Creating effective training programs for external audiences is crucial for businesses to ensure their partners, customers, or other stakeholders have the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed. An effective training program should be tailored to the needs of the external stakeholders, engaging, and able to deliver the desired learning outcomes. Dr. Marlene Holmes, PH.D.C, MSW | CEO & Founder, The BFCA Experience and Nolan Hout, Senior Vice President at Infopro Learning, discussed how to create effective training programs for external audiences.
They stressed the significance of maintaining effective communication, consistency, and being up-to-date with data, metrics and scenarios, and recommended the establishment of metrics systems through the Learning Management System (LMS) to track participation, completion, and Return on Investment (ROI). To become a specialist in creating impactful training programs, they advised the importance of continuous learning through education and staying updated with the latest trends in the industry. Additionally, they advised that consistency and transparency should be upheld to ensure the effectiveness of the programs.
Listen to the podcast to learn more:
Based on your experiences, have you discovered a training model that you believe is most effective? For example, have you observed any successful models if a company wanted to train its customers? Is it best to work within the corporate L&D team, or is it more effective to be more decentralized and work within specific departments?
Dr. Marlene Holmes
Dr. Marlene Holmes co-founded The BFCA Experience LLC. As a former Division I college athlete, she utilizes her experience and knowledge to help and educate athletes. She received her doctoral degree in Social Work from Barry University and graduated from the University of Central Florida and The Great Bethune-Cookman University. Dr. Holmes has worked in several industries, including higher education, addiction, mental health, healthcare, and athletics. Her expertise includes Instructional Design, Athletic Transition, Executive Director of Admissions in Healthcare, Regional Director of Education for Tutoring and College Readiness, and more.
Nolan Hout is the Senior Vice President at Infopro Learning. He has over a decade of experience in the L&D industry, helping global organizations unlock the potential of their workforce. Nolan is results-driven, investing most of his time in finding ways to identify and improve the performance of learning programs through the lens of return on investment. He is passionate about networking with people in the learning and training community. He is also an avid outdoorsman and fly fisherman, spending most of his free time on rivers across the Pacific Northwest.
An excerpt of the discussion follows:
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Infopro Learning-sponsored Learning and Development Podcast.
I’m Nolan Hout, your host, and today’s special guest is Dr. Marlene Holmes.
Dr. Holmes is an accomplished leader in management, mental health, learning, and development, with a wealth of experience in both corporate and academic settings. She also received the prestigious Doctoral Leadership Fellowship Award in 2020. Today, we’ll discuss how to create effective training programs for external audiences, a challenge that has become increasingly important in recent years.
While L&D professionals typically focus on developing programs for employees, educating clients and partners presents unique challenges, which we will explore in depth. Without further ado, let’s dive into the conversation.
Hello, Dr. Holmes, and thank you for joining us on the podcast today.
Hi, good morning. Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure.
One of the things that we enjoy doing on our podcast is getting to know our guests, who come from diverse backgrounds in corporate training and learning. Seeing that people’s paths to this field are not always traditional is intriguing. Over our podcast, we’ve welcomed around 30 to 40 guests, and none of them have shared similar stories about how they found themselves in this line of work.
Could you share your journey in this field with us, from where you began to where you are today?
My journey has been unconventional, and I’m happy to share it with you. I have a background in social work, specifically in the field of sports social work. Many may wonder how this aligns with corporate training and learning, but it fits well with what I do.
Before my current role, I spent about 8-9 years in healthcare as an administrator, serving as the Director of Admissions. In that position, I oversaw a 24/7 department that dealt with much paperwork. It was my responsibility to organize the department, identify areas for improvement in our documentation and policies, and, most importantly, ensure that my staff was properly trained. This was especially important given that the department dealt with crises, such as patients who were suicidal, brought in by law enforcement, or children and geriatric patients aged 65 and above.
As my team had to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds at any given time, I quickly realized the importance of establishing effective teamwork and communication and ensuring ethical and legal practices. For example, we could go from having only one person in the lobby to suddenly having 15 people, which required my team to be prepared and competent in handling any situation.
To achieve this, I developed my training materials and competency checklist, requiring my employees to attend refresher courses that I created and even working with each employee individually to ensure they were properly trained. This wasn’t something that was expected or monitored in my department, but it was something that I measured and monitored with my team. As a result, my department had the highest employee productivity and retention rates in the hospital, and we could also support our employees as they pursued their educational journeys. However, after eight or nine years of being on call 24/7, I realized I needed to find a way to continue in that role.
After leaving my previous role, I took on a position in college readiness programs where I worked with K-12 students, including student-athletes, to help prepare them for college. The company already had an established curriculum, but my responsibility was to convince parents and schools of the necessity of the curriculum. This role was unique because it allowed me to develop my workshops and taught me about building a curriculum based on necessity, effectiveness, and efficiency. For example, I tracked students’ progress with a certain SAT score and saw how their scores improved after completing the program.
Working with my tutors, who were public and private school educators, was an amazing experience. It exposed me to different approaches to teaching and allowed me to use my social work skills to observe their strengths and challenges. I also worked with parents, at times even providing family counseling.
