Learning & Development

How to Create an Effective Learning Strategy Inside Your Organization (Part Two)

To get the most out of your training and development programs, it is necessary to have an effective learning strategy. In part one of this article, we discussed the importance of conducting a training needs analysis as well as identifying the organization’s capabilities.  Here, we’ll identify what effective training looks like and explore best practices in delivering and measuring a successful training program.training

Dedicated Professional(s) to Design and Deliver Training

After identifying an organization’s training needs and fully understanding its capabilities, the next step is to incorporate that information into the training design and development. This step is not only vital to the training program’s success but will also help influence the amount of learning that is successfully transferred to the employee.

A common mistake an organization can make (even the great ones) is to rush into implementing a training program because they see a need for it. In these situations, little research goes in to who delivers the content or even who develops it. At this point, an organization already invested substantial resources into identifying their training needs and understanding their capabilities.

There is no advantage to cutting corners at this stage in the process. In fact, selecting the wrong program topic or even the wrong facilitator, can have an adverse effect on your initiatives and detour your entire learning strategy. Let’s look at some best practices when designing content and selecting a facilitator.

Internal program design: When it comes to program and curriculum design, organization’s generally have two options: Internal and External Design. There are several benefits to designing the curriculum internally such as lower cost, faster turnaround, the ability to weave in an organization’s culture and language as well as having unlimited use of the content and materials.

These benefits are often tempting enough to sway an organization to create content internally regardless of having those skill sets available. Although the benefits can be tempting, if an organization does not have access to an internal resource with instructional design experience, it is best to refrain from attempting internal production. This is especially true if an organization is introducing training to their population for the first time. Think of it like a first impression, if the experience is less than great, the expectation of all trainings moving forward will be as such.

External program design: Not all organizations have the resources available to create content internally and as such, they must rely on external vendors. The benefits of working with a reputable external designer can be intimate knowledge of program design, professionally designed materials, a dedicated consultant for your project and a solid track record of success in curriculum design and development.

These benefits have a lot of appeal but do come at a cost. A fully custom, one-day training program can cost up to $100,000 and 12 to 18 months to design and develop. This would of course be the property of the organization once complete but may require licensing fees in addition to content creation.

Another option when using external designers would be to partner with a reputable training organization. These partners can offer more cost-effective training, but it will not be fully customized. Similar training vendors can offer top quality, “off-the-shelf” training programs that cost as little as $5,000 per class with little to no preparation time.

Lastly, you could contract an independent instructional designer for between $50-$70 per hour with a typical program taking anywhere from 200-400 hours. However, after completion, the organization owns this content and can use it as they like without additional cost.

Once the organization has decided how it will design and develop a curriculum, they must begin to think about how the content will be delivered. Like the design and development, organizations generally have two choices when it comes to delivery: Internal and external facilitators.

Internal facilitators: Many organizations prefer to use internal facilitators. And why not?  An internal facilitator will be familiar with the organization’s overall processes and procedures as well as be immersed in the organization’s culture. It’s important however, that the designated facilitator is in fact qualified to deliver a training program.

Selecting a facilitator based solely on the desire to teach, is not good practice. Proper training is very important when using an internal facilitator. After all, this person represents the organization. Even the most experienced trainer should be trained prior to delivering new content. Like the first impression I mentioned above, the audience is going to base the merit of any training program on the person who delivers the content. In fact, a highly qualified and well-trained facilitator can fill the gaps left by poorly designed curriculum by adding their own experiences and examples.

Organizations have many options when it comes to training their trainers. Whether it’s taking a course at a post-secondary educational institute, bringing in a training expert/coach, or simply allowing them to learn independently though online or print resources; organizations should support their designated trainers to ensure a quality program with optimal transfer of learning. And finally, in the words of my grade school guitar teach Warren Mazza, practice, practice, practice!

Lastly, many external vendors offer a certification process to develop trainers. Generally, trainers will sit through the class in its entirety then, teach it back to master trainers, followed by a comprehensive critique. This process is intended to help ensure proper and consistent delivery of the content.

Training the trainers will also help in delivering a consistent training message across the organization regardless of geographic location. Again, any inconsistencies or lack of trainer training can have an adverse impact on future training programs. Although more expensive than other options, vendor certification is highly effective and very thorough. Additionally, if a member of your organization is certified in a program, the vendor will almost always offer you substantial discounts on their copyrighted materials.

