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The Three C's of Successful Training Organizations

— by Bill Cushard

Human resourcesManagementTraining

If you’re in the fortunate position to build a training organization from scratch, you have a unique opportunity to avoid and/or leapfrog all the traditional characteristics of training groups that keep them from having a seat at the table in strategic discussions on the organization. If you were to build a training organization from the beginning, consider this framework: context, connections, content.


It all begins with context. Context includes the business vision, mission and strategy — the culture of the organization and where leadership wants the organization to be in the next 1, 3, 5, 10 years. You will want to understand as much as possible about the business and the senior leaders so you know how your particular service (enterprise learning) can support the goals of the organization.  In order to truly understand the needs of the business, you need to be in staff, budget and planning mee
tings with the business teams, like an embedded reporter in a war.

You must know what the organizational capabilities are today and what they need to be in the future. You might be thinking you should do a needs analysis. I say that is wrong. If you’re as embedded as you should be, you’ll already know what the needs are. I know an ounce of analysis is worth a pound of objectives, but don’t get caught up in doing a formal event-based annual needs analysis … make it an ongoing process. The context of your role as a learning leader is to help the organization achieve results, which in most cases is to increase profitability. If you aren’t helping the business increase profitability, you aren’t adding value.


Face it now or meet your maker. You cannot keep up with the demand for your services with the resources you have, and you are not getting more resources. Accept it, and plan accordingly. You can’t create enough content or schedule and deliver enough classes to satisfy the need or hire enough people to do it. Instead, you must build an environment in which people can connect and collaborate with each other. You must build an environment in which people can learn from each other, teach each other, and contribute to each other’s success. There are many ways to do this, and you must, must, must push through the resistance. The training class is nearly dead … or at least it’s been relegated to one of many solutions to the organizational learning problem. So do not rely on classroom training anymore. Instead, enable others to learn what they need to learn — when they need to learn it — in order to do their jobs more effectively.


Pop Quiz

Q1: According to research by ASTD, it takes approximately 45 hours of development time to create one hour of training. So if you need to create a week-long new hire training program, how long will it take you to develop it?

Answer: 11.25 months (and that’s with no holidays, vacations or sick time)

Q2: How many business leaders will accept an 11-month timeline to develop a new training program? How many will accept a 6-month timeline?

Answer: None

Once context and connections are in place, and only then, should the discussion of content become appropriate. I will say it again: you cannot keep up, and it costs too much.  Look for content that already exists. For example, Leading@Google is a great resource for author presentations of cutting edge leadership topics. One can find books, articles and Harvard Business Review case studies that cover just about any topic. Why reinvent the wheel when content already exists? Use what’s already out there.


Learning leaders need to think differently about how they build their training organizations using a simple framework: the three Cs of the new training organization. By focusing on learners as customers instead of students, and by understanding our role is not to train people, but to help the organization increase profitability, we can create environments in which people want to learn, can learn, and do it in the context of their work — not in the context of the training classes we offer.

(Image courtesy of Flickr user davepegz , CC 2.0 )

>More on e-learning on the Mindflash blog.

Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.

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