Is your organization thinking about or planning an internal leadership, management, communication, and/or personal development seminar, webinar, or workshop? Want to earn a return on your investment? Then please consider the following 7-step process for planning, conducting, and following up on your education and training (E&T) event:
- Define the purpose: What problems are you trying to solve, what opportunities are you pursuing, and/or what issues are you attempting to resolve? Make sure that E&T is the most effective way to accomplish your purpose. For example, maybe enforcing an existing policy or creating and implementing a new policy would be a more cost-effective approach. If E&T is the best course of action, then begin with the end in mind. That is, articulate the outcomes. Define what participants will be able to do as a result of participating in the E&T. Use action-oriented verbs to state what should be learned, such as the following, which are listed in order of increasing cognitive ability levels: define, identify, explain, discuss, apply, develop, analyze, organize, create, and integrate.
- Create the content: Assemble teaching and learning materials aligned with the purpose of the E&T. Prepare the content in the form of modules, that is, one to two-hour interactive teaching-learning experiences, rather than single, long periods. Reason: Provides flexibility in delivery in that you can mix and match modules appropriate to various audiences. For example, assume you have six project management modules and eight communication modules. Then you will be able to assemble and deliver a subset of them for a particular audience such as new project managers.
- Select presenters: Use mostly your personnel supplemented with some outside experts. I have yet to find an organization that does not have at least a few staff professionals who are experts, widely respected, and good communicators. The principal reason for relying heavily on your personnel is that they can relate best to your organization’s problems, opportunities, and issues. Assist them in preparing first-class teaching-learning modules.
- Do not attempt a brain dump: Don’t bring a bunch of busy personnel together—either face-to-face or via an internal webinar, lecture to them, “pound” ideas and information into their heads, expect them to absorb it, and then send them on their way. If you do that, my experience suggests that very little of what is presented will register and be used – a poor investment. Instead, apply Step 5.
- Set yourself up for a positive ROI: Conduct the planned solid program using the selected topics and presenters – mostly your personnel. Also, and this is critical, assign some “homework” prior to the workshop and use breakouts, hands-on tasks, and other active collaborative participation during the workshop. Then create post-workshop activities that will encourage each workshop participant to at least experiment with what he or she learned at the workshop and/or share some of it with others. We learn by doing at the E&T event and by applying and/or sharing what we learned after the event.
- Provide CEUs or PDHs: While the primary purpose of your organization’s education and training (E&T) events is the personal and professional development of your personnel, these gatherings can also earn continuing education units (CEUs) or professional development hours (PDHs) for participants. Each of your presentations is more likely to be eligible for CEUs or PDHs if they have the following features: 1) clearly stated purpose, 2) detailed handout , 3) list of resources (articles, books, websites, e-newsletters), 4) sufficient duration, 5) biographical sketch that presents relevant credentials of the presenter, and 6) an interactive approach.
- Assess the results: In the spirit of continuous improvement, conduct an anonymous evaluation of the E&T event content, presenters, and logistics at the event’s conclusion – before everyone leaves. Then, within a few weeks to a month, evaluate again. And, if your E&T is a sustained effort with on-going events, conduct an annual evaluation. These post-event and, if appropriate, annual evaluations are critical. Look for your ROI by using metrics such as changed behavior, application of new knowledge and skills, better budget performance, more profitability, enhanced morale, reduced turnover, improved recruitment, and overall improved performance. Identify lessons learned from the evaluations and use them to improve subsequent E&T offerings.
Perhaps the preceding 7-Steps seem cumbersome. While I am probably advocating more up-front effort than is normally done, that initial investment will pay off during and after the E&T event in terms of a solid ROI.
If you wish to discuss my experience and/or the possibility of working with you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 219-242-1704. By way of further introduction, click here to see my short biographical sketch.
Stu Walesh, Ph.D., P.E
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