There are a series of considerations to work through what results can I expect from running a communications skills course for my employees?
In order to illustrate them it is helpful explain this as a narrative with fictitious characters.
Dave wants to run a course for his team and they have not done much management training before so he brings in a recommended training company.
It is not Dave’s first rodeo so he takes the time to ask the training company a bunch of questions around the options and what the team can hope to get out of it.
The training company knows their stuff so they explain that they use Learning Outcomes to plan and execute their courses. This information states what Dave can expect at the end of the day. It is expressed clearly in respect of what the team members will be able to do having taken the course.
Some of the first decisions Dave needs to make are how many days should the course be and how many people to bring along.
The training company helps with this by providing a series of subjects as options. They explain that each of these have benefits but some will probably be more valuable than others for this team.
The full list of options provided include the following:
· Barriers to communication
· Listening skills
· Elements of effective communication
· Body language
· Rapport building
· Verbal communication
· Influencing styles
For each subject the training company provides bullet points on the learning outcomes. Dave reads through this and reflects of the needs of the team.
Dave only has £3 or 4k to spend so he decides to run a one-day training course. His provider advises him that in this time they can cover 4 or 5 topics effectively with two facilitators.
Dave has a total team of 26 people. As this is a big group the training company suggests he selected the key team members up to around 15-20 maximum to ensure the session can run smoothly with the right results. Dave earmarks 17 team members based off seniority grades and makes a mental note to offer other development opportunities for the 6 employees who will not be attending. Having selected the group Dave organises a discussion so he can hear directly from his team (without the training provider) to work through the course content what they feel will be the most useful. The training partner has suggested he do this to bring the cohort through the planning journey and engage them with the process.
Dave and the training company have discussion to work through the main responsibilities the team have in their roles. They are not a sales team but they do have to influence people internally to work with their processes and collaborate on projects effectively. Further based on his knowledge of the individuals there are a couple of specific development areas he has established. They are not necessarily the best listeners and they could benefit from some relationship building skills given their work challenges. Dave and the training company agree to include Elements of effective communication, listening skills, Questioning, Rapport building and Influencing styles.
The training company shares the learning outcomes with Dave and he reviews them carefully. At this stage he provides feedback on three of the 5 areas and the learning outcomes are modified to better meet his needs. There is a bit of back and forth hear as Dave is hoping to drive significant behavioural change from a single day training course. The training provider insists on being realistic about what is reasonably achievable in a day.
Now the trainer is ready to build the bespoke content for the programme. This is done using theory and examples of situation and story led scenarios which are an exact fit to the challenges the team come up against in their roles. Dave has taken the time to share the day to day challenges his team face. The training company is well equipped to build the content in an appropriate way selecting examples and exercises which will give the delegates a chance to practise and use the learnings in situ.
Following the delivery of the course Dave shares a detailed feedback questionnaire with the team. This feedback questionnaire is based on the contents of the learning outcomes. This enables him to take a clear measure on the success of the programme from the point of view of his team.
The results were as follows:
• 6 members of the team state that the session was fantastic and that they have genuinely made a significant shift in their behaviours and capabilities in all 5 topic areas.
• A further 5 members of the team felt that the session was valuable and that they have made good progress in 3 of 5 of the topic areas which they will be able to embed into their daily working practises.
• Of the remaining 6 attendees, 2 felt there was some value and learnt a little from each topic. 2 were relatively non-committal and felt it was interesting but difficult to concentrate in a classroom environment for a full day. 2 members of the group were relatively negative about the experience and felt that they could have better spent the time focused on BAU. Interestingly for Dave the 2 members who had provided the negative feedback were also the individuals who failed to prepare the course pre-work and engage fully in the exercises.
Despite the range of feedback as two thirds of the team has found the session highly valuable both Dave and the training provider were pleased with the learning. Dave has also observed behavioural changes in the team members which re-assured him that the learning and development activity had yielded material changes.
In practise Dave was always aware that you cannot please all the people all the time however much upfront engagement and involvement you offer in the topic selection, in fact his training provider was upfront about the likely outcomes from this type of single day activity.
The training company has now gone on to get to know the company better and two further topics have been planned in for the following years development plan.
The purpose of this little tale is to give a realistic and real-life example of a likely process and experience. It is based on our experience of what we tend to see with an introductory programme.