After my experience with college readiness programs, I moved on to a position as Director of Education for a nonprofit substance abuse program. My main responsibilities were to oversee the educators who facilitated courses for the patients in rehab. These courses covered a range of life skills, such as financial literacy, effective communication, and emotional expression. I was in charge of monitoring the effectiveness of the courses, creating new ones, and tracking progress and knowledge improvement from the exams.
Dr. Homes elaborated on her non-profit work experience and why she pursued a Ph.D. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
Based on your experiences, have you discovered a training model that you believe is most effective? For example, have you observed any successful models if a company wanted to train its customers? Is it best to work within the corporate L & D team, or is it more effective to be more decentralized and work within specific departments?
It would be best to expand beyond the walls; it’s imperative. The most successful training programs begin with the new hire orientation. And the key to making it effective is to step out of our comfort zone and train the team and support them. We can facilitate the training, but we should focus on empowering the employees and demonstrating that we are invested in their success.
I have personally traveled to train the trainers and helped identify the best candidates for the role. To start the process, I consult with various managers and performance managers to identify employees with excellent communication skills, punctuality, motivation, and a positive attitude. While they may not consider themselves trainers, we approach them and have an initial conversation to gauge their interest.
If the employee expresses interest, either a member of my team or I will work with them directly. We then have them facilitate the training while we observe and offer support. It’s similar to having someone sit at the back of the class while the student leads the lesson. After the training, we talk with the employee to discuss their experience and any areas they could improve upon.
We use anonymous surveys to ensure we receive the trainees’ candid feedback. This helps the employees gain confidence and provides insight into what went well and what areas need improvement. Often, employees tend to be overly critical of their performance and may feel that they did poorly. However, the feedback we receive through the surveys empowers them by showing that they did an excellent job and positively impacted the trainees.
Once the employees have completed the training, they can practice what they have learned. However, more than providing virtual training and hoping for the best is required. We need to extend ongoing support to ensure their success. This doesn’t necessarily mean hand-holding but showing that we are invested in their growth and development. Unfortunately, we often must demonstrate to employees that we are committed to their success and willing to support them on their journey upwards. This is a crucial aspect that we need to address.
I spoke with a Head of Learning Experience at a high-tech company two days ago. He had worked for the same company for 25 years, educating customers on how to use their products. At his former company, he worked in the Learning and Development space but is part of the customer experience team in his new role. This made me wonder about your current role at your company.
Do you work within the L&D function or the delivery function? Or are you part of the team that sells your company’s services to clients? Where do you report?
While it remains a crucial aspect of our function, particularly during the early stages of RFPs, it’s understandable that it can have broader applications. We strive to maintain its place within the L&D space as it’s our area of expertise, but we acknowledge that it may have relevance in other areas. We aim to be pioneers and establish ourselves as experts before we expand into other domains.
Dr. Holmes and Nolan delved deeper into whether the services provided were exclusively for the client’s employees or if they also extended to their employees across various situations.
What is your approach to ensure that the content you provide remains current and relevant to the business, and how do you ensure it stays in sync with their needs?
I have implemented a 52-week course that serves as a refresher training for employees. After completing the required courses, employees can voluntarily log into our element system and take additional courses to earn certificates that could be used for promotions within the company or future job opportunities. Staying current is a challenge, but I pride myself on being highly organized and have had experience managing similar systems.
As you mentioned, ensuring that the clients do not have more information than us. It would be uncomfortable, and we could miss out on valuable data and content that could benefit our employees, especially in the constantly changing business environment. Thus, we must pay attention to the changes happening locally, nationally, or globally as things evolve quickly.
We collaborate closely with our workforce management department, which requires us to remain updated on global developments and ensure our content is relevant per the set standards. For instance, regarding sexual harassment prevention, while some fundamental definitions may remain consistent, seven states have specific requirements that we must meet. Thus, we check and update our materials every four months, incorporating new cases and scenarios to maintain their currency. We don’t want to use outdated content from five years ago that may still be relevant, but new developments may necessitate adjustments.
We don’t only rely on data but also look for real-life scenarios and up-to-date videos to incorporate into our content. Sometimes, we even do reenactments in the field to make the training more relatable. However, we review our data and numbers annually as these tend to be released yearly. For scenarios, we review them every four months, and I maintain a calendar to ensure we stay on top of updating our content.
It’s a team effort, and we hold regular department meetings to discuss our progress and ensure everyone is on the same page. For instance, we had discussions in September and October regarding the sexual harassment refresher course and ensuring that our content is up-to-date and relevant to the specific requirements of those seven states. Our approach emphasizes effective communication, consistency, and focus on data, numbers, and scenarios.
Dr. Holmes and Nolan discussed the metrics system developed within our LMS. It involves monitoring participation and completion rates, reviewing and updating content regularly, and assessing ROI.
In addition, during the podcast, there were a few other questions that were asked, including:
- How do you measure the ROI of your training to your organization’s clients?
- As we end the discussion, is there any final advice or words of wisdom you would like to share with others in the corporate training space?