills to carry out certain tasks. Performance problems can result from a variety of causes, including, but not limited to, lack of:
- Proper processes
- Capacity (mental or physical)
- Proper equipment or technology
- And the list goes on ...
As you can see, performance issues at an organization are not always solved with training. Sometimes, putting the proper incentives in place can do the trick. Other times, upgrading your employees’ technical equipment might solve the performance issue.
How can you make sure that the training you build will be valuable for your company? Follow these three key steps:
Step 1: Conduct a Proper Training Needs Analysis
The very first step to ensuring your training adds value to your organization’s bottom line is to conduct a proper training needs analysis. Let me distinguish here between a “wants analysis” and a “needs analysis,” because people tend to do the former and not the latter.
A wants analysis is sending out a survey to your employees and asking them what training they want. A needs analysis involves systematically analyzing current (versus expected) performance with regards to a certain task, identifying whether there is a performance gap, and if there is, identifying the true cause of the gap.
Remember, it’s not always a lack of knowledge and skills, it could be a whole host of other issues causing your performance issue. Want to know more about how to conduct a training needs analysis? I’ve written a few detailed articles on this exact subject:
Step 2: Measure the ROI of Your Training
If you can’t demonstrate that your training has saved your company time and money, you’ll probably have a hard time convincing anyone in management that it’s providing value to your company. Showing the benefit in terms of actual dollars can be tricky, especially when it comes to soft-skills training, but it’s always possible. It might require some digging, and you might have to do some observation or analysis up front to be able to compare the “after” to the “before.” It’s a matter of showing that the return you’ll get from creating and providing the training will outweigh the costs associated with developing it. How can you do that? Here’s a step-by-step process:
Step 3: Consider Another Training Solution
As training designers, we often want to go “all the way” with our training solutions. This comes from a good place; we want to help our learners and give them all the information they need. We also want to show our value by creating awesome and detailed resources. But this might lead us to design an hourlong e-learning module when a ten-minute video or a simple one-page job aid will do. Remember, training can come in many different formats, including:
- E-learning module
- Instructor-led workshop
- Job aids or standard operating procedures
- On-the-job coaching or mentoring
- Simulation or role play
How we provide employees with the training they need should be an outcome of many variables, including your time and budget. This ties in to the previous point about cost-benefit analysis: if creating a highly interactive e-learning module will cost you more than you’ll get in terms of benefits from the course, then you’ll need to consider a more affordable training solution. Try to avoid being married to a specific type of solution and be flexible in terms of how you deliver your training content.
Hopefully, with this information, you’ll be better able to convince your boss and others at your organization of the value training provides. Remember: it’s your job to make sure the training you create is truly needed; if you can’t demonstrate that, you’ll never convince others of its merit. When you create training solutions that really solve a business problem, you’re helping your company save money, streamline their processes, and create happy, confident employees. And that’s priceless. :)
Have you ever had an experience where you’ve struggled to prove your worth as a training designer or e-learning developer? If so, leave a comment below and let me know how you handled it, and what you did to prove your value. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and come back to E-learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.