Training with the End in Mind

Is it just me, or do training leaders sometimes miss the link between training and business strategy?

When I recently spoke with several training directors, they seemed surprised by my questions about underlying business issues. One organization manufactures a complex, expensive piece of equipment with an approximate six-year lifecycle and a team of field engineers to service it. When I asked how often the field engineer interacts with the equipment and the customer imagine my surprise at the answer: about every three weeks—many more interactions than any sales rep.


The training director then shared the extensive courses engineers must complete before going into the field, exposing a glaring gap: the courses gave no attention to building customer relationships! You see, based on the multiple interactions between the field reps and the customer, I immediately saw the connection between training engineers in customer relationship building and the business goal of increasing sales. Unfortunately, the training manager did not make that connection.

I recommended taking a step back and looking at training from a business perspective, explaining that this will pay dividends for the learners, the training leader, and the organization. At Gillespie Associates, we focus on the business perspective using Action Mapping (a process created by Cathy Moore). We hone in on both business objectives and the actions that learners need to take to meet those objectives. Depending on the complexity of the initiative, this process can be a one-hour to a multi-day effort. And every time we use it, it brings tremendous value to the client.

When we used Action Mapping to dig into the organization’s field-engineer job requirements, we first outlined the business goal, which was indeed to increase customer satisfaction to drive future sales. We then discovered their current training failed to cover customer service, satisfaction, or relationship building, instead focusing on non-training issues such as:

  • Lack of motivation to follow-up with the customer. Motivation can’t be trained, so we advised the client to look at its incentive program and make sure it encourages engineers to make follow-up calls and to ensure the engineers understand the value of those calls.
  • Difficult processes and procedures. It’s possible to train people how to navigate difficult or complex processes and procedures, but it takes a lot less time and effort to simplify the complexity. Once simplified, most processes and procedures need little to no training.
  • Workarounds to address design issues with the equipment. If the equipment cannot be redesigned, this is a training need, but we made sure the design group received information on these issues to ensure they will improve the equipment’s future iterations—and then this training need goes away!

The four hours we spent with this organization helped eliminate half the courses from their training curriculum, which got the field engineers on the job more quickly after hire. Even more important, it created training focused on the actions the engineers needed to perform to accomplish the organization’s goals.

Action Mapping can help create targeted, specific training that drives behavior to the desired end results. We’d love to help you use Action Mapping to create better training. Contact us to discuss your training needs.