I am working for a company which base our business on a partner strategy, where all sale is done by our wide net of partners all over the world. My role is to help ensure that our partners know our products and understand the complexity in which they will be used. Summer has given me the time to reflect on our own performance, and although there are a lot of happy faces around, I've handed out a big fat "F" to our efforts.
One of our major challenges is that there is a wide array of learners with different needs and background. We have some that needs to know how to sell our products, some need to know how to install the products, while some needs to understand enough to design systems using the produucts. In addition, we are global, and markets differs a lot in maturity for our technology.
My dillemma is that management wants one class to fit everyone and it should be global. When I reply by refering to different learner needs and learning taxonomies - I feel like I might be equally successful speaking hebrew (We are a scandinavian company...)
So - the question is, how do I light a torch so upper management can trust that I know what I am doing and get of the "one shoe fits all" track?
Getting buy-in is all down to WIIFM (what's in it for me); your distribution partners are easy - sales performance and/ or customer satisfaction. But your problem seems to be with your management and, as Darrell says, the syndrome of "we need skills; we need a course"- which is the equivalent of:-
Socrates is a man
Socrates wears glasses
All men wear glasses!
My view is that the answer here is learning technologies rather than classroom; best way to provide the skills that are appropriate to the partners' staff. My recommendation is a combination of content management, communities of practice, and exercises/ role plays/ problem solving that local (partner) managers can use.
I'm with Darrell too on the issue of positioning what you're doing through partner skills development in terms of performance management rather than training.
So, lighting management's torch is a function of performance - just understand what they want to do with this performance; it'll be either:-
* More for the same; or
* The same for less; or
* Risk mitigation.
Make sure you know which it is before you launch into it!
Stakeholder management is a huge priority for us this year. Tighter budgets means leaner solutions and 'non-essential' activities are put indefinitely on hold. We understand that! But anything we need to do has to have clear justification, short-term, profit- centric!
Here are the things we have been doing to ensure this - we have been more successful this year than ever before in achieving backing for learning initiatives.
Given that you're talking about taxonomies, I guess you're familiar with Kirkpatrick. Key is the level 4 evaluation, pure and simple. What is the hard financial benefit to the company of a tailored approach? We've been hitting this really hard this year - in terms of demonstrating impact and also how we are going to demonstrate the value.
What about a practical demonstration of learning styles? When we talk about learning theories to sr management, the word 'theory' switches them off straight away. The example I use to demonstrate Kolb's cycle is learning how to operate a new stereo - some people start pushing buttons, some read the manual cover to cover, and some call a friend. most people can identify with that - it might help them get their heads around the practicalities of different learning styles. Or you could take them through the Honey Mumford learning styles questionnaire.
You could roll out in one country as a trial, and then ask other markets how they would change this. You could build champions in each market and ask them to tailor to local requirements. Or you could try to design a 'one-size fits most' approach and then use feedback and evaluation to identify gaps. My own preference would be to try to demonstrate practically to people what the rationale behind a multi-faceted approach is, through demonstrations and an explanation of benegits in real terms.
Ideally, management would give you all the time and resources to develop unique, custom training for all audiences. But, alas, that's often not the case. You can make all kinds of arguments about why each custom class is important, how management will get more of the same or the same for less with a one-shoe-fits all approach...but will that really change their minds? At the end of the day, the budget is the budget and you are forced to work within it.
So, if you can't get management to understand adult learners have different needs, get tricky then. Satisfy management and your learners by creating one elearning class, but get clever: create branching within that class based on your ability to expertly identify those learning types. Map out the audience groups, their learning objectives, where they overlap and where they don't and branch the content accordingly. You could make it even richer by developing scenarios relevant for each type.
For example, if you needed to teach a performance appraisal review process, naturally employees and managers might need to know different things about the process. Develop branching from the start by presenting the learner with a choice point --- are you an individual contributor or do you manage employees? See where I am going with this?
Key here --- what tools are you working with? Make sure they are robust enough to allow you to create different outputs and ancillary support (such as reference links/pdfs, etc.) as well. For example, sales folks are prime candidates for pod casts. Will your authoring tools allow you to easily export just the audio portion of your training into a pod cast?
Don't know what part of Scandinavia you are in -- but, Lycka Till!
Runar, this is a great question and one that is asked frequently by many within the learning and development community. In my experience senior management still struggle to see learning/training as anything other than a cost that needs managing. Hence the desire for one dimensional solutions that can be rolled out in a uniform fashion. Using arguments that support improved learning outcomes doesn't always hold much sway. Focusing on business performance does. This may therefore need a change in the language used when presenting your ideas for a more effective solution.
For example, try offering to put in place a Partner Support portal that contains a variety of performance support tools aimed at each key activity area (sales, installation, integration) that will reduce the overall cost of sale and improve customer satisfaction for both your organisation and your partner network. This is more attractive and persuasive than describing a learning solution that takes into account different learning theories.
By focusing on the business case behind your proposed solution you will start to speak the same language as your senior managers, recognise their own considerations in reaching a decision, so that you can hone in on a well defined proposal that has a much better chance of being endorsed and actively supported.