4 Tips for Nailing Down the Business Purpose of Your Training

When projects have multiple stakeholders, which ours often do, it’s important to start well by establishing a clear purpose. A clear purpose builds confidence at the outset, sets positive, achievable expectations, and typically points everyone in the same direction. Here are four tips for establishing a clear purpose.

Get all the stakeholders in the boat

Generally, we group stakeholders into communities 

  • Business leaders: who are typically in the leadership chain or who oversee the organization, function, or role(s)

  • Talent leaders

  • L&D leaders and professionals

  • Other/unaffiliated

There is no right number of stakeholders, but less than ten is preferred. When there are more than 10, extra effort needs to be put into managing their needs and involvement.

You may have noticed that we didn’t list employees as a stakeholder. The employees matter a great deal. In our next email, we’ll share tactics to uncover and incorporate employee needs.

Balance and integrate stakeholder needs 

Each stakeholder has unique goals, needs, and wants. In our experience, establishing a compelling purpose requires that we uncover, balance, and integrate the objectives and needs of all stakeholders.

It’s a process of identifying, sorting, prioritizing, and making trade-offs. Some goals don’t make the final cut while others rise and become essential focal points – but along the way, we consider and weigh all goals.

When there is misalignment and disagreement among the stakeholders, finding a beneficial balance takes effort and time. And in itself, the process of working it out brings new insights and value. And, frankly, figuring it out early on in a project – during our Business Alignment phase (Where we uncover and agree to the WHY behind the project.) – is generally preferred because it saves downstream headaches and cost.

When there’s significant initial alignment and agreement among the stakeholders and the goals, the sorting and prioritizing process will zip along. While that seems like a positive, it may mask some hidden or nuanced differences, so a little agitation or scenario testing can be worthwhile. 

Ask your stakeholders simple, open-ended questions

To help us understand what’s important, we ask each stakeholder simple, open-ended questions (and probe when appropriate):

  • From your perspective, what are the business goals of this effort?

  • What obstacles/challenges will limit our ability to achieve the goals?

  • How will you know we were successful? What, and how should we measure?

Their answers are often revealing and compelling. Here’s a list of goals we hear about most often:

Business goals:

  • Clearly define performance/proficiency requirements

  • Shorten time to performance

  • Improve the consistency of performance between regions, offices, teams, etc.

  • Ensure people can implement the “XYZ” strategy/tactic/change

  • Improve the quality of “XYZ”

  • Increase the volume/amount of “XYZ”

  • Eliminate post-training “job shock” (stop shifting the burden to the business)

  • Establish a clear employee development plan

  • Improve management actions: assessing employee readiness and capabilities

  • Improve employee engagement

  • Reduce turnover

  • Improve bench strength

  • Improve client experience (make it more consistent)

  • Support the roll-out of new systems/technology

Talent / Training goals:

  • Clearly articulate what training is needed

  • Demonstrate/measure the value of training

  • Diversify the offering; expand the use of different modalities and blended learning

  • Develop engaging training

  • Adapt training to varied audiences

  • Develop training that changes behavior (and performance)

  • Shift to modern learning strategies

  • Maximize the benefit of a limited budget

  • Make training that is easy/cost-effective to maintain

Be specific

Many of the items on the two lists of examples above aren’t very specific or measurable. They require additional investigation, discussion, and evaluation as to their merit and value. They can, however, be a starting point for your investigation and definition. In our experience, the more specific and measurable you can make the goals, the clearer your options become in downstream steps. Big, fuzzy goals are difficult because they lack the specificity needed to articulate actions and to understand when the goal has been achieved. In the training world, that can often lead to poor training and poor results.

Building your Best Employee: Learning Strategies that Drive Results