Why Training Organizations Must Combat Continental Drift [Podcast]

ContinentalDrift1While combatting continental drift in the true geographic sense would be foolish, working to turn the tides that have pushed departmental continents away from each other is mandatory for meeting today’s business demands. And no department has perhaps drifted further away from the rest of Pangea as training/learning and development.

Our special guest on this week’s episode of The Skytap Podcast is Maria Chilicote. Maria is a certified master instructor and managing partner of The Training Clinic, and she spoke at Training 2016 about how by leveraging some key marketing strategies—like forming long lasting trust through partnerships—learning and development can deliver not just greater training, but greater performance to the entire orgnization that they support.

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Skytap Podcast; our show is now available on iTunes for your on-the-go listening needs, and if you can’t listen right now, we’ve provided a transcription below. This was an awesome interview, as Maria had so many outstanding points about the state of training today, and how instructors can really support their own efforts by better supporting those around them. Thank you for joining us!

Noel: Maria you and I spoke before this podcast and I wrote down something that you said about trainers. You said, “We haven’t proved our worth, and we also need to get over ourselves.” That really does challenge training to change their ways. I’m sure you can back those up and provide some examples of why that statement is true—I would love to hear those.

Maria: Sure, thank you for that Noel. The reason I said that is because back in the late 90’s and the early 2000’s, training departments literally went away and we went away because we weren’t tying what we were doing to the needs of the business. We were just training for training’s sake. The smart people stuck around because they learned how to tie it to performance, but the majority of us didn’t know how to do that and so we went away. Today, training departments are stronger than ever, L&D departments are just doing such a great job, which I love seeing, but we still need to prove our worth. When we’re talking about marketing we sometimes as L&D folks say, “I have so much to do I can’t do one more thing.”

Guess what? We’re already doing it because the essence of marketing is getting out there, communicating with your customers, discovering trends, finding a niche and filling it. Our niche is performance. We’re already doing this; we just have to start tracking the trends that we’re seeing out there as we are communicating to our customers. We have to look at it as not what we have that they want but what is it that they truly need to drive the business so that they’re performing to reach the organization’s goals. When I say we need to get over ourselves, sometimes we have this feeling that we really know about adult learning and we really know about performance.

Well, yeah we do, but guess what? Training is happening out there whether we know it or not. Every manager that is teaching an employee how to do something on the job is training. A lot of times when we start designing things we’ll talk to a couple of managers and get their feedback but we just sort of stay in our L&D experience and design what we know would be the best structurally to use and with really good sound design methodologies. Well there’s great stuff out there and that’s what I mean why we need to get over ourselves. We need to get over ourselves, we need to get out there and we need to start looking at our customers as consumers. Guess what? They can go elsewhere. I’m the first line of contact for The Training Clinic and the majority of calls that I get during the week are from people who are not in L&D departments.

They’re people who are in ops, in finance, risk management, in insurance areas and they’re calling me for training and development programs. I ask them, “Well what does your L&D department have for you or what does your training department have for you?” The answer for the most part is, “I never thought to call them.” That’s scary.

Noel: Yes, that is.

Maria: That’s why I’m a little bottom-line when I say, “We need to get over ourselves and get out of our office and find out what’s going on and how we can best help drive performance,” because we’re not about training. We’re about performance.

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Noel: Exactly. Your Training 2016 conference session was titled, “So No One Told You You’re a Marketeer,” You were just saying how trainers need to get out there and talk to customers and talk to other departments—that’s such an instant connection to how marketing works. You’ve also pointed out the need for trainers to involve management in those marketing efforts. I’m in marketing and so I know how difficult that can be sometimes to get management’s involvement or their buy-in. I would love to know why trainers need to do the same thing and then maybe a couple of tips on how to get management interested and involved.

Maria: The reason why it’s so important is, again, it’s all about the whole concept of performance. It’s not our performance and it’s not our peoples’ performance. It’s the people of the manager’s performance, and they (the managers) have to own that. The problem, and the rub we find in a lot of organizations, is that if I’m really, really good at doing something then I get promoted to managing that thing. Sometimes I don’t get the skills needed to do the managerial part and I definitely don’t get the skills on how to really manage the performance. Part of us partnering up with management is to build those relationships and to get their buy-in is to learn more about their business.

