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Are language tests really the best way to assess your employees business English skills?

When a department manager asks us to “test their employee’s business English” there are typically 2 reasons – they want to know if somebody is suitable for a specific job, or they are looking for evidence that somebody has improved their business English. In both cases we fully understand the need for the information – and we often find ourselves challenging the idea of a “test”. HR & L&D, line managers, business English providers, teachers and participants are all familiar with the idea of tests – we’ve all been doing them since we started school – but as a business tool they have clear limits. 
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Are language tests really the best fit for purpose when it comes to corporate English training?

At the heart of these limits is the question “does the test really reflect the purpose?”.  These limits were highlighted in a recent newspaper article “Difficulty of NHS language test ‘worsens nurse crisis’”. The article focuses on the shortage of nurses applying for work in the UK, and behind this shortage are 2 factors: firstly the inevitable (and avoidable) uncertainty created by Brexit, and secondly that qualified and university-educated nurses who are native English speakers from countries such as Australia and New Zealand are failing to pass the English language test the NHS uses. One of the nurses said:“After being schooled here in Australia my whole life, passing high school with very good scores, including English, then passing university and graduate studies with no issues in English writing – now to ‘fail’ IELTS [the English language test] is baffling.”

To be clear there is nothing wrong with the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) per se. It is one of the most robust English language tests available, and is a multi-purpose tool used for work, study and migration. The test has four elements: speaking, listening, reading and writing.  My question is “Is this really the best way to assess whether a nurse can do her job effectively in English?”

Design assessment approaches to be as close to your business reality as possible

We all want nurses who can speak, listen, read and write in the language of the country they are working in – but is a general off-the-shelf solution really the best way?  What does a nurse need to write?  Reports, notes, requests – yes …essays – no.  Yet that is what was being “tested”. One nurse with 11 years experience in mental health, intensive care, paediatrics, surgical procedures and orthopaedics commented: “The essay test was to discuss whether TV was good or bad for children. They’re looking for how you structure the essay … I wrote essays all the time when I was doing my bachelor of nursing. I didn’t think I’d have to do another one. I don’t even know why I failed.”

Jumping from nursing to our corporate clients, our InCorporate Trainers work in-house, training business English skills with managers in such diverse fields as software development, automotive manufacturing, oil and gas, logistics, purchasing etc etc . All these managers need to speak, read, write and listen and they need to do these within specific business-critical contexts such as meetings, negotiations, presentations, emails, reports etc. So how do we assess their skills? The key is in designing assessment approaches which are as close to their business reality as possible.

Using business specific can-do statements to assess what people can do in their jobs

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a scale indicating language competency. It offers an excellent start for all business English programs. BUT the CEFR does have 2 major drawbacks when it comes to business English:

  • The CEFR is not specifically focussed on business-related communication
  • The CEFR levels are broad, impacting their suitability for assessing the progress of professionals with limited training availability

In 2010, and in response to our client’s demand for a business-related focus, we developed a robust set of can-do statements. These statements focus on  specific business skills such as meetings, networking and socializing, presenting, working on the phone and in tele- and web-conferences. Rather than assessing a software developers writing skills by asking them to write an essay on whether TV is good or bad for kids we ask them to share actual samples – emails, functional specifications, bug reports etc.  They don’t lose time from the workplace and it allows us to look at what they can already do within a work context. The Business Can-do statements then provide a basis for assessing their overall skills.

This “work sample” approach can also be used when looking to measure the impact of training. Before and after examples of emails help a manager see what they are getting for their training investment and, in cooperation with works councils, many of our InCorporate Trainers use a portfolio approach where clients keep samples of what they are learning AND how this has transferred to their workplace.  This practical and easily understandable approach is highly appreciated by busy department heads.

To wrap up, I understand that the NHS relying on a reputable off-the-shelf solution like IELTS has clear attractions. However, if you are looking at assessing at a department level then consider other options.  And if you’d like support with that then contact us.

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How great training clients maximize the impact of their training budget

A common question I am asked in client meetings is ‘What makes a “great” training provider?’ and then of course I’m asked to show that we are one. There are a lot of factors involved in being a great training provider, from having the right trainer, to providing relevant training (that is easily transferred to the workplace), and from having the right processes right down to the flexibility and adaptability of the program, based on the changing business needs of the participants. In part, our greatness is achieved because of great clients and we are very lucky to have many of those across Europe ranging in size and spanning numerous industries. Like great training providers share common characteristics, so do great training clients. Below are are three of them.

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1. Great training clients really get the importance of buy-in on multiple levels

Training, whether it be Business English, soft skill or leadership programs, is most successful when there is buy-in across the board. HR and L&D are important, but it is the buy-in from operational and line managers that makes a real difference. Managers at all levels and team leaders all have a role to play. The managers of our “great clients” share the “why?” behind the training. They look to link it to strategy and decisions, and show that they are personally expecting commitment and engagement. This buy-in keeps the participants focused and aware of why they are training on certain topics.  This management buy-in also supports the work of HR and L&D, energizing their efforts and challenging them to challenge us when it comes to questions such as training design, transfer to the workplace, and continual improvements. So, if you have multiple levels of management, HR and participant buy-in, you will definitely see results tied to your company goals and get a lot more out of your training investment.

2. Great training clients give feedback when things are great and when things could be better

When we put our heart and soul into delivering training, we love hearing that we are doing a great job. Even when the training doesn’t fully meet the client’s expectations, we want to hear about it. Our best clients understand that we value what they have to say and tell us openly, on a regular basis. The more consistent clients are with feedback, the easier it is to address any issues that may arise. Being clear about communication needs, proactively collaborating on training goals, content and methods, and sharing the background to decisions work to build robust relationships creates a lot of trust and understanding that leads to productive, long-term and fun partnerships. Win-Win is remarkably easy when both sides genuinely care about the other.

3. Great training clients are open to new ideas and approaches

It is great when a client knows what they want. It can make our job as a training provider that much easier – after all you know your staff, your corporate culture and what works well.  AND, we also value the chance to apply our years and years of experience when the situation presents itself. Our best clients know that they can trust our expertise and, after exploring the whys and hows, are willing to give it a chance.  We understand we have to earn that trust, but need a chance to do so.  So, know what you want as a customer, challenge what your suppliers may suggest at times but also be open to new ideas as you may be pleasantly surprised what your supplier can do.

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How we built the Business English can-do statements: An interview with Chris Slattery

How good is your business English? B1? C2? These terms didn’t mean much to most of us ten years ago or so, but today the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard for describing language ability. It is used around the world to describe learners’ language skills. The 20 years of research the Council of Europe put into designing and rolling out the CEFR  was undoubtedly worthwhile: we now have a robust basis for a common understanding of what language levels mean. However, the CEFR is not business English specific – it was was designed for general education purposes. It doesn’t directly connect to day-to-day business communication scenarios. It doesn’t directly meet the language training needs facing businesses and corporations today, nor does it directly address common business communication scenarios.

In 2010, Target Training worked with the worlds largest courier company, Deutsche Post DHL, and another language training provider (Marcus Evans Linguarama) to close this gap. The outcome was a detailed set of can-do statements usable by employees, their managers and training providers alike. Chris Slattery lead the project at Target Training, and I asked him a few questions about this project.

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What made you want to get involved in this project?

Chris: We had been working closely with the Corporate Language School at DP DHL for over 5 years, and they were keen to begin measuring their training investment. A major part of this was being able to measure learning progress. They had tried to use an off-the-shelf solution but it wasn’t working, and the CEFR was too abstract to use in a business environment. We’d been working closely together trying to make things work – and when it was clear that the tools just weren’t strong enough they asked us if we could build a business specific tool which was founded in the CEFR levels. We asked that if we were going to be the “developer” another provider be involved as a “tester” to ensure the end product was robust and practical. This is how Lingurama became involved, and this 3-way collaboration strengthened the project.

The CEFR isn’t designed to recognize gaps in performance at work. Our Business English can-do statements mean that managers can identify where they would like to see an improvement in performance, and we then know how to get them there.

Chris Slattery

How did you decide what a successful solution would look like?

