Training Strategies in 2014

December 31, 2013

How do I decide what the right approach is for my training strategies in 2014?

You are asking the right question. You can do a lot of random training just for the sake of training. You need to focus on the right things.

Ken Jacobs, principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, has spent a lot of time leading workshops at agencies on improving leadership, communications and management skills, and enhancing client service/client relationships.

Based on his experience, along with my own, we recommend that you keep the following things in mind:

  1. Make sure that your training program is aligned with your organization’s strategic, growth, new business or communications plans. Training can play an important role in helping your organization achieve its goals, but only if it directly emanates from, and supports, the organization’s aforementioned plans.

    If you’re not sure what these are, then find out before jumping into the training planning process. If this takes some digging, then so be it. It will be well worth it because you’ve just assured that the training program will be far more successful.
  2. Make sure that your training program is directly aligned with your organization’s and team members’ professional development goals. While this may appear to be a no-brainer, it’s critical that you have a sense of the most important “pain points” in your team’s professional development. Build your program around solving that pain, and you’ll bring greater value to both the organization and those who attend it.
  3. Gain support from the top. Training programs succeed in organizations that are committed to an ongoing learning environment.  This commitment can’t just exist in human resources, training or among a select few. You must gain support from the CEO, the chief lieutenants and the key influencers within your organization in order for it to succeed. Many attendees say that they want to attend training but are “too busy” to do so.

    Getting a clear signal from the aforementioned leaders that consistent attendance at training is a critical step on the road to career success at your organization will have a major impact on its success.
  4. Start your program with a bang. Effective training programs are a blend of in-person and online training, executed in-house and externally by both internal experts and outside trainers.

    One of the best ways to build enthusiasm and attendance throughout the year is to kick off the program in a big way. So bring in that outside expert or trainer, pick a critical topic and make it fun!

A lot of companies struggle with training for a number of reasons.

Time and money are obviously at the top of the list. I certainly understand the agency owner’s reflexive aversion to time that is not billable and additional expenses. But unless you’re 100 percent billable — in which case, congratulations! — then you have time.
How can you best use it? You can always find time to do something worthwhile if you really want to.

Another fear that agency owners sometimes have is that they’ll invest time and money training someone, and then they’ll lose that person to the competition.

My answer to that? If you don’t train the person, then you guarantee that you will never get their best out of them, and you send them a clear message that you don’t think they’re worth investing in.

Yeah, sometimes it happens and you lose people. Does that mean that you’re better off not doing it?

I didn’t think so. And I’m confident you didn’t think so either.


Ann Willets
Ann Willets is president and CEO of Utopia Communications, Inc., an ethically focused PR agency. She was the 2010 chair of the Counselors Academy.


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