The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Training for Your Business

 In Business Features, L&D Challenges

If you’re looking to provide training for a team or group of colleagues in your organisation, there are now lots of options to consider. Learning and development is such a diverse field for modern businesses.

You could choose a live practical workshop or an online course. Then there is 1-2-1 coaching. Or you could ask team members to do their own research on the internet… the ‘just google it’ approach, if you will. You could even go old school and ask your team to read a book.

But which of these is right for your organisation and your staff? Which will deliver the outcomes you’re looking for?

In this post, we outline 6 key features to consider when choosing a learning solution.

To find the best option for you, consider which of these features are the most important to your organisation. Gaining this clarity, will help you select a solution that will deliver the outcomes you seek.

The features we explore are:

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    1) Relevance to Business – How relevant is the content to your business, your market and your industry? Is it important that learning is specific to your market?
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    2) Interaction with Expert – Do learners get the opportunity to discuss and explore key models with an expert? Is the chance to ask questions vital to success?
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    3) Opportunity to Practise – Is there an opportunity for learners to practise new skills and approaches? Is this a crucial feature or will learning the theory be enough?
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    4) Targeted to learner – Is the learning targeted to reflect each individual’s learning needs and capability levels? Can you afford a ‘one size fits all’ approach?
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    5) Likelihood of Completion – Will your learners find the time to complete the training? Does the learning solution help motivate them?
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    6) Embedding Support – Is the training a ‘one hit wonder’ or will learners be supported as they apply their learning and embed it in role?

Some of these features will be more important to you than others. In some cases, opportunity to practise will be key. In others, embedding support will be more important.

The other key factor is, of course, cost. Most of us have a budget to work to.  However, if you can’t get your most important factor within your budget, consider if you can find any way to gain additional funding. Sometimes stretching your budget slightly will get you a lot more for your money.

Our infographic will be able to help you understand which learning solutions offer the features you seek and which best meet your needs. The infographic shows how we rate different learning options for each feature. It also provides an indicative cost for providing each solution to a team of 30 people, based on our 15 years’ experience in the industry.

First though, let’s take a closer look at each of these 6 key features and what they might mean to you and your learners.

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1) Relevance to Business

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Why might this feature be important to you?

For some teams, it is imperative that learning is highly relevant to their business.

This is often the case for firms in highly technical or regulated industries where learning needs to reflect and refer to specific processes, product technicalities or compliance requirements.

Colleagues can find it easier to understand and apply new learning when it is already framed around their market or directly reflects their approach or customer needs.

This is why bespoke training remains so popular, particularly bespoke workshops and coaching.

Which solutions offer this feature?

If relevance to business is key for you, a bespoke workshop or coaching programme would likely work well.  However, this often comes at a premium.

Online and mobile learning solutions are often seen as a cheaper alternative to live workshops.  But if you’re looking to tailor online learning to your industry, or even create a bespoke online learning journey, this can come with a high price tag. This is usually because the digital learning designers have to re-create or significantly adapt online resources to ensure their relevance.  For instance, videos might need to be re-shot to include your specific terminology or process.

Directing your learners to a book or asking them to do their own research on the internet is probably not the right option for you, unless a simple search directs you to a resource specifically targeted at your niche on your chosen topic.

If relevance is key, whether you go for face-to-face or online learning, you either need to do significant research to find the right ‘ready-made’ course or find a trainer who can tailor content for you.

Expert’s Top Tip:

If you do engage a trainer, make sure to ask about their expertise and experience in your field and what they will do to understand your business and ensure the training is highly relevant.

2) Interaction with Expert

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Why might this feature be important to you?

Most learners greatly value the opportunity to ask an expert. The ability to discuss key models and learning points with an experienced trainer and practitioner is highly valuable, particularly if learners have a short amount of time to grasp the key elements of a topic.

Most people will be able to find the answers they seek by reading an expert’s book, but it’s a lot quicker just to ask the expert. Plus, you can also ask the trainer to demonstrate and give additional examples or explanations. It is very reassuring to have an expert show you how it’s done and confirm that you are on the right track.

Many organisations assume that their leaders will gain the most from interaction with experts.

In one sense this is true, as leaders often have to deal with a range of new disciplines, outside of their core skillset, as they support different areas of the business. This is one of the reasons why so many leaders opt to work with expert coaches.

However, it doesn’t follow that those with the most experience should always be offered the opportunity to work with an expert.

Clark Quinn, a recognised leader in learning technology strategy explains that formal face-to-face learning, like workshops and training, is most valuable when learners are new to subject.

