High-society events aren't my scene but when an opportunity came up recently to mingle with a group of independent business owners over free wine and hors d'œuvres, I couldn't pass up the chance to build my personal learning network (and enjoy a free lunch). And sure enough, within a few minutes a woman tapped me on the shoulder seeking my professional advice.
Over the next hour we chatted about her small retail business and about her need to migrate an existing manager-led training program to online training as a way to lower employee on-boarding costs and increase efficiency. As I dug deeper into her company's needs it became increasingly clear to me that this effort would be more involved than just adapting existing training for online delivery. Her business was facing a perfect storm of serious challenges, including:
With profits down and skyrocketing operating costs for recruiting, hiring, and training (not to mention marketing to constantly attract new customers) it's no wonder why she was looking at her training strategy to save money! But was online training really the best place to start?
Training, regardless of how it's delivered, is not a miracle cure for every business challenge. Training may be one component of a successful recovery strategy, but by itself, it's not likely to fix the underlying problems that brought about the current state of dysfunction.
When a severely wounded patient arrives at the Emergency Room do the doctors all stand around debating the cause of the injury? Of course not. Their immediate focus is, rightfully, on stabilizing the patient. It should be no different for a wounded business.
In this case, the owner's immediate need was not for training. They needed to slow or stop the vicious recruit/hire/train cycle that was killing growth, draining their bank accounts, and earning them a lousy reputation with customers. While migrating to online training may realize some immediate cost savings, I suggested that they start more simply by looking at their recruiting and hiring practices. Why train if you can minimize or avoid it?
I'm no change management consultant, but I do know that most big turn-arounds don't happen overnight. Building a more stable foundation requires that you shore up the most at-risk areas of your operation, first.
To identify those areas, ask:
Once you've sorted required training actions from everything else, it becomes easier to prioritize specific actions and to measure your results against specific targets.
Recognizing the value of calculated risk-taking is especially challenging for businesses who've been in survival mode. When you're seeing the need for fresh thinking but don't have a clue where to find it and how to foster it, take a cue from successful business leaders and seasoned academics by adapting and scaling their big ideas to your operation.
Want some more applied advice about the needs assessment process? While it's still on my Amazon reading list, I've heard nothing but praise for "A Practical Guide to Needs Assessment" by Kavita Gupta.
How do you determine if training is needed? Where do you start? Tell us about your approach and leave a comment.
Trina Rimmer is a learning and communications consultant with twelve years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training. When her skills aren't being tested by her children, you'll find her helping others to develop their own training design muscles.