Training tends to be one of those initiatives that begins with the best of intentions. Like starting a diet, an exercise plan, or other long-range goal, it often gets lost in the shuffle of everyday life. When I see the diet ads on television, I’m impressed by the before and after pictures. That tells me that these people had a specific moment in time when they felt ready to start, had a goal in mind, and actually took a snapshot of that moment so they could compare it to the end result. Think about your upcoming or ongoing training projects. Is there a clear reason you want to (or need to) start a project? Perhaps everyone is getting a new computer with new software. Training must occur and it must be complete by the time the new machines are installed. That’s pretty clear!
In the legal field, there is a lot of interest in software or technology audits and certifications for professionals. This is being driven by clients, and clients should not be ignored. If clients say they want the attorneys working on their matters to be LTC4-certified, for example, then you have a very clear goal. Add to that a timeline and a method for achieving the goal, and you will have an actionable plan. It has been said that a goal without details is really just a wish.
Other training plans (or wishes) are not always quite so clear-cut. Maybe you’re hearing from management that everyone needs to be more efficient and proficient in performing their day-to-day tasks. Sure! But, what does that look like? Where are they now and where do you want them to be? I’m a strong believer in pre- and post-testing for just about all training. Even using something as simple as a survey to ask participants to rate their own knowledge on the subject before beginning, and then presenting the same survey after the training has concluded, will provide some of those before and after snapshots.
Here are some questions to consider for your one-time or ongoing training programs:
Why are we doing this? How often should we revisit the same topic? When should we start and how will we know when we’re done? Who will be involved? And, most importantly: How can the organization help achieve the training goals?
Above all else, learning in the professional environment needs to be practical. Time is scarce and for most, time spent in the classroom or engaged in eLearning activities is time that cannot be billed to a client or work that is piling up and waiting to be done. It is in the organization’s best interest to make short-term allowances for professional development, actively encourage the application of the new knowledge on the job, and reap the benefits of the potential return on investment.