When I was a training director and training VP for a number of organizations before I started consulting and joined The Training Clinic, my staff absolutely detested me for the first couple of months that I was in charge. It wasn’t because I was mean and nasty, it was because I forced them and I made them—I demanded that once a week they go to lunch with somebody in another department that they didn’t know and just sit and talk. Find out about the business and find out about what they’re doing and find out about what are their challenges and the obstacles that they have to overcome. Then we would sit on a weekly basis and talk about what they found out.

We would start finding those trends and we would start finding those gaps in performance that we could address either with that department or we could address it as an organization because sometimes the trends went a lot deeper. As far as making sure that you’re involved with management and getting their buy-in, you first have to have a relationship with them. If you don’t have a relationship, you’ll never get that buy-in. To get the relationship you’ve got to go out there, you’ve got to listen, you’ve got to learn their business and you’ve got to empathize because it’s all about relationships.

Noel: I love that you also promote making sure to share and promote wins that come from your efforts or the training department’s efforts as a whole. As a marketer, I share a lot of what our marketing team does that I think went off really well and something that helped the rest of the business.

And I don’t do this for those accolades—because they’re probably not coming—but just so that people know what we’re doing. Just to let people know what you’re working on sometimes can be really valuable because a lot of times those departments had no idea and they’ve either got some feedback for you on how to do it better next time. Or maybe they even offer to be involved the next time you do something because they can see where it’s going to benefit you again and also benefit their department. I’d love to know some of the reasons why you think the training should be out there promoting what they do.

Maria: First of all, I think you hit the nail on the head in an earlier conversation that we had when you said you had gone to Training 2016. In going to various training conferences it really touches you how much sharing and collaboration there is.

Noel: Absolutely.

Maria: I think we, and in marketing too, really need to serve as role models to do that. The silos aren’t built up in organizations because they want to. You don’t see anybody actively building silos or anyone saying, “I’m not telling you that. I’m not sharing that with you.” It’s just they’re so busy and they don’t even think about it. The more we serve as role models to do that and invite others to do it also the more that that will start happening in other departments. How to do that again … I’ll go back to establishing the relationships. The wins that you’re sharing again are not your personal marketing wins or your personal learning and development wins. They’re the wins of the company.

I read a quote the other day that was so interesting and it said, “Marketing is enthusiasm transferred to the customer.” Isn’t that great? If we create that enthusiasm and if we start to create that buzz? Let’s start to make those managers out there, those folks that are helping to promote our wins, let’s show them that it’s okay to talk about what you’ve done that’s really good. Also we’re learning as we’re going. It never ceases to amaze me when we get people to talk about their wins that someone says, “Oh I was just going to embark upon that project. I’m so glad you mentioned that, how did you get started?” Or, “Hey I’ve done some research in that area, you didn’t know about that?” “Well, no because nobody talks to each other.”

In looking at promoting the wins, I think there’s a really important perspective we need to get. I was at Training 2016 and we were talking about social media. Because we’re all so wired about technology and social media I looked at the group and I said, “Who’s your best social media? What are your best social media efforts? How do you accomplish that?” I got things like, “Well we’re not allowed to have Facebook and we’re not allowed to have LinkedIn or we don’t have an internal collaborative platform.” I said, “You know what? Take the technology out of it and just look at the word “social.” It took everyone a while and then they said, “Our customers?”

I said, “Yes. Your customers are your internal social media.” Take out the technology. They’re the ones that are going to start the buzz and start the churn. Start the talk about how well the L&D department did with them when they paired with them to help them accomplish on-boarding new hires and getting them productive in a shorter period of time. They’re going to be the ones that are going to be proud when they say, “Wow! We thought we needed to have a whole revamping of our organization. Here we discovered a few critical points that needed to be addressed and they have nothing to do with training. Training helped us figure out what to do with our performance needs.” Again, it’s using the managers as your internal social media.

