A major challenge for many corporations is how to effectively leverage their training organizations for internal learning and development needs. Further, when planning to implement strategic initiatives across the organization, the need for understanding and collaboration is magnified.
The Role of Training and Development: Tactical vs. Strategic
Training and development functions are often seen as “nice to have” within an organization. They’re often on the short end of budgets and one of the first on the chopping block when times get tough. They often get overlooked and continually fight to be seen as a strategic function.
When it’s business as usual, employees (including sales reps and others from the sales organization) are called upon to participate in various training initiatives. The challenge is always to balance the benefits of the new skills or knowledge learned with time away from doing your day job. It is not uncommon for employees to try to wrangle their way out of it (just like jury duty!).
Yet, when organizations make changes to their structure, operating model, systems, or any other new way of doing things, the training and development department is often called upon to help implement that transformation. The strategic nature of the change dictates that senior leaders keep their weight and muscle behind the initiative to ensure its success.
The Richardson/TrainingIndustry.com Study
Richardson partnered with TrainingIndustry.com to research how to best leverage the training function, specifically to explore and define the role of the training organization when implementing strategic initiatives in the sales organization.
In July 2012, 174 learning leaders across 23 different industries contributed their thoughts on the subject. Seventy-four percent (74%) of learning leaders stated that their internal training organizations are effective at supporting the implementation of strategic initiatives in the sales organization. However, of these respondents, only 26% said that their training organizations were very effective at supporting the implementation of such initiatives.
This study not only examines factors that differentiate very effective organizations from ineffective organizations, but also identifies best practices for:
- Improving the understanding of what’s involved in supporting strategic sales initiatives
- Ensuring the alignment of training initiatives with goals set by sales leadership
- Sustaining the impact of training for the implementation of strategic sales initiatives
- What prompts the change? Twenty-six percent (26%) of learning leaders cited a new value proposition as the implementation requiring the most support.
- How supportive is training and development? Overall, only 26% of learning leaders said that their training organizations are very effective at supporting the implementation of strategic initiatives in the sales organization.
- What makes some training and development organizations effective? When comparing very effective and ineffective training organizations:
– Very effective training organizations are twice as likely to purchase customized solutions as ineffective training organizations.
– Learning leaders from very effective organizations meet with senior sales leadership weekly to discuss the progress of the implementation. Surprisingly, some learning leaders report NEVER meeting with senior sales leadership. This is generally a recipe for failure.
- Defining strategy and setting goals. To better understand what’s involved in supporting a strategic sales initiative, learning leaders need to be provided with insight into training needs and a defined sales strategy and training goals.
- Joining forces. A majority of learning leaders said that their companies effectively leverage their training organizations by creating a partnership between sales and training and by gauging performance and feedback.
- Support tools and techniques. Mobile learning, “gamification,” and mentor networks are the most cited tools and technologies that learning leaders plan to use for supporting sales initiatives.
- Getting on the same page as senior sales management.To ensure alignment with the goals set by senior sales management, learning leaders reported the following best practices most often:
– Define the sales strategy and training goals and create metrics to measure effectiveness.
– Agree on the roles, responsibilities, and actions of sales leadership to support the change effort.
– Facilitate a joint planning session to ensure that the linkage between the strategic initiative and the training activity is understood.
- How to ensure lasting change.Learning leaders identified the following best practices for sustaining the impact of training during and after implementation:
– Reinforcement and follow-up training using a variety of methods, citing coaching and sales management training most often
– Feedback forms after the training
– Assessments or tests before and after training
The intent of this study is not to paint colleagues in training and development in a negative light. On the contrary, it was to identify those best practices from successful implementations through training and development. We encourage you to have a look at the full 21-page report, which provides more detail on the findings listed above, as well as further valuable insights to help the next time your sales organization embarks on a change program.