Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “Start With Why,” is one of the most viewed of all the TED talks. His message is simple but powerful: To inspire people to action, you have to start with “Why?” The problem, as Sinek sees it, is that most companies, sales pitches, and communications start with “what” or “how” instead of what people really want to know: “why.”
How this applies to training and development
One of the fundamental principles of adult learning is that adults want to know why they should learn something before they will willingly do so. Likewise, if we want managers to willingly send their direct reports to training, and support the application of that training afterward, we need to be able to clearly and succinctly explain why they should do so.
In corporate training, explaining why means explaining the benefits to the business and the individuals. That requires we thoroughly understand the business goals and drivers for the training request and that we define the desired outcomes in business terms.
It doesn’t mean the learning objectives. Learning objectives are prerequisite to designing instruction. They explain what people will learn, but not why. As such, they do a poor job of inspiring learners and their managers to actively engage in the process.
That’s why the first discipline we teach in the Learning Transfer Certificate program is to define the business outcomes. Through conversations with the business leaders, clarify why they have asked for training in terms of the benefits that will accrue to the organization if the training and training transfer are successful.
Then use these benefits in all communications with business leaders and participants to explain why they should actively engage in the training—even down to the level of individual exercises. Start each exercise with the rationale for including it, rather than the administrative details (group size, time, and so forth) so that participants have a reason to actively engage.
Is it worth the effort?
Absolutely! In The Field Guide to the 6Ds, Patricia Gregory and Steve Akram of Oracle credit a renewed focus on business outcomes as transforming employees from “order takers to business partners.” Sujaya Bannerjee and her team at Essar explain how a rigorous exploration of expected business outcomes enabled the learning teams to avoid “another feel-good training program,” and instead contribute to a successful business transformation, earning acknowledgement from the CEO.
If you want your training efforts to be rewarded with even greater impact, start with “why.” To learn more, join us at one of the upcoming ASTD Learning Transfer Certificate programs—the next program is July 14, 2014.