Chris: Quite simply, success was a tool that managers and participants could easily use when analyzing needs, setting goals and evaluating progress. We needed something that reflected the specific business skills managers are looking to improve. This meant we had to adapt what was in the CEFR and re-couch it in terms that were relevant for the business world. For example to move from academic and linguistic terms to practical business communication needs.

Can you give an example of a scenario?

Chris: Sure. Take someone who has had English at school and then worked in the States as an au pair for two years. They speak good English with a Boston accent. When they joined DP DHL they had the opportunity to join our InCorporate Trainer program. Whenever somebody new joins the training Target Training needs to assess their English skills.  This lady got placed at CEFR B2, which shows a good degree of competency … but she had never worked in a company before joining DP DHL -and now she needed to go and deliver a presentation in English. How well was she going to be able to do that?

Her general CEFR level is B2, but in her ability to give effective status presentations in English, she might be as low as A2. This discrepancy is huge. The CEFR isn’t designed to recognize gaps in performance at work. The Business English can-do statements mean that these managers can identify where they would like to see an improvement in performance, and we then know how to get them there.

We needed something that reflected the specific business skills managers are looking to improve. This meant we had to adapt what was in the CEFR and re-couch it in terms that were relevant for the business world. For example to move from academic and linguistic terms to practical business communication needs.

Chris Slattery

The full CEFR document is 273 pages long. Where did you start?

Chris: We started by studying the CEFR document in real depth, and understanding how it was built and why certain can-do statements are phrased in specific ways.  At the same time we also agreed with the client which business fields made the most impact on their day-today communication – skills like “presentations”, “networking”, “negotiating” etc . We then reread the CEFR handbook and identified which can-do statements could be directly transferable to business communication scenarios. Then we broke these business fields down into language skills, and used the can-dos in the CEFR document which best fitted these language skills. Our golden rule was that the can-dos had to be within the context of specific business skills AND easily understood by a department manager with no knowledge of language training.

Can you give me an example?

Chris:  Sure. These two statements contributed to one of the can-dos related to participating in meetings at a B1 level:

  1. Sociolinguistic appropriateness at CEFR B: Is aware of the salient politeness conventions and acts appropriately.
  2. Grammar at CEFR B1: Uses reasonably accurately a repertoire of frequently used “routines” and patterns (usually associated with more predictable situations).

Our Business English can-do statement for B1 Meetings: I can directly ask a participant to clarify what they have just said and obtain more detailed information in an appropriate manner.

How long did the whole process take?

Chris:  It took five months to write, test, rewrite, test and rewrite again. We then needed to repeat the process with a German language version too. At the end we blind-tested it with the client, and were delighted with their feedback.  The roll-out took a few months. Today, internally, it’s still an ongoing project. As new trainers join the company, they need to learn how to use the tool to its full potential.

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The Business English Can-Do Statements toolbox also has a short FAQ and 4 ideas on how you can use them. If you’d like to know more, please contact us, or read more about the CEFR framework on our website.

What our clients learned the easy way

target training

Long gone are the days when Business English training consisted of weekly lessons with a native English speaker, discussing what you did over the weekend. (Hooray!) In 2017 A.D, companies are paying more and more attention to the effectiveness of their Business English training programs. HR departments look for a training solution that delivers business results, based on the needs of the employees. A solution that ties in with the organization’s strategic goals. We are proud to have almost 25 years experience in this field. From concept to implementation to measuring results, we’ve learned a thousand lessons along the way, and so have our clients. In an effort to help you find the right solution for your department or company, we asked our clients what they realized three months after investing in results-oriented training that they hadn’t realized before. With some added links and examples from me, here are the three things we heard most often:




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Set concrete training goals

The most successful training happens when the participants have specific goals. A good needs analysis as well as input from managers help set these. Look for tangible business results, this will help you set your short- and long term goals. And, the more specific the goal, the better. For example: ‘Improving emails in English’ is a good start but ‘Handling billing requests from Indian colleagues via email’ is better.

The effectiveness of on-the-job training

People learn 70% by doing, and only 10% through structured training. Allowing the training to be job-focused, and on an “as and when needed” basis produces learning that sticks. A training solution that integrates on-the-job support is highly effective. And, on-the-job training is extremely flexible. For example: It can be used for email coaching, telephone conference/meeting shadowing and feedback, presentation practice and feedback, etc. It allows the trainer to learn first-hand how participants use English at work.

The importance of OTJ – a brief interjection: On-the-job support makes the training useful because it directly targets the training needs of the participant. Our on-the-job training and shadowing solutions are at the heart of the Target Training cycle and a core element of our InCorporate Trainer programs.

Forget about language levels and test scores

These results can’t be translated into how someone has transferred their knowledge to the workplace. If performance in English has improved, the training is successful. Measuring knowledge and language (CEF) levels can be useful as an indicator but it isn’t very practical, nor is it always realistic in a corporate training program. For example: It can take 700 hours of training or more for an A1 (beginner) to reach a B1 (intermediate) level. This type of time investment isn’t possible for most working professionals, nor is it (always) in alignment with the organizational goals.

Final interjection: A chain of evidence is created with Kirkpatrick evaluation model, showing how much training contributes directly towards business goals..

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You can always ask us your questions how to implement a successful business English training program. We’re quite good at it, ask anyone… Or start here:

 

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Train the trainer: Interactive presentations

presentation target training

Internal training is often done via presentations and companies often use an internal “expert” to deliver training to other members of staff. Slide after slide appears on the screen and by the end, there’s a handout with the most important points and perhaps a summary. The upside of this type of training is that the information is first hand from the expert. One of the downsides is that the trainer often doesn’t have experience in training. He/she doesn’t understand how to make learning stick, or that only 10% of learning happens through structured training. (Read more about the  70-20-10 model.) Here are a few ideas to make your presentation based training interactive. 




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Who are you and why are you here?

A trainer always explains the objectives of the training session. The objectives need to be relevant to the audience – you need buy-in for learning to take place. Everything that happens in the training should link back to the objective. The participants have objectives too – but they might be different to yours and you need to align the two sets. This is often done through a warmer activity – who are you and why are you here? A warmer activity can be done as a group, in small groups or in pairs. At the end of the activity, everyone has shared their personal objectives (ideally they are visible for everyone to read). The trainer then paraphrases the personal objectives and links it in to the objectives of the session. If there are objectives that can’t be aligned, the trainer points them out: “Sorry, we won’t be covering that in detail today”, or “There might be time to do that at the end of the session.”

Get people up and moving

If participants don’t know each other very well, a few icebreakers are necessary. A game called ‘find someone who’ can be adapted easily to any audience and topic. Beyond that, you can bring discussion cards, or tasks that participants have to do between slides. Especially when people’s interests are fading, stop the presentation and get them up and moving around the room. Ask them to brainstorm in groups, to summarize in pairs, to troubleshoot, or ask them to pick a position in the room based on how strongly they feel about a company/work-related statement. Ask them to present some of the key learning points of the presentation back to you half-way through and use it as an opportunity to align participant knowledge.

Involve your audience

Closely related to the above, even when the training material is dry, full of facts and technical jargon, your training can be interactive. You can engage participants in almost a thousand different ways. Ask them for their experience or opinions, ask them to read out the information on the slides, or prepare a quiz or a competition (with a token prize). Open a debate, do a shout out round of questions or get them to walkabout the room to examine information on the topic at different stations. (Here are 25 ideas on making training active.)

Ask for commitment

When the participants leave the training room, what are they expected to do? They learned something but how will they transfer that to their job – that’s a good question to prepare yourself for. Before the training session finishes, take enough time to ask participants about their ideas, and also to give advice on making the learning stick. You may also consider a Personal Learning Plan.

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Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic. We also offer a range of  Train the Trainer and Workshop Facilitation seminars.

 

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Stepping into management: the learning and development journey

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One of the drawback of being a trainer is that now and again you fail to realise that what is obvious for you is new to others. In a recent young managers program the “eureka” moment came when, following a young manager’s “Maybe I’m not cut out for this job”  statement, I shared the Conscious Competence model”.  The model, developed by Noel Burch, has been around since the 1970s – and it’s a great way to prepare for and reflect on your development as a manager (or development in any other role).  I assumed my participants knew the model already but they had never heard of it. This is a quick recap.