Those who are new to a subject need the guidance of an expert. Left to do their own research, they would struggle to know where to start.

Whereas those with more experience find it easier to build on their knowledge, independently and direct their own research. We explore this in more detail in our white paper on Online & Mobile Learning which you can download below.

As such, interaction with an expert is likely to be important if you are introducing your team to new concepts or are looking for them to improve very quickly.

Which solutions offer this feature?

The best way to interact with an expert is in live training, i.e. in workshops or coaching. However, online learning can offer some levels of interactivity through webinars, Q&As, pre-recorded demo videos, etc.

Expert’s Top Tip:

If you do opt for a live workshop, make sure your expert trainers will do live demonstrations of key concepts or processes in their training and that there will be time for discussion and questions.

3) Opportunity to Practise

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Why might this feature be important to you?

Practice makes perfect, as they say.

If you are looking for your staff to learn a new process or approach, the opportunity to practise this new way of working can be crucial. Most people will find it easy to grasp a concept if it’s well explained. Applying the concept is much harder and usually requires practice.

Anyone who’s tried to learn a musical instrument or master a new sport, knows the importance of regular practice. You can’t achieve excellence here just by reading the theory. Plus, most people’s early attempts will include mistakes and slipups. Opportunities to practise regularly, receive feedback and practise some more, are key to success.

Most performers and players value the chance to practise in a safe space, before trying a new piece or game play in front of an audience or competitors.  Likewise, most people in business value the opportunity to practise a new process or technique before trying it with a customer or client. In fact, we have found that most people won’t have the confidence to try a new approach with a customer, until they have practised it themselves with a colleague or coach.

Which solutions offer this feature?

The ‘google it’ approach is usually very theoretical, with very little opportunity for supported practice. The same can be said of a book.

By contrast, training workshops should offer your learners the opportunity to practise and receive feedback from the trainer and other attendees. If you choose a bespoke programme, the trainer may even be able to create practice scenarios that reflect your specific processes, challenges or customer conversations.

Whilst training workshops offer a great initial opportunity to practise and receive feedback, learners are then often left to continue their practise and learning alone. Whereas, online learning solutions can offer learners multiple scenarios and tasks they can use to practise as they develop their skills.

Many assume that coaching is highly practical… and it can be. However, whilst you may have the opportunity to practise a key technique with your coach, most executive coaching tends to be more conversational and explorative.

Expert’s Top Tip:

If selecting a workshop, be sure to check that all your staff will be given the opportunity to practise new processes and techniques. If choosing online learning, make sure that activities and tasks are included and that learning isn’t just a passive intake of information.

4) Targeted to Learner

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Why might this feature be important to you?

It is easy to confuse this feature with relevance. Yet just because learning is specific to your niche or market, does not mean it is targeted to every staff member’s needs.  As individuals, we all have different learning preferences, levels of experience and expertise which mean we all have differing requirements.

Within your organisation you will have people with different levels of experience and expertise. You may be looking for a programme specifically for your new interns or you may be looking for course for a mixed group that includes new starters and those with many years of experience. Either way it is important to consider if a solution will meet the needs of the learners, both as individuals and as a group.

In addition, each learner will have different learning preferences, different ways they prefer to communicate and be communicated to. For instance, some people love to dive right in and have a go. Others prefer time to think and reflect. Some people learn best from visual mediums (like videos and images), whilst others find they retain the most information when they read or when they listen to others. Some people are also a lot more comfortable with digital technologies than others.

We are all different and the best learning accommodates all of our different requirements.

Which solutions offer this feature?

Top quality workshops are usually designed to include elements that appeal to a range of learning preferences. A good programme might include videos, opportunities for attendees to discuss key points, practical activities, things to read, act on and do, as well as the trainers positioning, explaining and demonstration key models from the front. A good course should be both experiential and reflective… not simply a ‘chalk and talk’ approach.

The best online learning also provides a variety of mediums, from videos to interactive activities to more in-depth reads.

So most individuals should find at least some elements that appeal to their learning preferences.

With bespoke programmes, providing your group isn’t too mixed, the trainer will be able to target the learning to your learner’s capability levels and development needs. Usually, this is not the case with most open courses, where the trainer is often faced with learners with a range of abilities and professional backgrounds.

Coaching is, of course, very targeted as the sessions are designed specifically for each learner. However, this can get expensive if you’re looking for a larger group.  The best online learning solutions can offer a similar level of individual targeting, at a fraction of the cost. For instance, our Coachical platform diagnoses where the learner can most improve and directs them to the most relevant content.  Coachical’s virtual coaches also have different communication styles to appeal to different learning styles.

