How can L&D trainers give the best training advice possible? What if someone asks for training, but you want to suggest an alternative?
As a trusted learning professional, it’s your job to assess the need for training as well as implement it. But how do you give good advice if it’s contrary to what the organization asks for?
In this episode of The Learning Xchange podcast, Matthew Brown (Schoox’s VP of Learning and Brand Success) is joined by his colleague, Karen Clem. They discuss how to strike a balance between being a “yes-person” and learning how to say “no” when giving training guidance as an L&D trainer. They also talk about the importance of positioning yourself as a consultant, or even a doctor diagnosing problems, to help create better solutions.
Listen to the podcast below or keep reading.
What if, as an L&D trainer, you disagree with the proposed solution?
If a CEO or a stakeholder approaches you with problems in their organization, many will jump straight to “we need a training course.” It may seem like the most straightforward solution.
However, as an L&D trainer and learning partner, it’s your job to not only provide training but also to assess whether it’s needed in the first place.
Often, problems in an organization won’t be magically solved by training. Most of the time, what’s really needed is better communication. Openness, understanding, clarity, and clear expectations are more likely to be the solution.
In cases where training is a good idea, businesses usually have their own ideas about how they want to do it. You may not always agree with what they suggest, which can create an awkward situation.
Should L&D trainers do what the organization asks or what they think is right?
One of the pitfalls to avoid as an L&D trainer is becoming an order-taker when approached about a training solution. If you don’t feel like their solution will be the most effective, some healthy pushback is to be expected.
Learning partners often wonder, “how can I say no to someone without them taking it to five other people until they get a yes?”
In other words, what will it take for the organization to value your opinion over their own ideas?
How L&D trainers can make organizations take their advice seriously
When proposing a solution, whether it’s a short training course or a seminar, how do you get those at the top to listen?
This will depend on the organization and those in charge. However, here are some things you can do:
Earn their respect
For that organization to value and choose your opinion over their own (or anyone else’s), they need to respect you. They need to respect and believe in your expertise. They also need to know you have their best interests at heart and that you are working hard on solutions.
Ask the right questions
To determine whether training or an alternative is best, ask as many questions as possible. Really understanding the problem is the first step before you can create a solution.
Learn the lingo
One way to provide tailored solutions for organizations is to learn the lingo. This will help you better understand the background and the problems themselves. But it will also help you get your points across more effectively.
Diagnose the problem
Think of yourself as a doctor trying to diagnose a mysterious illness. What would you look at first? What problems or symptoms can you see, and what do they indicate? Can you look at the bigger picture of this problem to find the solution?
Try an inclusive approach
Maybe you can meet them halfway, rather than saying a firm yes or no to their suggestions. Perhaps you can come up with a solution that takes their ideas and develops them.
The danger of saying “no, we can’t do this” is that it shuts the door on the conversation. The CEO or stakeholder is much more likely to find someone else who’s a bit more flexible.
A more inclusive approach involves saying “yes” to their solution but also providing something additional.
You could say, “yes, a training course sounds good,” but go one step further and provide guidance on implementing it. Adding your own ideas to their existing ones means that you get your point across without ignoring theirs.
This opens the door to earn the trust, respect, and credibility that you need going forward.
Using this approach can also change the direction of conversations in the future. If the business trusts you and respects you, they are much more likely to come to you with questions in the future. They will ask your opinion on solutions instead of jumping towards “we need a training course.”
The key is for L&D trainers to build solid working relationships
Whenever you start working with an organization, it’s essential to build strong relationships. Make sure you find the right people to talk to as soon as possible. Build those relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers straight away.
This will prepare you for creating great solutions and proposals. It will also help you earn the trust and credibility you need to get people to listen to your ideas.
Immersing yourself in the business culture means you can start to predict issues before they arise. Perhaps even before other people in the business see them coming. For example, if a strong worker leaves, you can look at what gap they will leave and how that will affect the rest of the team.
Proactively looking for issues like this and coming up with solutions can save the rest of the organization a lot of time and stress.
Four tips for L&D trainers on becoming effective learning partners
1. Approach from a place of curiosity
When approaching any issue in a workplace or organization, always come armed with curiosity. Ask lots of questions, get to know the business, the people, and the problems. But always make sure to come without judgment.
2. Act with grace
When offering solutions, make sure you’re delivering them with grace, without being off-putting or demanding. You don’t just need to solve problems. You need to sell your ideas and solutions to them.
3. Be open
Be open to new ideas and solutions because it’s never one-size-fits-all. Make sure you’re open to what others have to say, what approaches they have tried, and what they want to do going forward.
4. Involve others
While it may be your job alone to come up with all the solutions, you will get far better results if you include others. If you involve colleagues, stakeholders, or advisers in your process, you will better understand the business (and its problems). This allows you to provide much more effective results for everyone.
This approach also goes a long way in strengthening working relationships. Having people in the business act as reviewers and subject matter experts could also save you a lot of time and trouble when trying out solutions.
We hope this advice has helped you reframe how you approach giving advice and providing solutions.
Being an L&D trainer can require a great deal of diplomacy, especially if you have different ideas of what to do next. By being open, asking questions, and learning as much about the organization as possible, you will earn the trust and credibility you need to do your job well.