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Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence

Ignorance is bliss, and you don’t even realize that you are performing poorly. As a new, young manager perhaps you don’t even realize you are making elementary mistakes. Instead of delegating you are dumping tasks on people and walk away convinced you are empowering them to find their own solutions. Perhaps your tasking is incomplete, or maybe you don’t have clear goals because you didn’t consider this your role.  Are you delaying giving feedback because you don’t want to upset anybody and it will sort itself out anyway – or perhaps the way you give feedback is so clumsy you demotivate somebody.  The list goes on and on. You assume you know what y0u’re doing –  it’s more or less the same as before but with the better desk and more benefits. You’re not aware that you don’t have the necessary skill. Perhaps you don’t even realize that the skill is relevant.  In the first stage, your confidence exceeds your management skills. Before you can move to the next step you need to know and accept that certain skills are relevant to the role of manager, and that mastering this skill will make you more effective.

Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence

Someone helped you understand that you need to develop a new skill. Or, you have been sent on a management training programme and your eyes have been opened. Or perhaps confronted by poor results you’ve actually  taken a step back and reflected on what’s been going on and the role you’ve played. You are aware of your lack of skills. You are consciously incompetent. This is a difficult phase as you are now aware of your weaknesses, or in today’s insipid jargon your “developmental areas”.

Nobody is born a manager, although some people may well have innate skills, making the transition to manager easier. Learning by feedback, learning by suffering, learning by doing and learning by failing – these things brought you to the second stage. Training can play a role as can learning from your peers and exposing yourself to opportunities to learn. By staying positive and embracing the small successes your confidence in your own management abilities grows.

 

Stage 3 – Conscious Competence

At this stage you have learnt some reliable management techniques and processes, but they have to be consciously implemented.  It’s a bit like painting by numbers. You know how to facilitate a meeting well, but you still want to take time to reflect on the steps beforehand.  You can make a great presentation and get your message across … and you know what you need to do in advance to get the success you need. You can provide feedback in an appropriate manner – but not without thinking it through beforehand. At this stage, your ability to be flexible and proactive in unexpected situations is limited – but you can do it. The task-oriented aspects of managing are becoming fine-tuned but it is still learning by doing, trial and error, or copying managerial role models. You are testing your limits.

Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence

Quite simply you have become what you wanted to be –  a skilled manager. The task and relationship aspects of managing are now “part of you”.  You know how to achieve the task, develop individuals and build a team – and can do it without too much thinking. Non-routine situations are challenging, yet do not faze you. You are like Beckenbauer in football, or Federer in tennis. You always appear to have enough time and space to make good decisions. But even masters can lose matches and need to learn and practise.

To summarize

The model can be universally applied as a model for learning. It suggests that you are initially unaware of how little you know – you simply don’t know what you don’t know. As you recognize your incompetence, you acquire a skill consciously, then learn to use that skill. Over time, the skill becomes a part of you. You can utilize it consciously thought through. When that happens you have acquired unconscious competence.

  • It will help you understand that stepping into a management role is a learning journey -and not an instant enlightenment.
  • It reinforces that rank does not automatically give you authority.
  • It reassures you that you can succeed as a manager. You just need space and time to find your feet.
  • Understanding this dynamic and learning basic management techniques will quickly help you overcome the early frustrations.

And finally you can manage your emotion as you develop.  You are going through a well-known learning process.  Nobody is born a manager!

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Read more about the model (this article suggests a fifth stage and has a matrix to clarify the four stages). And finally, a few blog posts you might be interested in:

 

10 easy steps you can take to kick-start your learning in 2017

The idea of new year resolutions isn’t a modern invention. The Babylonians and Romans both made promises to their gods at the start of a new year. Whether or not you are making resolutions, the start of a new year does bring new opportunities for you to refocus on learning new skills and building knowledge.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but here are 10 proven and practical steps you can take to help get your learning off on the right track in 2017.  And here’s the good news …. you don’t need to necessarily do them all! If you try just a couple, you’ll see the benefits by the end of the year.




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1. Set realistic goals

Take half an hour to think about what you really want to learn, develop, improve, and why. Now write those goals down so you have something to refer back to reflect on. Whether it be improving your vocabulary in a foreign language, overcoming presentation stress  or learning to play the drums: SMART GOALS HELP!

2. Find options for achieving these goals

If you want to improve your writing skills, how are you going to do that? Use an app, attend a course? Do your research and find options that are going to work for you – and try to get the ball rolling sooner than later. It’ll be summer before you know it.

3. Get social

Talk to people about their goals and what they’re doing to get there. How are they learning? And what can you learn from them? And share your goals too.

4. Eat small bites

Micro-learning is one of the learning & development trends for 2017. The great thing about this is that it acknowledges the time issue we all have. Training can now happen in bite-sized chunks that literally take no more than 5 minutes at a time – that means you can learn something very quickly without having to make major changes to your routines and schedules. There are micro-learning solutions for most areas, including business English.

5. Get organized

If you’re learning anything new, it helps to organize yourself. That could be organizing your notes, your time, and setting priorities. Take the time to consider what works for you.

6.  Experiment

According to the 70-20-10 learning model 10% of learning happens in formal training situations, 20% happens through social interaction, and 70% happens on-the-job. On-the-job means in practical, real situations. So, if you’re learning something, you need to experiment in real situations. Look for opportunities to do this.

7. Learn from your mistakes

If you experiment, you’re going to make mistakes. Don’t worry about that, it’s part of the learning process. Just make sure you actually take the time to reflect on what went wrong and what needs to happen differently the next time round. And then do it differently.

8. Enjoy yourself

The best learning happens when it’s so much fun, you don’t even realize you’re learning. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Choose learning options that fit in with how you would normally be spending your time. That could be watching a movie, listening to a podcast, reading a book, or playing a game on your tablet.

9. Notice your progress

If you write down your goals, and review them regularly, you’ll see the progress you’re making. It also helps if you can begin to notice the small events that show that learning is happening.

10. Celebrate your results

And when you notice those small events, celebrate and reward yourself. When we ask participants to build transfer plans at the end of a seminar we ask a number of questions, “What? How? By when? Who else needs to be involved? What does success look like?” AND “How will you reward yourself?”. It could be as simple as holding off on buying a new book or as grand as buying concert tickets and taking your daughter.

Overcoming the 4 core obstacles that prevent intentions turning into action

Whether they be new year resolutions or not, our plans and intentions often fail to materialize due to a lack of specificity, vision, accountability, and discipline. To overcome these 4 obstacles …

  • Define what you want to achieve as clearly as possible (see step 1 below)
  • Consider what success looks like – and then ask yourself if you are really doing all you can to make your vision come true
  • As well as holding yourself accountable, set up a “buddy system” in order to stick to your resolutions. Avoiding embarrassment can be a great motivator (see step 3) -although some research does argue that sharing goals actually widens the intention-behavior gap.
  • Stick to your goals and your plans, and don’t make excuses.  The more you practice discipline, the more disciplined you become. When you do slip, rather than making excuses, think of ways to do it next time should you happen to come across a similar obstacle.

Good luck and have fun learning!

Is Blended Learning the right solution for you?

Considering the implementation of a Blended Learning (BL) program brings with it a set of questions and decisions that need to be made. Blended Learning has a huge number of benefits. We know through experience that it personalizes learning, it reduces training costs, it offers flexibility- to name a few. But where there are advantages, there are usually some disadvantages too. When technology is involved, people need to know how to use it effectively, and there are set up and maintenance costs involved – to name a few. When we help our clients set up a BL program, or when we train trainers on this topic, we advise them to plan and evaluate the outcome of the BL solution. The below questions will help you get started.





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Visualize the big picture

If you think that Blended Learning is the right solution for you, great.

  • What successes are you looking for by implementing a BL program?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of implementing a BL program?

Find the perfect blend

There are face to face (seminars, 1-1 training, classes) and online elements (webinars, virtual classrooms, community learning) to consider. Chances are you won’t be using all of them. There’s no need. But you’re looking for the perfect blend, so you need to know which elements there are to choose from and how each of them are of benefit to you. If you don’t have access to an expert to ask, Wikipedia is always a good place to start.

  • Which components of available BL solutions are in your toolbox?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of these components?
  • How easily can these components be implemented?
  • How are you going to link content between the components?