External Facilitators: Some organizations prefer to use external training facilitators, which are often referred to as consultants. Some of the benefits of using an external training consultant are high quality facilitation, a plethora of experiences and examples to share, the ability to council and advice, and they generally manage the process with very little assistance needed from the organization. Additionally, a consultant will often have a large catalog of training courses that an organization can choose from. These programs can often be modified to offer a slightly customized program.

The downside to using an external consultant is cost, lack of knowledge specific to the organization, and limited to no exposure of the organization’s culture. The average cost of an external consultant for one day of training is between $3000 – $9000 based on experience, location and whether they are independent or not. Additionally, organizations are responsible for covering the cost of travel, lodging and meals for the consultant.

If an organization decides to employ an external training consultant, they must ensure the vendor is a good match for the organization. Matching the facilitator to the organization’s culture is no less important than matching a prospective candidate to the organization’s culture. Find someone who can engage employees, understands the business and knows the organization’s vision and values. This will help ensure the training aligns with their business objectives. Any mismatches here can result in a negative impact on future training efforts.

Pilot Your New Training Programs

It is good practice to be sure each training program is effective before introducing it to the masses. The best way to do this is by conducting a pilot program. An effective training pilot will host audience members from a wide variety of backgrounds and skillsets. This allows for a greater variety of perspectives and feedback.

Additionally, the program should be broken up into portions, often called modules, with a quick debrief and feedback session afterwards. Organizations will want to send participants of the pilot program an anonymous survey within 24 hours of the session. The survey will give participants the opportunity to offer additional feedback in a safe environment.

One benefit of a pilot program is to see how the content flows. It may look fantastic on screen or paper–however, when delivered in person, the content can appear completely different. The pilot will act as a trial run and help work out any kinks that may prevent it from flowing properly and making points where intended.

Piloting a training program often takes additional resources such as time, materials, travel and expenses. As such, many organizations tend to skip this step. At this point however, an organization has already made a sizeable investment in the program, so it doesn’t make great sense to skip this critical step. Remember, a training pilot can make the difference between a good training program and a great training program.

Rollout and Metrics

The last step in developing a Learning and Development strategy is planning how it be will rolled out to the organization and what measurements will be used to determine success. Having a plan on how to implement and measure the training is no less important than deciding which training to offer and how to deliver it.

Questions that an organization should be asking while planning their program rollout are:

  • Who will attend?
  • Where will it be held?
  • Is it inclusive?
  • Does it align with and support the overall business strategy?
  • How long will it run?
  • How do we ensure a safe learning environment?

In addition to the rollout, it is important to have a set of metrics to gauge success. Post-class surveys are an efficient way to capture the thoughts of participants. Additionally, organizations can go one step further and measure the overall impact on the company.

To do this successfully, they must utilize analytics tools. Having tools in place to help measure the impact of training on the organization will prove to be invaluable in justifying learning and development staff, resources and initiatives. Organizational leaders will want to know what the ROI is. Be prepared to have tools available to provide this data.

Final Thoughts

To develop a successful learning and development program within an organization, that organization must be willing to spend time planning, researching, testing and measuring the program to ensure a positive impact. Remember, training is intended to help grow and develop employees who in turn help an organization grow.

It is worthwhile for an organization to invest in a good experience for their internal clients. After all, would an organization rush through the work for their external clients? Would they push a product or service out to a client before properly testing first?  If not, why would they do that to their internal clients?

Organizations cannot expect their employees to give their time to attend a training when the company has not taken the time to properly develop a learning and development strategy. Your people are your organization. Take care of them and they will take care of the organization.


Dan Kurber is a dynamic, engaging and innovative Leadership Development professional. He has honed his craft as a master facilitator and internal executive coach while working for several Fortune 150 companies such as Charter Communications, Comcast Communications, U.S. Bank, as well as Publicis Media.

Specializing in Organizational Development and Leadership Coaching, Dan has a proven track record of success in Leadership Development, Innovative Employee Engagement, and Behavior Modification.

With his larger than life personality and thoroughly engaging facilitation style, Dan leads audiences on an exciting journey of self-discovery and social awareness that will transform the way they grow, develop and lead others. Learn more at CoachingSherpa.com.