Finally, things are turning around for your small- to mid-sized firm. You weathered the recession, though not without bruises, and you are turning a corner. Business is picking up, you’re hiring again and everyone’s working at top speed. This feels good!
In fact, everyone is working so hard that it feels like there’s no room for any other priorities, such as training. (Besides, who has the money to commit to training? Your first priority is to build the firm and get those clients in the door!)
The truth is – you still need training. In fact, you may need it now more than ever. But, there are many, many ways to conduct regular, effective training programs that don’t cost your firm an arm and a leg.
This is the era of lean training: When you marry technology with a culture of accountability, you can conduct a highly effective training program for far less than you might imagine.
But first… why is ongoing training important? Because, my friends, times have changed.
Why Training is More Important than Ever
Our clients have far more power than they used to have. The recession made clients much more savvy and diligent when it comes to hiring legal help, including the way they are willing to pay (fee agreements) and how much they are willing to pay. Simply put: Our clients hold the aces and we must play to their hand.
Think about it from a client’s perspective: They may be interested in your firm because of the outstanding legal minds that you offer. But their next question is, “How will you charge me for your time?” Why should clients pay top dollar for a superstar lawyer when half his time is spent trying to figure out how to format a Word document?
Now, from a firm’s perspective, if clients are smart enough to ask about efficiencies, there is an immediate, bottom-line value in assuring that everyone is tech-savvy and moving at top speed.
Lean Training = Technology + Culture
So, you need to make sure that your team is efficient… but you don’t want to (can’t!) spend a fortune to launch and maintain an impactful training program.
That’s ok! All you need is to outline a consistent system to manage your training program and utilize cheaper technologies and products to deliver it. In a nutshell: Get organized and deliver!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Create a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP): This plan must include annual training expectations of attorneys and staff with consequences for nonparticipation. Whether you expect monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly or twice-a-year participation, those expectations must be outlined and shared with everyone in the firm. Likewise, your plan needs to include the ability to track improvements. (Technology can help with this. Read on.)
Automate scheduling and participation: Don’t leave sticky notes on desks to remind people to attend a training! Every calendar available today (i.e. Outlook) includes the ability to schedule and remind people of trainings. You don’t have to be a nag and this doesn’t have to be personal. If your expectations are properly communicated, then let technology schedule and remind people of their obligations.
Don’t waste your staff’s time: One size does not fit all. People with advanced skills should not have to sit through remedial content just to say that they had attended a training. Today’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) offer individualized assessments, targeted course content and interactive webinar programs for a fraction of the cost of in-person trainings. Note: look for an LMS that provides reports down to each class that a person takes and assessments on their skill level. (I address this more later in the article.)
Maximize your dollars: Think dollars-per-person trained. If you have to fly someone to a training that costs $1000 per day, you also need to factor in travel, hotel, food and the cost of that person’s time out of the office. You could quickly hit $5000 to train one person. But, you can offer a two- to five-hour webinar training for $500, often training multiple people at once. Or, if you need more specialized training for a big group, fly the trainer to you.
Watch for flashpoints: Be on the hunt for those moments when something goes wrong and you suddenly have a teachable moment. Your training becomes much more effective when you are addressing actual needs in your firm.
A couple more hints to save money and maximize your efforts:
Get intensive: When you have to train a large group on the same skills, fly the trainer to you and condense your time commitment. For example, if it would take five weeks of webinar trainings for each person to learn the desired skills, bring the trainer to your firm and condense the training into five intensive days.
Record your in-person trainings: Record any live sessions that you pay for and load those videos into your LMS. Then, as new people join your firm, you can train them for pennies.
The LMS: The Mac-Daddy of Your Training Program
Finally, as you can probably tell from all the information I shared above, the Learning Management System is your key to organizing and maintaining an effective training program. But, the last time you checked, those systems were cost-prohibitive, right?
Well, training companies are (or should be) getting smarter, too. Yes, there are still companies out there that will charge a fortune for customized learning management system platforms, and then they will take your other arm and leg for the actual training content that you need in order to make the platform useful at all.
But that’s not for you. You are a small- to mid-size firm and you need an affordable LMS. Here are the capabilities that you can and should expect in an LMS:
Both a state-of-the-art, intuitive delivery system as well as rich, continuously updated content – at an affordable price. Prior to now, clients had to purchase an LMS and the content separately and usually they paid a very high cost for both.
Off-site hosting and 24/7/365 support.
Trackable, reportable data down to each individual user.
Access to a social network of subscribers who continuously discuss challenges, ideas and successes that they are facing in their firms.
Complete control and customization opportunities for trainers and administrators who need to tailor their continuing education to individual attorneys, from new hires to seasoned legal eagles.
Yes, you can find such a robust LMS for a fraction of the cost that giant law firms pay.
Lean Training: Your Edge in a Competitive Environment
While it may seem that no one in your firm has time for trainings (and that you don’t have time to plan and manage it), this step could very well be the edge that helps you ride today’s busy wave for much longer than you otherwise could.
As I said earlier, now is the time to get organized and deliver!
Savvy Training & Consulting works with leading companies and technologies to deliver the most up-to-date training solutions and curricula to law firms. Savvy recently unveiled an award-winning Learning Management System (LMS) for law firms, SavvyAcademyTM, which delivers scalable training capabilities, reportable data down to the individual user and 24/7 support, all for a fraction of the cost of traditional LMS services. For a free demo, click here.