Engage participants

Not everyone will jump at the chance of exploring a new online system, not even if the learning benefits are obvious. It’s possible that not everyone needs to engage with all the BL components that are available, or to different extents. If you’ve dealt with change in the workplace, you know it already, buy-in is necessary if you want your BL program to hit the ground runnning.

  • What does participant engagement look like?
  • How can you maximize participant engagement?
  • Which participants should use which components?

Train the trainer

The trainer is key to any successful training solution. You need their buy-in too. Their engagement with the training shouldn’t end when you move to the online component. And if your trainer is expected to deliver some of the online components, your success depends on their ability to utilize the tools available to them. Most trainers are keen to try out new things and will happily engage. Nevertheless, there is often a learning curve for the trainer.

  • What is the trainer’s level of engagement with each of the components?
  • Which skills does the trainer need to make the program successful?
  • How can we close gaps in knowledge?
  • How will we get trainer buy-in?

Measure success

  • What behaviours have changed at work as a result of the BL program?
  • How do training objectives relate to business objectives?
  • How do we measure success?
  • What do participants need to be successful?

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Practical advice on implementing the 70-20-10 model

The 70-20-10 model has been around for a few years already. It reflects the increasing awareness that people learn not just through “traditional” training. Research shows that we actually acquire most of the knowledge, skills and behaviours we need to perform our jobs through actual experience and working alongside others. The 70-20-10 model has its origins in the work of McCall, Eichinger and Lombardo from the Centre for Creative Leadership.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

Their book, “The Career Architect” (1996), is based on empirical research and concluded that successful managers learned in 3 different ways:

  • 70 percent of learning comes from real life on-the-job experiences, performing tasks and problem solving
  • 20 percent of learning comes from feedback, working with and observing role models
  • 10 percent from “traditional” training

Initially focussing on management and leadership development, this conclusion has since been extended to other types of professional learning and development. Today the 70-20-10 model is being used by Learning & Development departments in a wide-range of multinationals operating across a broad range of businesses. (e.g. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Nike, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Maersk, L’Oréal, and Caterpillar)

Why implement the 70-20-10 model

Whether you are a learning & development specialist, a line manager, a trainer or training provider, or an employee, you should take time to reconsider and refocus your efforts. By doing this you can:

  • shift the focus and expectations towards more efficient and effective types of learning and development
  • ensure that time and money invested in learning and development makes a greater impact
  • support your business by keeping people in the workplace while they are learning

The model has an attractive simplicity, although the exact ratios are contended. As a trainer and manager of a training company I think it’s important to see the model as a philosophy and not a rigid recipe.  The key is understanding and accepting that the majority of learning actually happens outside of the classroom, and that any learning and development program should take this into account and proactively support this.  It doesn’t mean that traditional training is no longer relevant in the 21st century, but rather that this traditional training is just a part of learning and development strategies.

“Almost without exception, in my experience, organisations that have adopted 70-20-10 have achieved greater impact on performance at organisational and individual level at lower cost than was being achieved beforehand.”

Charles Jennings

How to implement the 70-20-10 model

The 70-20-10 model has proven to positively impact organisations in enhancing learning and development programs. Based on what we’ve seen our clients do, and what we’ve tried ourselves, here are some concrete and practical ways to begin implementing the 70-20-10 model in your organization.

Raise awareness and build commitment through conversation 

Everyone involved needs to be brought on board with the idea that learning and development is not just about going on a course.  My own experience as a manager is that it is relatively easy to get people to see 70-20-10 as “common sense”. These conversations are essential as the 70-20-10 model depends on L&D working closely with line managers, and on line managers communicating with their staff. Managers need to be aware of the pivotal hands-on role they play in developing their staff, and employees need to appreciate the context for new decisions.

Implementing the 70-20-10 model is not a cost-cutting exercise – replacing “training” by a loose learning-by-doing approach. It’s actually a quality driven initiative, aiming to make sure that the company is developing to meet future challenges.

Scott Levey

If, like Target Training, you’re a medium sized company, these conversations are reasonably manageable. If, like many of our clients, you’re part of a larger organization then start small. Find a business unit where managers are comfortable and confident wearing the “developing people” hat. Speaking with our clients, many of whom are multinationals, the general consensus has been that introducing the 70-20-10 model step by step has proved to be the most effective approach. By connecting with managers who have a genuine interest in developing their teams and the employees within them, the model organically spreads to other areas.

Enable experiential learning

This is key when we consider that 70% of learning comes from “doing”. Giving employees the opportunity to learn through challenging yet achievable experiences is one the most powerful and practical tools in a manager’s toolbox. Experiential learning can come through new roles and equally occur within existing roles. Three approaches we’ve seen clients benefit from are:

  • extending the scope of responsibility and control
  • enabling and increasing decision-making power
  • expecting staff to build new relationships (e.g. other business units, senior managers, virtual teams , suppliers, partners, clients…)

 

Be prepared to accept a compromise between optimal efficiency and developmental opportunities

You can expect to see specific requests upwards, where an employee is keen to get involved in a challenging project specifically to build their skills. Naturally they won’t be as effective or efficient as somebody who can already perform this role – so look at it as a learning and development initiative rather than just a question of resources.

Engage with internal and external trainers and training providers early on

Discuss how to connect the dots between on-the-job, social and formal learning. The goal is to identify critical skills and behaviours and then look at building and reinforcing these using all options.

Coaching and mentoring

These are great ways of integrating social learning into a traditional program. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, and both draw on a similar skill set I’d argue there are differences. For me mentoring is deliberately connecting an experienced person (the mentor) with a less experienced one (the mentee). The mentor could be a colleague, a manager, or the line manager. The mentor then tutors, shares experiences, models, counsels and offers feedback.  Coaching does not necessarily imply directly related experience, tends to be less directive, and is aimed at improving performance in specific areas.  Regardless of how you define them, both approaches have a lot to offer.

When it comes to traditional training the key is early and explicit management involvement

The single most powerful step a manager can take is to clearly explain to their staff  why the training is relevant to the business and that there are clear expectations. This simple step drives motivation, participation and transfer. This transfer is crucial and I’d suggest that any traditional formal training has to integrate a transfer plan. In this simple document the employees are challenged to consider how they will actually transfer the learning into their workplace, when they’ll do this, who else needs to be involved and how will they know when they have achieved this.

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What makes a great trainer?

We recently had the opportunity to ask a selection of managers what they think are the qualities of a great trainer. At the end of the session, they were pretty much in agreement. Their collated answers are summarized below.

Variety and flexibility

Have a wide range of activities to use flexibly in different training situations. These activities should accommodate different learning styles. The trainer also needs to vary the training approaches and the interaction patterns in the training room. They need to know how to make sure participants get the most from the training.
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Creative and innovative

The more personalized and interactive the activities are, the more immediately transferable the results will be. A great trainer will feel the reward of delivering something that really adds value for the participants. Great trainers are passionate about what they do. They will want to experiment with new ideas and activities, each time reflecting on its success and development.

Know the audience

It’s not always possible to know every participant in advance. But a great trainer will have done the research. They’ll know about, for example, what the client does, what their challenges are, and how they expect the training will help them reach their goals.

Embrace change

With new training trends, new technologies, and the ongoing cycle of change in business, the trainer’s ability to adapt will make him/her/the training more effective. Great trainers drive change. They introduce new techniques and elements to the training – a blended learning or virtual learning element for example.

Focus on results

Great trainers work with the end in mind. Every activity should consider the goals of the participants and learning progress is measured. The trainer looks for immediate results (reaction to the session) and long-term results (behaviour on the job).

Approachable

Having a genuine, active interest in people is just one of the qualities of a great trainer. The trainer’s ability in building relationships is a major part in ensuring an effective outcome for all stakeholders.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

We offer a number of train the trainer programs in English and German. Not all the information is currently on our website. Here’s a good place to start.

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8 questions about experiential training answered

training providerslargeHave you ever tried teaching a child a new skill? Take learning to swim as an example. You could give a detailed description of the process and then expect them to remember and follow your instructions, or you could let them get on with it, learn in their own way. Learning in their own way will certainly result in some frustrations, but through this experience of trial and error they are more likely to remember for themselves the best way to get to the result.

