Quality Communication: The Elegance Of Simplicity In Corporate Training

Learning And Training Driven By Needs: Why You Need To Promote Quality Communication  

Regardless of your industry, I can say with some confidence that a major priority for your organization is finding ways to do more with less. Increase productivity, reduce overhead; improve worker retention, control the costs of turnover; uptrain your workforce to stay abreast new standards and technologies, but mitigate the cost of constant workflow disruptions and technology acquisitions. When we talk about corporate training, it is tempting to conflate it with traditional forms of education: Classroom formats (whether digital classrooms or physical), lecture-based delivery, pass-fail evaluations, distributing credentials to document progress, etc. It doesn’t have to be this way. Certainly there are benefits to this kind of regimented approach to getting everyone on the same page, but there are plenty of situations where your corporate training program can be as simple as an organized discussion. Quality communication can have the same effect as formal education.

Old Tools, New Solutions

To give a real world example of this principle in action, let’s turn our gaze to the state of Nevada, and its team of rural social workers. Social work in general is a field overwhelmingly in the nonprofit or publicly-funded sector, which means it is perennially strapped for cash. Indeed, this was the reality for Nevada’s Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), which several years ago was forced to cut travel reimbursements for rural social workers commuting to receive continuing education. The need for this education remained, but affordable means of accessing were taken away out of financial necessity.

New tools are not an option when cutbacks limit your resources. Knowing this, the University of Nevada Reno’s online social work program rose to the challenge, reaching the state’s social workers with the same virtual toolkit it used to engage with its online students. As a public state university, UNR is also publicly funded, meaning it was no better equipped to invent new resources than the state’s DCFS. It was also preoccupied with the resource-intensive process of educating students – future social workers. Providing continuing education to experienced social workers was a dynamically different mission.

Students need theory, but practitioners need applications. UNR made this pivot by leveraging Blackboard (its existing, online student portal) to engage rural social workers, find out what specific challenges they faced, and connect them to one another, as well as to departmental faculty. Through this remote network, the school and social worker teams coordinated live-streamed seminars and peer-to-peer breakout sessions aimed at sharing what worked, creating the very knowledge resources they needed through quality communication and collaboration.

Real Human Resources

Limited resources, pressing challenges, and existing technology – sound familiar to any managers yet? The important lesson here is that it didn’t take additional resources to meet the needs to the remote social workers; the most effective lessons were those that simply gave everyone a chance to share, communicate, and problem solve using one another’s experiences and insights. No bells and whistles, no steep learning curve ahead of the training itself, just solutions-based human engagement.

Corporate organizations routinely fail to fully leverage their existing human resources. New hires, as well as more tenured staff, all have different collections of knowledge, experience, and even ways of utilizing their existing technological toolkits. Packaging all this into a curriculum can be time and energy intensive, whereas creating a context in which all these individuals can share their challenges and solutions puts the onus on them to communicate strategically.

Training doesn't have to be distributed systematically, or evenly, to be effective. Empowering staff to bring both their challenges, and to share their creative approaches, into a forum for peer-to-peer exchanges enables you to match need with capacity. It can be difficult to invent curricula that match current needs and that stays relevant over time, especially given the pace of change. What's more, you always risk disengagement from employees who don't respond well to a particular modality. When they see their voices represented, and their problems and challenges driving the discussion, they can influence the conversation and extract the most value from the platform.

There is a time and a place for formal training, but tapping your existing resources can, with some guidance from an engaged, responsive leadership, be an efficient way to do more, with less. Technology is not the solution, but the means for peer engagement. Through routine communication, your teams can effectively crowd-source solutions and ideas without introducing additional resources – and expenses.

Rather than thinking of training as a way of getting more people to embrace and utilize the new, consider how through quality communication it can distribute existing knowledge, skills, and practices among your entire organization.

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