This column is themed “Selling Up, Selling Down.” I’ve always taken that to mean how well do we truly understand our services, how they are perceived and the degree to which our buyers want to consume them.
I’ve always liked that perspective. Frankly, we are in the sales business. I know this perspective has bothered some of my learning colleagues through the years. “I don’t sell anything! I teach and impact learners’ lives.” I agree, but in the end we are pitching a product to all levels of the enterprise, and the better we understand our buyers’ needs and buying patterns, the higher a probability that they will want to consume our product. In many cases, there may not be an overt price tag on our programs, or a profit and loss, but many of the principles of effective selling still apply.
Our ability to command the attention and time of an already overwhelmed learner is difficult. Getting someone into a classroom is tough, be it virtual or face-to-face. Buyers are pickier than ever, and so is their boss. Proving our value when competing in a crowded marketplace is also a challenge. It’s not that we haven’t had to prove our worth in the past, it’s just that a record number of distractions and priorities are bombarding learners, and we need to justify the use of their time.
I recently had a conversation with a sales representative and his manager shortly after they attended a new sales training course. Both were underwhelmed. Their main complaint was the course hadn’t considered the real world of sales and the issues they face. One quote struck me: “That’s what’s wrong with training around here. It’s either entirely out of touch with the way work is done, or it’s corporate’s way of passing down programs like this that we have to make fit into the real world.”
That’s a disturbing statement. More learners see us as being all about things they need to know, but not as concerned with things they really do every day on the job. Making that jump is seen as their responsibility, not ours.
Enter Job Task Analysis. This puts a different spin on the way we have traditionally designed and created our courses and offerings. We’re fairly well-versed in approaches such as ADDIE and task analysis, both effective ways to design training experiences. JTA takes these approaches a bit further and adds three important perspectives:
Process analysis: This takes the tasks we typically glean from ADDIE/task analysis and adds a work flow layer that arranges these outputs in an order that matches the real world. In traditional design and “training” we group tasks by categories, or teach them based on dependencies or levels of complexity. This may make the content easier to consume, but often makes it very difficult to transfer and apply on the job, where the sequence may differ. There is a host of cognitive research about the importance of mental maps, encoding and recall. Many of our approaches to grouping and sequencing training go against this research. JTA works with them.
Critical skills analysis: Not all tasks are created equal, nor do they warrant the same level of instructional treatment, if any at all. Historically we over-teach, meaning we bring everything into the classroom because it fits the outline and was labeled as important during the analysis phase. But important doesn’t equal critical. CSA helps us better prioritize what goes in class and what’s better learned or mastered before or after.
Learning and support asset analysis: Although we design great resources for training, we’re not as effective at understanding the current learning and support assets available in the work flow. LSAA helps us better understand how to maximize and supplement resources that help learners apply and remember what they’ve learned.
If we’re going sell our services and attract a buyer, we need to do a better job of designing for the work to be done, not the information to be learned. Once we match these up, we stand a better chance of truly supporting the work at hand.Filed under: Leadership Development