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We think that experiencing real situations and learning from what you experience is key to all learning. And so, clearly, do a lot of big thinkers before us. Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. Long before him, Aristotle said “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”.

James Culver

What is experiential training?

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience – and more specifically the process of “learning through reflecting on what you’re doing / just did”. It’s been around for a very long time.

Why is experiential training so powerful in management and soft skills solutions?

The gentlemen I mentioned above were onto something. These observations still ring true today, especially when we want people to learn behaviors to apply in the workplace. Learning by doing is great for children, but as adults in the workplace we can really add the additional aspect of reflecting on how our behaviors affect outcomes. This is the experiential advantage.

How can experiential training help you retain information and embed behaviors?

Dr. Igor Kokcharov’s did some research into this and came up with this pretty useful pyramid. If you take a look at it, you can see how learning by doing with coach led reflection and practice gives participants the best chance to retain necessary information.

 pyramidexplearning

 

Who’s using the experiential training approach?

A lot of adult learning approaches in a broad range of fields from corporate to military, and from emergency services to care work, make use of this experiential advantage. Business schools use the approach with simulation exercises, and critical incident gaming can be found in government agencies and board rooms alike. At Target Training, our experience is that experiential training can do much more. It can increase awareness of behaviors, particularly those with negative consequences. It else has the power to challenge current approaches in a developmental, non-judgmental way.  If experiential training is established, we can focus on the individual’s needs and deliver tangible change. This fits perfectly when developing soft and management skills.

What does experiential training look like in the training environment?

Put very, very simply, experiential training = do + debrief + do it again.  You might be thinking that sounds pretty boring – why go to training to do the same thing a couple of times over? Think about the result you’re looking for though. You’re going to training not to learn a bunch of theory, but to be able to go back to your workplace and do something differently. Experiential training is all about working in the real world.  Whether in a well-designed activity or on-the job, you behave the way you do. After observing you in action, the trainer/coach leads you through a consequence-based conversation, talking you through the behaviors he or she observed. They also link what they have seen with alternatives to help improve the outcome. You develop new skills and can then apply them to a new experience. You learn to recognize “triggering events” in your work environment and can choose to use the new behavior in training – and beyond.

How does it work?

Here are some of the elements which are key to successful experiential training:

Training environment

By creating a positive, encouraging environment in the training room. This help you to act as you normally do and feel comfortable with trying out new skills. The more you can share the behavior-consequence based feedback the trainer gives you, the easier it will be to identify and close any behavior gaps.

Debriefing

The debriefing stage is key. New information necessary to support new behaviors is introduced here.

Varied interaction and activities

Challenging, timed group and pair work problem solving activities to raise the stress level so participants communicate as themselves.

What can I expect from my trainer?

The trainer’s role is not to present you with lots of information. They act more as a coach and are responsible for creating a developmental, experiment-friendly environment in the training room.

What do I need to do to make experiential training a success?

Be open. To be effective, experiential soft skills training requires you to fully participate in experiences, as well as being willing to reflect and identify behavior gaps with others. None of us would feel comfortable about learning to swim through guided discussion or a PowerPoint presentation. Experiential soft skills training puts you in the deep water of communication situations. This allows you to see a need for new behaviors that will lead to better consequences on the job. You practice these behaviors through experiences in a safe, leaner-centered environment. And will then feel ready to dive back into your working environment to try out these new behaviors.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

We work with the 70-20-10 model. My colleagues and I are available to tell you more about how we can implement the right training for your needs. To help you find a training provider, please download our eBook THE DEFINITIVE CHECKLIST FOR QUALIFYING TRAINING PROVIDERS.

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What does Blended Learning really mean?

Blended Learning (BL) is one of those terms that is kicked around freely in the world of training and development. The only problem is that there are so many different interpretations of what it actually means. For some people it is virtual training, for some it is e-learning, others might think it is e-learning with a mixture of classroom time, and so on. A great starting point is to think about the meaning of the word “blend”. The chances are, you have a blender in your kitchen. What do you do with your blender? Usually you pick the ingredients you want to make your smoothie, soup, marinade or whatever else you might be making. You pick those ingredients in the quantities that you like, and you hit the blend button to get the result you are looking for. That’s what blended learning is: choose your ingredients, adjust the quantities, blend, and you’ve got your result.

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Why should you consider adopting a blended approach to learning in your organization?

Research by the National Training Laboratory (World Bank) shows that the amount of new information trainees retain depends on how the information is presented. The graph below shows the retention rates for the six most common methods of teaching new information:

retention graph Logically then, one mode of delivery is not sufficient to achieve the intended results from training programs. The more you blend, the better the results. And consequently, the better your return on investment is.  Blending is therefore not really a training option,it’s a must.

What can you put in your BL toolbox?

The different ways of training (training modalities) are important to understand. Your 5 main choices are:

  • Face-to-face training (seminars, classes, workshops, peer coaching)
  • On-the-job training
  • Wikis and community learning
  • Webinars / Virtual classrooms
  • Web-based Training (WBTs)

At the most basic level, blended learning could be that you set home work after a training intervention and follow up on it, BUT you can do much better than that!  In this mobile age, there are literally hundreds of tools out there you can choose them. You’ll need to take a look at them, evaluate them, and figure out which ones are best for you and your organization. And if you’re not happy with any of them, there are easy-to-use platforms that allow you to develop your own.

How can you get that perfect blend for your training program?

Deciding which elements to use when isn’t easy, but there are tools out there. You need to decide which tools are best suited to each step along the learning journey you are designing. Try using a decision tree to help you with this.

What are the main obstacles?

The 5 main obstacles we’ve seen clients face are:

  1. When are you asking your participants to do the elements which are not face-to-face? In a lot of cases, this has to happen after work and within their own time. Your staff have to complete certain elements, but they need to be given time and space to do this. This means a higher investment of course, but you can then expect that the participants will work through these blended elements. The level of motivation will also be much higher, and that will mean that the participants are actually likely to learn more.
  2. The fear of technology. Blended Learning does not actually have to involve a technology based part, but invariably these days it will. Some people are easily able to take on new IT tools, while others find this more challenging, and ultimately scary.
  3. Getting and sustaining true virtual engagement. I speak from experience as a participant. I have joined an online course with chat functions to help interaction between the participants and tutor. For the first few modules I’ve been full of energy and assigned time for the training, but after that practical realities and operational issues have got in the way, and the training has slipped further down my to-do list (especially when there are no time constraints on the training). That’s a big shame, but it is a reality, and one that I’m not alone in facing.
  4. Disconnected content. Successful Blended Learning involves teaching and deepening the same content using different modalities and a range of tools. In several programs I’ve seen there has been little connection between the content of the face-to-face training and the virtual elements. Rather than building on knowledge, new input is being given in each setting. This may be because there is so much input, but the result will be that a lot has been covered, but little has been learnt.
  5. Unrealistic expectations. Just because a participant has attended a webinar, it does not mean that they actually know the content. You need to have seen facts several times and be able to relate them to a relevant context in order to learn them. It’s only when you need the information in reality that you will see how successful this has been. If no opportunity arises over the months following this training element, then it is likely that participants will not remember much of the session. Blended Learning can help by offering further tools to aid retention outside the training room – but application is essential!

Blended Learning is finding the right blend of training tools to suit your individual organizational needs. Finding this blend will help improve learning retention as well as providing resources that participants can refer to outside face-to-face training. On the flip side, if you’re investing in or designing a Blended Learning program for your organization, then you need to make sure that the expectations and outcomes set are realistic. For the training to be motivational, participants need to have time, space and the necessary technical equipment. If you have all that in place, then the chances are you’ll see success.

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16 jargon-busting learning terms you need to be familiar with (if you work in L&D)

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Thousands of new words are created each year. Not surprisingly, some of those words are related to learning and L&D. Here – in no particular order – are the top 16 learning terms we think you need to be familiar with in 2016.

1. Blended Learning

Blended learning is about finding the right blend for an individual training solution. Think of a training toolbox, which can include face-to-face and online training solutions. You and the trainer can pick the best options from the toolbox at each stage of your learning journey. There is not one truly successful blended learning course that looks the same – it depends entirely on the needs of the participants and the organization.

