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Here’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 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.
- 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.