While traditional training models can be clean, neat and well adopted by trainers who enjoy following checklists that are static, these models can have a devastating impact on an organization’s ability to compete and survive in today’s marketplace.
The emblem of a traditional training approach is a rigid set of learning requirements that are built around a compliance driven methodology. An example of this is an organization that has a training team living in a silo from the sales, operations and other teams. What occurs is that training may be outdated and based on old policies and practices. Perhaps in this environment there are too many layers to cut through for training to be changed and evolve to meet current demand. The culture in this environment is transaction based and learners are rewarded for following process and completing the training compliance requirements, but not required to achieve application of new learning that drives business results.
In direct contrast to the traditional model is the model that is business-embedded, meaning that the model is dynamic and ever evolving. The foundational strategy of the business-embedded model is that training should never be static. It is directly tied to strategy and supports a learning environment where all employees are expected to continue their learning to whatever degree is required to maintain a competitive advantage. This expectation is baked into the culture and employees are expected to initiate this process and not follow the training team’s lead.
Attaining a business-embedded model means that the training team is constantly engaged in discussion with the rest of operations. Silos are destroyed. SWOT analysis (looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) becomes regular practice. The voice of the customer is deeply embedded into the curriculum. This means that the purpose of training is to create material that adds value to the skill sets of employees in a manner that drives new products and enhances competitive advantage. For example, if a company is struggling to find the kind of talent it needs to satisfy a specific kind of skill required to meet new customer/product requirements, they might look to apprenticeship programs or in-house training modeled around this specific skill need. Or, let’s say that an external competitor is achieving higher customer satisfaction scores due to a rock solid inside sales force, leading to higher sales volume in the marketplace than the others. In this case the company may need to bring some high impact phone sales training to the workforce that is current, applicable to the product at hand, and tied to performance systems.
I enjoyed this article about a creative way that Volkswagon cracked the code on dealing with a shortage of skilled machinists, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303665904577452521454725242.html. They said well, if we don’t have the workforce we need, we need to build it! This is a great example of a business-embedded training model.
Relevant training programs are not for the faint of heart. They require constant change and creativity, regular needs assessments and willingness to change up the curriculum and program whenever the business environment demands it.