2. Flipped Learning

Flipped learning simply means that all the face-to-face time in training is dedicated to productive learning. All other elements of training are done in preparation for and as a follow-up to the face-to-face training sessions.

3. Bite-sized Learning

These day people don’t have a lot of time for training. And they don’t have long attention spans. Training should therefore come in small doses, or bite-sized chunks. As well as slotting easily into busy schedules, training needs to be available from everywhere. The Training Journal blog puts bite-sized learning as the top learning trend for 2016.

4. mLearning

mLearning (mobile learning) means that you can access and use learning resources e.g. apps, videos, links from your smartphone or tablet wherever you are.

5. eLearning

eLearning involves the use of specific online courses and apps. There is typically no face-to-face element. There will often be a facilitator who runs the course, gives feedback and ensures that collaboration is taking place.

6. Business-centric Learning

In this model, the needs of the business take priority. All L&D is aligned to the business’, not the learners’ needs.  Success is then measured based on the impact that the training outcome has on the needs of the business.

7. Web-based Training (WBT) /Virtual classrooms

Web-based training is the same as face-to-face learning – just delivered virtually. Using tools like Skype for Business or Webex, the trainer can connect with participants anywhere in the world and train them in the same way as they would in a face-to-face environment. This learning space is called a virtual classroom.

8. Social Learning

This type of learning means that people learn from each other. This happens through collaboration and working together. This can be face-to-face or on, for example, intranet / internet platforms. This is really what the 20 in the 70:20:10 approach is about. We learn a lot from other people, the situation, and what is around us.

9. On the job Learning

And this is what the 70 in the 70:20:10 approach is all about. This is the amount you learn when you are actually working on the job. If 70% of learning is on the job, and 20% is social learning, then only 10% of training needs to be through formal instruction.

10. Gamification

Gamification, is as the name suggests, a way of turning learning into an enjoyable, memorable and interactive experience. It is often so enjoyable that participants don’t actually realize that it is training.

11. Informal Learning

This is the learning which happens in an unplanned way when people interact with each other. There is no control from above as to what will be learnt.

12. Experiential Learning

This kind of learning is all about the experience. Take, for example, virtual teams training. There is plenty of information openly available about how we should be working in a virtual team. A trainer can also share this information. We can read an article, nod, think “mm, that’s right, I’ll try that next time”, but if we don’t experience the event, and receive feedback on what we’re doing, then there is little chance that we will actually change our behavior.

13. Independent / Self-directed Learning

This kind of learning is completely up to the participant. Management has no control over this. In contrast, the learner has total control. Choosing what interests you, means that you are more likely to remember what you learn and be motivated to pursue your learning further. There are endless tools, apps, and websites available which mean that learners can work at their own pace and at times that suit them.

14. Self-paced Learning

In this kind of learning it is the learner who decides how fast they want to move through the course.

15. Ongoing coaching and mentoring

Telling people something once generally isn’t enough. Ongoing coaching and mentoring is key to ensuring that messages and content have been understood, digested, and are being put into practice. This approach means that individual training goals can be set and reached.

16. Prescriptive Learning

If you’re sick, you go to the doctor’s. The doctor gives you a prescription to fix the problem. In the same way, prescriptive learning programs are designed to fix the skills gap and get the individual from where they are now, to where you and your organization want them to be.

For more information

  • These are just some of the learning terms that are in use at the moment. They will of course change. There are some really useful glossaries around which are updated on a regular basis. Here’s one we like
  • To keep up-to-date with trends in the industry, follow our Flipboard magazine: On Target with L&D
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Evaluating existing training suppliers

Once a decision has been made for a training supplier and the first delivery has been checked for quality and suitability, we usually move on to other things. In reality, this can mean that a training provider delivers the same training measure again and again over years, without its contents being updated to current business needs or checking that the agreed contents are still being used by the selected trainer. Use the following topics to structure how you evaluate your existing training suppliers.

How up-to-date are you?

Evaluating your existing training provider starts in your own office. As you are responsible for the training measure(s) that your provider is delivering, you should have up-to-date information on the latest participant evaluations, seminar documentation and hand-outs. The older your own documentation is, the quicker you need to evaluate your training provider:

  • When did you last have a status meeting with your training provider? What was decided?
  • What can you learn if you compare participants’ evaluations over time?
  • If you don´t have a copy of the seminar documentation on your server, how quickly does your training provider hand out a copy to you?

How do you check the quality of existing training measures?

Regular quality management should be one of the key tasks of HR development but, unfortunately, everyday operational topics regularly push this to the bottom of the list. On the other hand, evaluating the quality of training measures ensures that you´re spending money on relevant training measures that support your business:

  • Does the seminar documentation (key messages about leadership and teamwork, cultural focus, takeaways, etc.) still reflect the current business climate and needs in your organisation? What needs to be updated?
  • Learn from the participants: What expectations does a participant have going into a training event? How are these expectations met after the training? What takeaways are still present 4-6 weeks later?
  • Observe (or participate in) a training event: Is the seminar documentation relevant? Are the key messages suitable for your business reality? Is the trainer still motivated?
  • Talk to your trainer: How does he/she suggest incorporating into the training content what they learn from the participants about your business environment?

How reliable is your current training provider?

A good training provider understands your business and provides a training event that fits your organisation’s culture and industry. In addition, you can rely on them to keep you up-to-date on critical topics arising in their trainings, or to provide you with interesting ideas that synergise with your business:

  • Does your training provider keep you up-to-date with what is new on the market? Do they actively come up with new ideas which benefit your business?
  • Does your training provider shy away from the idea of working with another provider (or with an internal trainer) at your request to deliver a customised training measure?
  • Do you get enough training dates from your training provider? Does he/she keep these dates and/or offer back-up trainers or alternative dates?

Is your contract up to date?

Once signed, companies rarely update contracts with training providers even though a discussion of training fees seems to be a regular event. Nonetheless, important factors such as travel expenses or secondary costs need to be checked on a regular basis. Also, legal requirements, e.g. confidentiality or data protection, change over time and need to be adhered to:

  • Do the agreed payment terms still fit current purchasing standards in your company?
  • Do the training rates meet market standards? Does the number of training measures provided justify a re-negotiation of fees?
  • How dependent are you on your training provider to deliver this training measure? Does this fit with your HR strategy or should you have a wider pool of providers?
  • Do you have an up-to-date confidentiality agreement with your training provider?
  • Does your training provider charge you separately for materials? Is the seminar documentation relevant or can you send key documents via email to save costs?

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There are thousands of training providers out there and many promise great things. But how can you really find out if they are the right fit? After all, it’s essential that you don’t risk wasting your employees’ working time or your hard-won training budget! Download the eBook.

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com
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Qualifying potential training providers

Virtual teams target training

training providerslargeThe key to assessing potential training providers is to find out how well they fit to what you want to achieve with the training. It’s important to get to the point quickly and here are a few questions that can help you decide if the people you’re talking to are ‘right’ for your company. 

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Are they prepared?

Before you present your company and situation to them, let the training provider describe what he/she already knows about your organisation. At the very least, they should have done their homework by reading the homepage. The most impressive of providers will already have incorporated your internal company language into their (written or oral) presentation:

  • If you sent them information prior to the meeting, are they referring to its content correctly?
  • Have they picked up any company brochures while they were waiting for you in the lobby?
  • Do you have to repeat yourself or are they listening to you describe your organisation attentively? (taking notes, rephrasing what you said, using company language)
  • Does their presentation reflect what you are looking for?

What kind of business do they have?

You need to know whether you´re dealing with a one-man-show (flexible to your needs but limited in scope) or a training company (offers standard content but can provide wider services). Additionally, you need to know how their business model fits your company and whether their training approach is compatible with the leadership culture in your organisation:

  • How many people work there?
  • Can they provide you with trainer profiles?
  • Who would you work with on the actual design of training content and why is he/she the most qualified?
  • What kind of international work have they done in the past?
  • What is their policy should a trainer drop out at the last minute? (replacement, back-up)
  • Which institutions do they cooperate with? (business schools, leadership think tanks)

How do they approach designing training content for new clients?

