If your L&D organization is like most, requests for training arrive in the inbox all the time. The volume, the variation in type and quality, and the myriad ways the requests arrive can make each day a challenge.

Making a few minor adjustments to your intake process has a big impact – including better alignment with the business and ultimately greater ROI.

Here are a few intake process best practices to consider:

Be crystal clear about the purpose of your intake process

Define the purpose of your intake process, write it down, communicate it, and coach your team to stick to it.

At its core, the intake process is a mechanism for identifying, sorting, selecting, prioritizing, and on-boarding projects for the L&D organization to complete.

The tighter the purpose and boundaries of the process:

  • The easier it is to forecast workloads and resourcing

  • The easier it is to establish a positive working relationship with your internal clients

  • The easier it is to communicate purpose and goals to your team

Establish and maintain a services charter

Put boundaries around your services to protect your organization from stray or distracting projects.

One of our clients accepted a request to create slides for a senior leader presentation. They did it one time because they had internal graphics capabilities and available capacity. They did good work and guess what, more requests of that type flowed in. Soon creating slides was interfering with their primary purpose of creating engaging, impactful training.

Create a list of services your organization provides and be clear about requests your organization turns down. As a side note, identify the functions that handle the requests you turn down so you can pass it on.

Formalize the process and forms or tools

Document and share the process steps, decision points, criteria, and forms you use. Spend time each year to review the process and make improvements.

Use intake as a conversation starter

Keep the information you ask for simple. For example, collect the name of the requester, contact information, date of request, and a simple description of the request itself. The more elaborate the form becomes, the more information the requester believes “has already been provided” and ultimately the less control you can exert over the conversation.

Use the request as a trigger for compelling, investigative conversations. Use a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions like these to learn as much as you can about the project.

  • What strategic business goal does this request support?

  • What obstacles stand in the way of achieving it?

  • How will the organization measure success? What data do you already have?

  • What will be different when the goal is achieved?

  • What other initiatives are already underway? How will they impact this project?

  • What other factors have you identified that are impacting the result?

  • Who are the stakeholders? Do they all see the situation the same way?

There are so many possible questions to ask. The point is a) to be an investigator and listen for clues that help you to determine whether it’s a training situation, to understand and document the scope, business value, challenges, and resource impact of the request and b) to avoid having the requester determine the learning strategy or learning outcomes. That’s L&D’s job.

Be a good listener

Listen first. Avoid talking too soon about training solutions, the niftiest new technology, or challenges you’ll have meeting the request. We’ve talked to countless business leaders who have heard from their L & D partners how hard it will be to meet the need, or why a really cool next-gen technology is the answer. All in good time. Be willing to step back, think a bit, and return with well thought out options.

Business metrics and training metrics are rarely the same thing

Simply stated, don’t confuse business metrics with learning metrics. How the learning function measures it’s ability to effectively and efficiently develop and deliver training content is interesting, it’s just unlikely those measures are used to evaluate the person or function making the request. Figure out how the business will measure them, or how it will measure success. If there’s overlap – great.

Keep in mind that the analysis has already begun

From the requester’s perspective, the clock started ticking the moment they came to the conclusion that there was a training need even though they may not have talked with you yet. Any amount of background work done to shape the request prior to bringing it to you is likely to be considered “on the clock.” Respond quickly and say no when needed or move into the intake conversation.

Be proactive

Include outreach practices – talk to your internal clients on their turf. One way to do it is to align a resource with a line of business or with a particular leader and make it their responsibility to be proactively engaged to uncover and forecast upcoming needs.

Communicate often and in a variety of ways

Share your process, share your charter, share how you make decisions. And if you are unable to support a request, communicate with the requester and explain your rationale and provide them with a referral. A quick no is better than a lingering maybe.

Intake is as much about marketing and outreach as it is about receiving a request. Broadcast to your internal clients things like your successes, the number of requests you are supporting, the type of work in the pipeline. You can shape your relationship with the organization by framing how you use the intake process to effectively support their goals and needs, and by showing the results you’ve created for them.

If you’d like to learn more or if your intake process needs some help, please contact us at [email protected].