When we’re talking about marketing … and a lot of L&D folks say, “I don’t have the time, I have to develop a logo and a brand and brand experience.” That’s fine, but unless you have those relationships and start involving managers in helping to promote your wins because they’re their wins also, it’s going to be like you’re having a party all by yourself on an island, and you’re waiting for your people to show up and they’re not coming.

Noel: I’ve only got one more question for you today but it’s perfect that it’s the last one because it’s been the theme of this whole talk of training getting out there from their bubble or silo and aligning with these other departments. One of the handouts you gave out at your session was, “10 Tips for Making Your Marketing Job Manageable, Effective, and Fun.” These were all fantastic. They were so great and I loved that number one was, “Be relentless in forming partnerships.” That’s so much of what we’ve talked about today.

Forming relationships is probably my number one requirement as a content marketer. I’m not writing 90% of the content that we put out. It’s coming from other internal subject matter experts, our customers, and from our partners. All of those require relationships to be formed first in order to get their trust and buy-in. I know why partnerships are so valid and so important for me, but I’d love to know how that made it to number one on your list and maybe who some of those partnerships are that training can form and how they start building those relationships.

Maria: Great. Thanks, Noel. As I’ve mentioned before it all starts with relationships and unless you’re building those relationships nothing is going to happen and you really can’t survive without them. We saw that as an industry back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We literally went away because we stopped building those relationships. A lot of times the relationships are not formed and we give up and we’re not relentless because we feel resistance. People say, “I don’t have time, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just put a training class together.” As L&D folks, we’re constantly bombarded with people telling us what to train, how to train, how many people will be there, when it’ll be, if it’ll be virtual, in the classroom, on the job and how much they’re going to pay for it.

Instead of coming back and saying, “Now tell me a little bit more about that,” taking more of a performance consulting approach to it. Or, “Tell me a little bit about what’s not happening that you’d like to have happen.” We sometimes give up because it’s easier in the short run and say, “Whatever.” When you get that type of pushback from clients in building those partnerships—that’s really your signal to pull them along in the process. Again, they don’t know about performance, so you can’t take it personally when they say, “I don’t have time. I don’t care. Whatever, just get it done.” That’s them saying, “I don’t know and I’m a little afraid and I don’t know if I can do this.”

It’s your job to step up and really help pull them through and to weave them through. I’m not telling you anything new when I say that when you go about marketing you look at, “Okay, I have this customer base and I have some people who I know will just love and adore me. I have other people who are on the fence and I have other people that are so far off back that no matter what I do I’m not going to win them over.” Don’t worry about not winning over those people. Worry about the people that are on the fence and identify first the people who are very much kindred spirits. You and I have talked about this a little bit in that the people in the marketing department are very much kindred spirits with L&D folks. Because we’re both looked at as folks who are an extraneous line item and they can be easily cut and we constantly have to prove our worth.

I think that marketing is a great, absolutely phenomenal group to first start those partnerships with. The other thing you need to do then is take a look at the organizational goals. What are the goals and what are the performance gaps? Who are the people out there that are having the most to lose when it comes to reaching those performance goals for the year? Those are the people to target. Who can I help? Who can I go to and say, “What’s going on? How are you doing with reaching these goals? What are some reasons why you think people aren’t performing? Let me help you out with that.” The important thing to remember in forming those relationships is to meet that resistance. You have to be relentless because it’s going to happen.

Meet that resistance. Try to educate and partner with those like groups. Try to find those people who do really, really need your help to reach their performance goals and partner with them. Then weave them all through your process as you’re developing the program, as you’re rolling out the program, and most importantly as you’re following up on the program. Because no matter how well of a program that we design, if the managers aren’t out there following up and making sure the skills are being used, nothing is going to change. It’s showing that and also showing the WIIFM—What’s In It For Me—to have this partnership with you?

For more great insight into the current state of training’s role in delivering “real” results to the rest of the business, check out some of our previous episodes of The Skytap Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud!

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