But is it relevant?

Recently, I was conducting a training session for a medium sized firm and during a break I made the mistake of asking one of the attendees how he was enjoying the event.

He told me it was “great stuff” but quite honestly not very useful to him.

I suggested it was far from “great stuff” if he didn’t find it useful.

Thus prompted, he was inclined to agree .

The fragility of one’s ego appears to increase with age, nevertheless I encouraged him to elaborate on his comment. He did, and eventually gave me some information which allowed me to include some material pertinent to his needs in following sessions.

As a matter of fact, the material I added as a result of this brief meeting turned out to be somewhat of a highlight for the majority of those present and sparked obvious interest bordering on enthusiasm from what had previously been a somewhat lackluster group.

Unfortunately I have to acknowledge that my performance as a facilitator did not measurably improve so the change in attentiveness was obviously relative to the audiences’ interest in the material.

When I recall the many courses I have attended over the years it becomes obvious that their ability to grab and maintain my interest was in direct proportion to my needs at that time and the benefits I believed a particular program could provide me.

Naturally the talents of the presenter were useful, but hindsight suggests that the most memorable events were rarely related to theater but rather to substance and relativity. In fact it seems to me that most of the material that I recall from certain platform performers is humor and has had little to do with improving my performance.

As one who relies heavily on humor to make a point I’ll have to keep this observation to myself.

In any event, I would hope that when we are planning training courses for our staff, particularly sales, that we try to survey their needs before investing in a program. I recognize that a, “one size fits all” approach is difficult if not impossible in many situations, nevertheless, I believe staff input to any program is essential .

In most cases companies circulate program evaluation sheets for comments after the event. These are undoubtedly useful and will certainly encourage you to eliminate “stiffs” from future sessions.

However it is the accumulation of input from staff prior to the event that will ensure relevance and interest.

Organizing training programs is clearly one of the most important tasks management undertakes. The costs of effective training is recovered many times over through improved performance.

But to be effective the training programs should be planned with the needs of the staff identified through a consultative process before – not following the event.

Most trainers are prepared to customize their material to suit the demands of the staff they are dealing with. In fact most successful trainers try very hard to obtain as much input from session organizers as possible in order that their material is timely and useful.

Unfortunately, too many managers and owners assume they know what their staff needs are and try to impose their perceptions. This approach can lead to less than productive events. In this scenario you not only wind up with folks not learning much, but in the meantime they are off the street and out of the office so productivity is penalized additionally.

So, when you are planning your programs in the future create some simple method of generating a dialogue with your staff which will provide meaningful input to ensure effective allocation of your training budget.

An additional benefit of such conversation will be increased enthusiasm by the group who will recognize their contribution to the agenda.

Much has been written in recent years about the shifts that have taken place in management. Not too many years ago management operated in a vacuum and the success of their firm relied mainly on their individual vision and capacity. Many of us have come to recognize the value of accessing the collective wisdom of our most valuable resource, our staff .

It has become obvious that the success of our strategies, both internal and external is exponentially enhanced by accessing the collective wisdom of this resource.

Training sessions are rendered timely and relative through the benefit of staff input and through it, ownership.

Remember the goal of training is not entertainment – it’s improved productivity.