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The New DNA of Training and Development Success

I recently had the privilege of working with the training department in a large insurance company headquartered on the east coast. Their challenge is to continue to scale their efforts. More projects. Larger engagements. Closer partnerships with internal clients. Greater quality. All with lean resources. They are not unique. It’s a challenge they share with nearly every organization doing business today.

Meeting these demands and effectively developing and implementing training requires more than it ever did in the past. More than instructional expertise or the ability to analyze the need. More than exceptional facilitation or excellent writing skills.

Today, learning and development professionals – and anyone looking to affect organizational change – must also be masters of execution and engagement.

The Execution Imperative

In a world that’s come to expect the options of Amazon, the reliability of FedEx, and the service of Zappos, the bar is set high. Business partners approach their internal suppliers of services (training, accounting, human resources, etc.) with the same high expectations. There’s never been more pressure to perform.

Planning is the price of admission. But documents don’t affect change. Action does. Implementing plans comes down to carefully choreographed activities, crystal clear accountabilities, fluid contingency plans, and constant recalibration. Saying what you’ll do… and doing it seamlessly, predictably, on-time, under-budget, and with precision…. that’s the expectation for execution.

The Importance of Engagement

But execution alone does not ensure success. No matter how well-orchestrated the action steps might be, an initiative can still fall far short.

That’s because today, learning and development professionals must also hone their public relations and communications skills to ensure the highest possible levels of engagement on the part of key stakeholders and others required for success. Think about it, business leaders are a busy bunch with kaleidoscopic priorities. Getting and keeping their attention is key. Success – even just survival – requires staying close to changing conditions… that frequently only stakeholders know. Getting them excited, capturing their imaginations, and sustaining passion and energy from concept to completion are key.

As a result, throughout the training development process, key milestones and touch points that were previously characterized by one-way/one-point-in-time communication (like intake, interviewing, input) must be re-conceived as ongoing communication loops that:

  • Bring others along on the journey toward implementing training
  • Ensure that efforts are continuously calibrated against the ever-changing landscape
  • Build genuine buy-in and support for the ultimate end product
  • Strengthen relationships between the line and learning professionals, building credibility and influence for the function

This double helix of execution and engagement is the new DNA of learning and development success. Those who leverage it, making it part of their standard operating procedure, will distinguish and position themselves to become trusted business partners who drive significant organizational change and business results.

Please share your wisdom.
Are you a training, learning, development, or change management professional? What specific strategies do you have for ensuring execution excellence and the highest level of stakeholder engagement in your projects and initiatives?

Image: www.freedigitalphotos.net

6 comments on “The New DNA of Training and Development Success

  1. Pete on

    Wonderful to see that execution and engagement are finally getting the attention they deserve when it comes to Learning efforts. Thank you! Hopefully we will continue to leverage both along with technology to allow for real-time adjustments/adaptations to training content, delivery channels, audience needs and timing based on career needs of the learner.

  2. Greg Gunther on

    To optimize engagement, it’s best to avoid the “sheep dip” where everyone is forced to go through a program whether they need it or not.

    I suggest using internal social media so that trainees who have completed a program can provide public ratings that allow others in company can assess potential value.

    Have also heard of corporations that encourage referrals (it’s clearly much more motivating to attend a program because of a recommendation from a peer, mentor or manager rather than enrolling because of a top-down edict).

  3. Rory Kilburn on

    I have found that the training development process is a very individual process, as each of us learn something different from the same development program. And, indeed, we often need to learn or polish different skills to make us better. Learning what you need, and not necessarily what you think you need, is what makes you a better leader. I have always believed – and have led many people – believing that engagement comes from motivation, and motivation comes from within. My job as a leader was to find out what motivated my direct reports, and then try and answer that motivation within organizational policies. Answer their individual motivations, help them develop toward their full potential, and they will stay engaged.

    On the subject of executing projects, programs and portfolios, I have tried Microsoft Project and other similar project management software, but for me the best strategic view of what has to be done when is still given by an Excel spreadsheet I use for planning. I’m visual, so using colours and bars on the spreadsheet allows me to look at the big picture, ensure that milestone dates and deliverables do not conflict, and see where I have flexibility. I use MS Outlook to twig me to due dates, and normally set up ticklers 72 hours in advance of a deliverable.

    Like engagement, execution is also personal. The main thing is to find a system that works for you, allows you to be effective in both planning and execution, and then use that system in all your work.

    • Julie Giulioni on

      Rory, this is very insightful and helpful. It’s clear that you are very effective at both the engagement and execution dimensions of your role. I personally appreciate sharing your wisdom on both topics!


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