You can buy standardised content from any reliable provider, or you can ask a provider to customise training content to your situation and needs. If you choose the customized training option, you can ask:

  • How do they normally go about creating a new design for a first-time client? (design phases, milestones, client approval, dry runs)
  • What do they suggest they need to get to know your organisation in order to be able to create a suitable design? (discovery interviews with stakeholders, plant visits)
  • What level of customisation are they willing to provide? (adoption of company-internal language/abbreviations, integration of company goals/competences/principles into training content, incorporation of internal specialists in training programmes)

What methods of quality management do they apply?

No training measure should be an individual, stand-alone event. Any professional training provider should have a variety of methods to ensure the applicability of training content to the business and the transfer of learning to the workplace. For longer-term or repetitive measures, they should suggest methods to maintain high-quality content and to review and update these contents to your changing business environment:

  • Other than the typical “happy sheets”, what kind of evaluation methods do they offer?
  • What methods have they used successfully in the past to ensure an effective learning transfer? (also ask about negative experiences and their underlying causes)
  • What is their approach towards blended learning? If you have an online learning platform, how could the training contents be linked back to it?
  • What certifications do they possess? (industry certificates like ISO or individual certification like personality diagnostics)

What are their expectations regarding contracting?

Most companies have internal standards about contracting external suppliers, whether it be about payment terms or travel regulations. Most training providers do not like to have to accommodate their contracting terms but, as the customer, you should ensure that the contract details suit your business:

  • What are their daily rates? (beware of different rates for design, preparation and delivery)
  • What kind of payment terms do they suggest? (timing of invoices, listing of travel expenses, payment of instalments)
  • If they create materials customised to your organisation, what are the intellectual property considerations? (ideally, you should be able to use this material internally for other purposes)

What references can they provide?

Ultimately, you need to check the references of any training provider before contracting them. Be aware, however, that some references given may be outdated or refer to projects not applicable to what you require for your business:

  • What other similar clients have they worked for in the recent past? (same industry, similar size, similar business model)
  • What other similar projects have they successfully run in the recent past? (focus of contents, hierarchy level of participants, scope of measures)
  • Can they give you the name/contact details of reference clients? (a good provider will want to check with that client first!)

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com
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How to convince participants that gamification is a good thing

The first time I used a game in the Business English training room it failed – miserably. Actually, from a training point of view it worked pretty well as participants were talking a lot and interacting in an authentic, interested manner with each other. That was the aim of the session. In fact, being a business fluency class, it was really the aim of the whole course. But participants didn’t see it that way. They went straight to my director, complaining that the class had been a waste of time as they had to play a game.

What went wrong? This experience happened twenty years ago and the participants were heading towards retirement. I don’t think that it is time or age that explains it though. It has more to do with participant expectations, their perceptions of an activity’s usefulness, and the training department and trainer’s need to “sell” the training tools we are using to get participant buy-in. Looking back, I definitely didn’t sell it well enough.

Three ways to sell gamification to training participants

Gamification is all the rage in training at the moment and is one of the top training trends for 2016. And there are lots of tools out there to help the trainer convert the training room into a fun, interactive, engaging place to learn. Most of us working in training know that this is a good thing. Let’s look at some ways training managers and trainers can convince participants that games are not a silly, waste of time in training. We need to show them that games are a very valid way to learn, retain and use what has been taught, as well as being a great diagnostic tool to find out more about what they still need to know.

We’ve found that taking these three steps really helps to make participants feel ready to take on any kind of activity you want to give them. They’ve just got to know why.

Ensure you and your training provider share the training methodology before the training begins

Participants in any form of training have to know what to expect. Take language training for example. People have learnt languages in many different ways, but most commonly at school where the focus tends to be on grammar and accuracy. Traditionally they expect the teacher to stand at the front of the room and ask individuals questions. In language training, intercultural training and leadership training today, trainers are encouraged to act as facilitators and resources rather than to stand at the front of the class and talk at the class. The shift from this kind of traditional school teaching to a trainer who facilitates learning and makes participants play games and talk about their own experiences is a big leap. And it needs explaining before the training is even purchased.

To consider: Does your corporate training catalogue describe the training styles and tools that will be used in the training room?

Ensure your training provider shares the aims at the start of the training session and again at the start of the activity

You can generally get adults to do anything in the training room – as long as they know why. General course aims are often explained and shared right at the start of the course in the first session. They really need to be shared right at the start of the session and when setting up each activity too. Here’s a couple of simple ways trainers can be using to get participant buy-in:

  1. At the start of the session, write up your main aims in the corner of the board of flipchart. You can then tick them off as you move through the session and draw the participants’ attention to the fact that you’re doing this and that they’re making great progress.
  2. Start each activity by explain “why”. All you need to do is add a “so that”, “in order to” or “because”, and it helps to link your rationale back to the aims you outlined at the start of the session:
    • I’d like you to work together and play this game so that…
    • In order to …… we’re going into divide into two teams and…….
  3. Finally, check that everyone is OK with that. A simple Is everyone OK with that? or Does everyone feel comfortable with that? goes one step further towards making participants feel that they have been included in the decision-making process as well as giving them an opportunity to say that they don’t want to do whatever the trainer has just asked them to do.

To consider: Do your trainers and training providers share their aims at regular intervals? At the start of the program? At the start of each session? Before activities?

Ensure your training provider is debriefing effectively

Training providers need to be getting the participants involved in the rationale and evaluating the usefulness of an activity. They need to give them the opportunity to decide if they think they would benefit from doing that kind of activity again. Creating a dialogue helps to build rapport, increase buy-in, and build a positive learning environment. And a positive learning environment will help move participants along their learning journey. Here are some ways of starting that debriefing dialogue:

  • Why did we do that activity?
  • What did you get out of that activity?
  • How could that activity be improved?
  • Would you want to do that kind of activity again?

Trainers should go back to their list of aims on the board. Review this list and mark what has been covered, and what hasn’t. If some aims haven’t been met, this should be discussed with the participants.

To consider: How well does your training provider debrief training sessions?

Your search for the right training provider

For more ideas regarding what to expect from a training organization, why not take a look at our eBook The Definitive Checklist for Qualifying Training Providers:



eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers





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How can you react to increasingly specific requests for training?

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training providerslargeHere’s an extract from a recent initial needs analysis I carried out with a client who had booked English training for a global change management project. This is just one example of how we’ve seen that training requests for communication and soft skills are becoming more and more specific. If you work in an L&D department, you’ve probably noticed this too.

Me: “Why are you interested in developing your team’s English skills?”

Client: “I need my team to be able to improve the way they use language to communicate the changes we need to make across the company. My team will need to spread the message globally using our intranet, internal social media platform, and through presentations and workshops. The way they communicate will need to be adapted according to the cultures e.g. Japan, Brazil, and the US. We need help establishing a style and communication campaign that will make everyone want to get behind the changes and drive them forward”.

This statement alone says there is a need for intercultural skills training with reference to over 40 countries where the changes will be made, creative ideas for marketing campaigns, how to write effectively for social media, how to achieve a global corporate writing style, presentations skills, workshop facilitation skills, and the list goes on. And no-one has even mentioned English yet. Basically, the client needs all of this, but in English – so she booked an English course straight out of a catalogue,  because couldn’t really find anything that fitted her needs exactly.

If you’re a participant in a standard Business English course, you may have noticed how the book you’re moving through, doesn’t always fit your needs. You’ve got really specific situations you need to use English for and there is no way they will be dealt with in an off-the-shelf course. If you’re a manager, you’ve probably spotted specific situations where you think your employees could benefit from some training support. You look at what the training department has on offer, but nothing seems to quite fit.

The starting point of effective training design should be the needs of the participants

This is precisely why we shy away from offering a catalogue. (Don’t get me wrong, we have a catalogue, because that’s what potential clients often request). But a training catalogue simply offers “standard” courses. Those courses are written in advance without detailed knowledge of the participant or their needs. They can of course be adapted to a certain extent. But shouldn’t the starting point of effective training design be the learners themselves? How can pre-designed courses really meet the training needs of the department or individual? Surely the ideal way is to listen to the client, dig deeper into their challenges, and look for solutions that will solve their problems?

