In many organizations, there are three prominent silos in existence: training, content development and support. I call them silos because all too often the three do not mix. In fact, in many organizations I’ve visited, they downright dislike each other. Development blames training for not using the materials effectively, training blames support for hand-holding students with their problems, and support blames development for not producing effective documentation in the first place. It can become fairly complicated, and even political, before anyone recognizes the problem. Each group has a stake in how a learner, or employee, performs on the job.
Each group influences the learners at different times, and even at different levels, throughout the learning process. Development tends to get involved fairly early, working with subject-matter experts in the design of the supporting documentation. Training tends to become involved during the actual rollout and is one of the first departments to engage the end-users or learners. Support is traditionally viewed on the back end, working in more of a reactive mode as the rollout starts to take shape. It’s easy to see how these departments can view themselves as owning different elements of the learning outcome. And because of this, each often has its own set of processes and supporting systems.
The reality, especially from the learner’s perspective, is that these three groups are responsible for exactly the same thing—a successful learning program and a productive worker. These silos need to learn to understand each other. Each is clearly dependent on the others for the ultimate success of a training implementation. All of them fight to become involved earlier in the process so they can do their jobs more effectively. If they work together, the odds of becoming involved sooner could increase. A CLO can often be the tie that binds these three entities. That doesn’t necessarily mean that each department needs to report directly to the CLO, but the CLO can champion the communication between them.
Each department has its own expertise, and there are many reasons why they should share this information. Development often has an understanding of, and access to, project managers and subject-matter experts, whereas training and support often don’t have access to these groups. Training has a face-to-face relationship with the learner that development and support haven’t often established. Support has a real-world perspective that training and development can’t often experience. When these departments become involved in learning programs early and as a united front, great things can happen.
I’ve asked professionals working for each separate department if their group feels that it has responsibilities related to the other groups’ world. All too often the answer is no. If learning is seen as the umbrella under which each is responsible, crossover is inevitable and, in many cases, expected. Each group can benefit from supporting and learning from the others if they feel that they share in the accountability of the learning outcome.
Learning programs are adopting a more blended approach on every level. Merging the efforts of these three departments, which have traditionally owned learning in separate arenas, can increase the effectiveness of learning’s overall reach. The learner is handled more uniformly, and instruction is delivered more consistently. The most powerful outcome of all is a more seamless training rollout at every level.
Bob Mosher is the executive director of education for Element K. He has been an influential leader in the IT training space for more than 15 years. For more information, e-mail Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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