Online research can give learners the freedom to choose a solution that they prefer or specifically meets their needs. However, it can take learners a long time to find what they are looking for.

Expert’s Top Tip:

Be sure to ask how the learning will be adapted to meet different team members’ learning styles and different levels of experience. If you do opt for coaching on a mass scale, ask if the provider can give your learners a range of coaches to choose from.  A coach who meets one team member’s needs, may not be perfect for their colleagues. We’d recommend finding a company that can offer a variety of coaches with different approaches and styles.

5) Likelihood of Completion

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Why might this feature be important to you?

No one wants to invest in training that isn’t used. What a waste of your budget! Often, though, engagement with learning wanes over time. Completing some learning can take discipline and when deadlines approach and we get busy, it is easy for a learning session to slip out of the diary.

For some, this is more problematic than others. If it is a regulatory requirement that team members complete the full programme it is crucial to ensure engagement remains high.

You don’t want to be spending all your time chasing colleagues to complete their course.

Which solutions offer this feature?

Generally, short face-to-face courses and coaching have high completion rates. In these cases, completion and attendance are usually the same thing. In other words, as long as colleagues turn up to the workshop they are highly likely to complete it. We have seen people leave a course early for  a last minute meeting, to meet travel arrangements or for other extenuating circumstances. This is unusual though, particularly if attendees are given plenty of notice of the timings of their course. However, if learners have to attend several modules, it is more likely they might miss one (or two!).

Self-directed learning, like online research or reading a book, is least likely to get completed, as you are offering your learners very little support to help them stay engaged.  It is also worth considering that when you invest in a more structured programme, like an online course or live workshop, team members can feel more incentivised and obliged to honour that investment.

The best online learning takes proactive steps to ensure completion, by offering you ways to track learner progress and by sending learners reminders. Coachical, for example, is designed to maximise learner engagement throughout the programme and beyond.

The longer the programme (whether an online course or a series of face-to-face modules) the more likely learners will stop interacting.  On the other hand, though, the longer the programme the more embedding support there is for those who do actively participate… as we will explore next.

Expert’s Top Tip:

Try to pick a learning solution that will work around your colleague’s existing commitments.  If learners have to attend fixed time sessions, give them plenty of notice.  If you choose online or distance learning, make sure it incudes ways to keep learners motivated and engaged throughout the learning process.

6) Embedding Support

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Why might this feature be important to you?

Knowledge fade is a widely recognised problem in learning. As far back as 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus began a field of research which has identified significant flaws in the human memory. Ebbinghaus found that without further revision and reinforcement, after 60 days the average learner retains only 10% of new information. Find out more about Ebbinghaus here.

Add to this that there is only so much the human mind can take in at any one time. Miller’s law (a key theory in Behavioural Economics research) shows that we can take in around 7 distinct pieces of information at once. When you are familiar with a topic this increases, when a topic is new you can take in less.

This is why some form of embedding support is often crucial… particularly if training is on a subject that your colleagues won’t be using and practising every day.

Which solutions offer this feature?

If embedding support is a must have, online courses are often ideal, as they are usually designed in bite-size modules that learners complete over time. Plus, learners can refer back to their modules at any time. This naturally combats knowledge fade.

Coaching is also usually delivered over time, with learners given the opportunity to revisit key topics with their coach.

Workshops are often a ‘one-hit wonder’ with minimal embedding support offered. This is particularly true for open courses. The best bespoke programmes often include a follow up workshop, several weeks after the initial course, to help combat knowledge fade and give learners the opportunity to ask further questions once they have applied their learning.

Expert’s Top Tip:

If selecting online learning, make sure learners will be encouraged to refer back to resources for a significant period of time after they complete each module.

Online learning can be used as an embedding resource for other options, like face-to-face workshops or coaching. Don’t be afraid to consider a hybrid approach that mixes several solutions. A hybrid programme can also help ensure that all learning preferences are met and help with completion rates.

Check out our infographic below to compare some of the different options available for each of these factors

We have also provided an estimated cost for each solution for a team of 30 people.

Are there other features you think are important to consider when comparing different learning solutions?

Do you agree with our ratings?

Comment your thoughts below or email us at hello@coachical.com.

Want to learn more about Coachical? Click here to explore the Coachical Experience.

Bigrock, the team behind Coachical, also offer bespoke programmes, coaching and hybrid solutions.  Find out more about our work at www.bigrockhq.com.

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