4 Questions to Assess Your Business Communications Needs
You’d like to think that the training you provide employees is valuable and sticks with them once the experience concludes. But even if that’s the case, there may still be gaps that the L&D team would be wise to fill.
Choosing the Right Training Can Be Challenging
Not all training programs can meet your organization’s needs. In fact, 75% of managers are dissatisfied with their company’s training offerings, according to one study. And it doesn’t stop there. Many employees find training programs ineffective too. Only 25% feel that training helped improve their job performance, according to a study performed by McKinsey & Company. With that and the critical need for training, finding the right partner, who offers the right content, is critical.
4 Questions to Help You Assess Your Business Communications Needs
You recognize that there is a skills gap that prevents your business from reaching its full potential — effective communication. Though employees largely report being dissatisfied with their past training experiences, there is still a significant need for learning within an organization. Consider that a whopping 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs.
To understand where your organization is, ask yourself — or your employees — these four questions, and learn how the right communications training can help strengthen your business.
1. How Do You Currently Assess Your Communications Needs?
Like everything else in business, communications needs can change rapidly. Survey employees regularly — once a year, or even once per quarter — to determine the effectiveness of your communications practices and training programs, as well as to track your organization’s changing needs.
To ensure these surveys are effective, follow these four best practices for designing and implementing surveys:
Communicate expectations and the importance of the survey
Make it clear to employees that surveys about their communications practices and needs will happen regularly. That way, over time they will become part of their workflow. It’s also a good idea to remind people of why they’re participating in the survey, as well as what you will do with the data. So, when you email employees with the survey link, briefly explain why the data is being collected in the first place. Make it clear to your teams that their feedback is important, and that it’s being used to make sure the organization’s communications practices are meeting their diverse and evolving needs.
Make it quick
To ensure fuller participation, keep the survey brief — no more than two or three questions or prompts. Research tells us that shorter surveys yield more reliable results, while also producing higher response and completion rates compared with longer surveys. Brevity is especially important for regularly occurring surveys; when respondents know the survey will only take a couple of minutes, they’ll be more likely to participate.
Ask customers to share their insights
To gain a more complete picture of your communications needs, you can also reach out to customers to learn about the experience of communicating with you in order to learn from their perspective. Customer surveys should be less frequent than those distributed in-house, but as a result, can contain a few more questions, yielding more detailed feedback.
Make sure questions and prompts have a narrow focus
Writing survey questions can feel daunting. But there’s an easy way to determine whether the survey you’ve designed is a good one: Make sure each question (or prompt) asks for just one thing.
For example, here’s a poorly worded prompt:
“On a scale of 1–10, rate your experience communicating at work and your satisfaction with our current communications platform.”
The problem with this prompt is that it asks respondents to rate two different things. There could be many reasons why a person’s overall communications experience is good or bad, but it may not be related to your company’s communications platform. Instead of cramming two prompts into one, identify what data you really want to collect — do you want to know about people’s overall experience, or are you looking for specific feedback on the communications platform?
2. How Will You Measure the Success of a Training Experience?
To maximize the impact of your training investment, it’s critical to know what kinds of outcomes you can expect from training. When you assess past training experiences, or as you prepare to work with a new vendor, be sure to identify the outcomes that are important to you. In doing so, you’ll be prepared to make an informed decision on which vendor and what type of program can most effectively fill in the training gaps.
Once you’ve identified outcomes you’d like to see, share them with your existing (or potential) training vendor. Ask them how they will help you meet these goals. You can also leverage their experience conducting training to add to or revise your goals. By making it clear what you want to gain from the learning experience, vendors will be better equipped to shape the experience to fit your needs.
When you and your vendor have agreed on a set of goals, and a strategy for achieving them, work toward a consensus on how you will measure the training’s outcomes. Survey your team for input — from senior leadership to individual contributors — to determine the metrics you’ll use to measure the results. By determining what you’d like to measure, and how you’d like to measure it, you’ll be better prepared to come to a consensus.
There are many ways you can approach an assessment of your organization’s learning experiences. But in most cases, a pre- and post-training surveys will allow you to measure gains and note the specific ways the training helped participants. These surveys will also help you consider the needs across your business. For this reason, when you design surveys, be sure that the metrics you select are specific and measurable so the actions you take in response to the results can be actionable. Additionally, recognize that some providers may only offer solutions for some roles or departments and not others. For this reason, consider the ways a one-solution provider can help you find solutions across your organization.
3. How Will You Ensure Your Training Experience Is Sticky?
Humans forget 70% of new information they’ve learned within 24 hours, according to the authors of the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. No one wants to invest time and resources in a training experience that goes in one ear and out the other. But there are strategies that can help you flatten the “forgetting curve” and ensure that learners build skills and continue using them for months and years to come.
To ensure that what you teach is sticky, follow these three tips while working with your team and your training vendor to develop robust learning experiences:
Communicate value to your team
Clearly explain the value of the training experience to your team before, during, and after the training. Doing so will help individuals understand the direct benefit to them and expected outcomes, and give them direction on how to approach the training.
Design training to have an immediate impact
Ensure concepts covered in the program are immediately applicable to the work being done in your organization. When participants apply the concepts learned immediately following the training experience, they can sustain that learning over the long term.
Extend training beyond the training experience
Training doesn’t end with the conclusion of the experience. You can reinforce learning in the weeks and months following training by using peer and manager coaching to keep skills sharp. You can also encourage learners to leverage other resources made available from your vendor, like handouts, guides, checklists, and other materials that employees can use to help them keep their communications skills sharp once the training is complete.
4. Would Your Organizational Culture Benefit From Storytelling?
Neuroscience shows us how storytelling shapes decision-making by influencing our brain chemistry. In short, our brains are hardwired for stories. This means that effective storytelling is key to business success because, without story, you can’t effectively share messages with customers, partners, or anyone else.
But how do you know if your organization would benefit from developing a culture of storytelling? Think about this: Does your organization struggle to deliver meetings, emails, or presentations that engage readers and audiences? Have teams ever failed to communicate important information about your company’s value to people inside or outside the organization? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, storytelling could make all the difference.
Whether it’s in a Zoom meeting, an email, a presentation, or any other business communication scenario, high-quality storytelling can prove to be an essential component to business success. Crafting a compelling story will ensure audiences are engaged, and more importantly, that they take action based on your ideas and recommendations.
Storytelling also establishes a shared language for crafting communications within your organization. This makes it easier to collaborate within teams — or even work cross-functionally — by giving people a common framework to build communications and discuss feedback. When storytelling is the bedrock of your organization’s communications, you don’t have to worry about different departments using different approaches, causing confusion or making reviews and editing cycles overly complicated (and time-consuming!).
Maximize Your Training Experience — and Your Investment
For a truly successful learning experience, you must identify the gaps in your existing practices and come up with a plan to address them. By asking yourself and your employees these four questions, you’ll be prepared to make your next training experience truly transformational for your business.