The pros and cons of taking the individualized approach to training solutions

The pros

  • The training is completely tailored to your needs.
  • The results are immediately transferable to the workplace.
  • Improvement in performance on the job is evident.
  • The relevance ensures a happy learner.

The cons

  • You really need to be able to and want to listen.
  • You need training partners who are highly skilled in analysing needs based on limited information – everyone says they can do it, but it really is a skill, and it’s hard to find people who can do it well.
  • You need time. And time, when it comes to training design and materials development, can translate into money.
  • You need to evaluate the cost, often with the purchasing department. It can be hard to justify the cost of individualized learning to people who may not see the benefits of the immediate transfer to the workplace.
  • You need to move away from the simplicity of offering what is in the catalogue as a “take it, or leave it” solution.
  • You need to work with trainers who are adaptable, reactive, creative, and enjoy thinking on their feet.
  • It might be more difficult to sell to clients.
  • It might be difficult to measure concrete results e.g. with a test

OK, I admit, the cons list is longer, but how many of them are real problems? Solutions are easy to find to all of them. It might take a bit of effort and extra time before the training is organised. But, ultimately, an individualized training program will save you time and money in the workplace.

If you are interested to learn more about our needs analysis or individualized training design, please get in touch with me, or one of my colleagues. We’d be delighted to tell you more.

 

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Identify your training goals for 2016 with these 4 questions

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keytrainingqualityissuesIf you are a line manager, you probably need to think about training for the people who work for you. But, how do you decide what training is necessary? How do you set the training goals? And how do you know what will actually provide real, tangible results?

Start with the end in mind

The best way to think about training goals is to start with the end in mind. Don’t ask, “What training do I want?” Instead, ask yourself, “Why do I want training?”

When you start with the end in mind, you define what you want to achieve with the training. In other words, why have you decided to invest money in your people?

4 questions to ask when identifying your teams training goals

The first question really needs to be answered before you can start thinking about actual training. Once you have answered the first question, you can sit down with a training provider and let them help you to answer the other 3 questions.

  1. What result(s) do I want to see?
  2. What behaviour needs to change so that this result can be achieved?
  3. What skills, knowledge or attitudes do my people need to learn to change this behaviour?
  4. What sort of training is most appropriate for learning these skills, knowledge or attitudes?

A good training provider should be able to help you to define the behaviours which support the results you are looking for. They should be able to help you to decide what skills, knowledge and attitudes affect these behaviours. And, finally, they can suggest alternative ways for delivering training which will ensure that your people learn and put these behaviours into practice in the best possible way.

Don’t ask ‘what’, ask ‘why’

So remember, first you need to think why you want training. From here, you can decide what training will help you to reach your goals. For more tips on training goals and budgets, make sure to download our eBook “Making the most of your training investment” to help you get your money’s worth once you have identified your training goals.

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Without boundaries – Why I believe the digital learning experience represents the future of L&D

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I work for a leading global engineering company (one of the largest) extending its profitable global business over the past 150 years with offices across America, Asia, and Europe. It is recognized for its innovative, digital working environment, passion for its brand and customers and as a place where talented people are inspired and challenged to release their full potential.

A transformation towards the power of the individual

Originally coming from Silicon Valley to Germany in the late nineties, I have been able to grow professionally by overseeing a variety of HR initiatives in attracting, developing, engaging and enabling talent all along the HR landscape. For the past fifteen years, my focus was heavily on building talent management strategies which helped enable and retain people.

Today, I am experiencing for the first time a major transformation in the marketplace towards savvy social employees whose choices and opinions can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line. This shift to the power of the individual is transforming the relationship between workers and employers. Corporate training is undergoing a total transformation, and the concepts of “evaluation and assessment” are being replaced by better engagement, interaction, empowerment and quality learning.

Building a learning experience to meet the challenge

With Industrial 4.0 and the digitalization of our workforce, we are seeing a fast-growing new marketplace for tools and providers which should help us meet this challenge. In a highly competitive climate, I believe it is imperative that L&D professionals develop strategies to continue to close the skill gap while ensuring an even greater employee experience. To tackle this challenge, many L&D leaders are moving towards building a long standing learning experience.

This shift requires a transformation in how we handle future L&D initiatives. As the economy picks up and companies are competing for people again, businesses want

  • HR technology that directly drive employee engagement, help improve employment brand, and platforms that harness and reach out into the internet.
  • learning software that builds a compelling self-directed digital learning environment,
  • goal management tools that are agile, easy to use, and help people develop.

3 goals for harnessing technology to boost inspiration, collaboration and learning

Technology has the ability to boost inspiration, collaboration and learning and I believe technology will have a key role in helping empower L&D professionals to do a vital job. Employees today are already using an array of digital devices outside of work, so it makes sense to make the most of them in every learning environment.

  1. Our focus should be on turning learning environments into connected centers where training is delivered in collaborative, interactive and creative ways.
  2. Everything from mobile devices, online learning solutions and interactive platforms should give employees the chance to access what they need, discover something new, and then share it instantly with their peers.
  3. Employees can work with each other on projects, get advice, discover new sources of information, and generate and discuss ideas.

This approach will make the learning experience richer, more productive and enjoyable without boundaries.

Related posts (from secret L&D managers)

Who is the secret L&D manager?

The “secret L&D manager” is actually a group of L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers.

 

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3 questions to ask your existing training providers

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training providerslargeOur question for the secret L&D manager this month

What should L&D managers ask their existing training providers on a regular basis?

Actually this is very interesting –and relevant. I work in an organization where there’s really little rotation in our training suppliers. I’ve inherited most of them, and this means I have some specific issues. Actually I had something yesterday with a supplier.

My first recommendation for questions to existing training providers would be a very open one. Just say:

  • From your point of view what do you think we could do to allow your trainers and your training to have more impact within our organization?

Existing suppliers should be in a good position to share ideas. “Groups should be smaller… we should make it longer … team leaders should follow up after the training” or whatever. Basically you just take it from there and see what makes sense.

Now, obviously beware that they don’t try to just push the answers towards more training days. On the other hand I would be very wary of any training providers who have been working with us for a while and then tell me everything is fine and there’s nothing to be improved. This means that they’re not paying attention. Typically the trainer will have some ideas about constraints which if removed would make the training offered more effective. Or, if not constraints, then extras that could easily be added.

The second question to ask from existing training providers is:

  • What have you learned from our participants during their training?

This is useful for you as an L&D manager or coordinator because actually training isn’t a one directional interaction. Information should go both ways and very often you’ll find that people tell the trainer things that they wouldn’t tell their manager, or wouldn’t tell their HR manager! I want to be clear here. I’m not saying we’re interested in who said what, we don’t need names. But we’re very interested in what is being said. So for example my interpersonal skills trainer comes back and says that people in the training get the concepts and everything, but there are scared of speaking out because there’s too much pressure from above. Now that’s very useful for you to be aware of, right? So use the existing trainers as a means for taking the temperature. Learn from them.

And then the third question is a bit more of a challenging question, and a very practical one. I don’t really think it makes sense to ask existing trainers provocative questions like “Why are you better than the competition out there?” because you should know that! You or your predecessor selected them. The third thing to consistently ask is

  • How can we make this more efficient?

Is there any way we can make this cheaper? How can we train more people with the same effort? Or how do we train the same number of people with less effort ? And by effort I’m speaking about budget, administration, time away from work and so on. One example is why does the trainer necessarily have to travel around so much? Aren’t there parts that we can deliver online or in a blended approach? Can we do other things to just upgrade our format of delivering training?

Basically the question is, do we need to continue to deliver this in the same way we would have delivered it 50 years ago – you know – one trainer, one flipchart, 12 people in the room etc. OR is there a more fun, a more modern way of doing this? And what you’ll find very often is that these changes are appreciated by the participants, it’s interesting for the trainer and it’s cost-effective for your company!

Those are the questions I use.

Who is this month’s Secret L&D manager?

The Secret L&D manager is actually many L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers.

 This month’s Secret L&D manager is German, aged 45-55, and works for a global engineering company. He has worked in training and development for over 17 years working as an L&D manager, a training provider and as a trainer. He speaks 4 languages and has an MBA. If money allowed, he’d work for a charity, contributing to their success by organizing and delivering great training. He agreed to write anonymously so he can openly and directly share his ideas and experience.