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Francis Marshall

Cegos (UK) Ltd

Managing Director

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Trainer’s Tip: A successful 2011 training strategy


This month's Trainer's Tip comes from Cegos's Francis Marshall, who offers 10 top tips for creating a successful training strategy for 2011.


As economic conditions remain tough and training budgets tight, L&D strategies for 2011 must be flexible and effective.

In a recent poll of UK companies both small and large, we found that while more than two thirds of organisations have had their training budgets cut this year, more than half see the outlook for training in 2011 as more positive.
Encouraging also, is the fact that there is a huge appetite for learning. Our annual european L&D survey found employees so motivated to develop their skills that 76% are willing to give up their free time to undertake training and 53% are even prepared to part-fund it.
With so much support for training, it is essential that as L&D professionals we don't let our employees down and that we meet individual needs as well as those of the business. There are clearly many factors that will impact the effectiveness of an organisation's 2011 training strategy. Here are my top 10 tips for success.

Defining your strategy

In order to define your strategy, it is essential to have a structure that is aligned to the business strategy with initiatives that support the organisational goals, objectives and resource requirements.

Make sure you have a long-term vision 

While there will be a number of pressing short-term goals to achieve, don't forget to align your training strategy with the longer-term business needs. In just four years, almost 50% of the workforce will be made up of millennials who will expect social learning tools and mobile devices to be used in their work and learning experiences. What steps could you take this coming year to prepare for this expectation?

Put the learner at the centre of your strategy

The individual should be at the heart of all learning strategies. This means listening to what learners want today and in the years to come and ensuring they are fully engaged with relevant and timely content, and with real-life scenarios they can put to use in the workplace.

Prioritise to maximise budgets  

Where can you make the biggest difference to the business? The first step is to work out what the current skill gaps are. Professional skills are all too often ignored yet it is management, sales and customer service skills that have a direct impact on every organisation's bottom line and can help companies on the road to sustainable growth following the recent economic difficulties.

Be creative in your delivery methods

Don't pigeonhole yourself or individual employees with just one training technique. Be creative in the tools you choose - think about how you could blend classroom learning and elearning with coaching and on-the-job training to provide an integrated learning experience.

Get your timing right

Timing is everything in L&D with serious hazards if we deliver too early, just as there are if we deliver too late. If, say, one objective is to provide training for a new software system, don't expend all the training before the system goes live. If your strategy is geared around supporting organisational change, make sure the key ingredients of success are in place first - the leadership, the vision and the key people - before you embark on dedicated training initiatives.

Get management buy-in

Make sure your training strategy is actively supported by senior executives within the business. They will need to agree to milestones, costs, dates and deliverables and where possible should be involved in relevant programmes as participants. And this applies equally to line managers as well, who can ensure that what is learned in the classroom or comes out of the L&D department is implemented and practiced in the day-to-day working environment. Actions speak louder than words.

Be flexible

No training strategy should be set in stone. In-built flexibility will enable you to constantly review progress and adjust initiatives accordingly or if budgets change.  

Avoid box ticking

Training needs to be embedded in people's day to day activities. Send a manager on a two-day course on management skills and he/she is not going to become a good manager overnight. Avoid just ticking off modules – instead focus on a training strategy which makes learning part of the culture of the organisation. Research from analyst Bersin & Associates shows a direct positive correlation between learning culture and business outcomes.

Measure ROI

L&D strategies for 2011 must continue to be intrinsically tied to ROI and to the strategic and operational goals of the business. Agree ROI measures at the outset to ensure the impact on the individual and organisation can be evaluated successfully. When it comes to next year's planning you will be in a better position to leverage budgets.   
For the mainstay of organisations training budgets are likely to remain relatively flat next year. Available resources should therefore be focused on where companies can get the 'biggest bang for their buck' – in areas such as coaching, sales, management training and knowledge sharing. But we must not lose sight of the future. With the demographics of the workplace and learner needs rapidly changing, a successful 2011 strategy will acknowledge the long-term needs of the business.
Francis Marshall is managing director of Cegos UK, part of Europe’s largest learning and development provider. For further information visit

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Francis Marshall

Managing Director

Read more from Francis Marshall

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