Most of you know that I do a lot of training work, both for individuals and companies, and it has struck me recently that there might not be enough choices in how companies train their teams. In this business, you all know that constant learning is essential. Some of us are fine with trying out new concepts ourselves and others are voracious book readers and Googlers–tracking down the information we need when we need it. But a significant portion of us need training, at least to get started. To me, it’s just a variation on learning styles–we each have ways that make it easier for us to learn new things, and training is essential for many of us. So, even if you don’t find training necessary when you take on something new (that might be why you are reading a blog post now), you can bet that a number of folks on your team do need it.
In this ever-changing business of digital marketing, you need some solutions for the problem of how your team will keep up. Even if you think that right now, everyone on your team is up to speed, just wait ten minutes and something will change. I find that my clients are in a constant state of adapting to the next new thing, and training is part of that equation. I do lots of different kinds of training, so maybe I am a good person to list off your choices to help you figure out how to prepare your team:
- In-person open enrollment: This is probably what most people think about as training. Whether it is the day-long session before a public conference or an MBA program at your local college, companies typically send one or two employees to mingle with folks from lots of other companies to get lectures and take lots of notes. The good ones include exercises that cement the learning. I hope that mine are good ones–I do a lot of training for Rutgers University and public conferences. The hard part for folks taking in-person open enrollment training is finding the time to take the class and to apply the general information to your specific situation.
- Online open enrollment: This is the newest choice in training, with most of the advantages of in-person training, but some people don’t find it as engaging–they want the personal interaction. Others love it because they can ask questions on a message board that they wouldn’t be brave enough to broach in person. And they love being able to fit it into their own flexible schedule without taking days off from work or traveling. I offer online training through Fairleigh Dickinson and Cal-Irvine, along with some private training companies. It still does take the time and the information is still generic–you need to figure out how it applies to your company.
- Individual coaching: This might seem like an odd choice for the list, because we usually think of coaching as being about soft skills, rather than learning something such as digital marketing. And, truthfully, my coaching clients are typically after career building and leadership skills more frequently. But it’s a perfectly reasonable approach for a company to hire a more junior person in a leadership role and supplement with a coach to provide training for the new role–both hard and soft skills. For some people, it is a time-effective and cost-effective approach, but it can cost more than other kinds of training and the chemistry with the coach is critical.
- On-site corporate: In many ways this seems like an expensive choice, but often it is the cheapest in the long run. The problem that it poses is that it is a big up-front commitment and your choice of the instructor is crucial. The good news is that the entire team hears the same story and you can ask questions that help you apply the learning to what you do and what you are struggling with.
- Consulting: Again, this might seem like an odd choice for a training list, but I am often pressed into service to help companies learn what to do in digital marketing. The focus of the consulting engagement is ostensibly on the problem to be solved, but it is clear to me that the client wants their team to learn some of what I know. The hard part of this approach is that the problem I am hired for gets solved, but there typically is no formal approach to transferring the learning to the team, and they hire me again for the next problem, which might not be the best outcome for the client. And there is no doubt that consulting is the most expensive approach even if it might bring the most value, too.
This list has caused me to wonder if there is some hybrid of training, coaching, and consulting that makes more sense for corporate teams. I’m collaborating with other folks in our Biznology family to experiment with this new kind of training, which we call Biznology Jumpstart Workshops. Our first course is a hands-on approach to search marketing training that emphasizes analytics, which I teach with Tim Peter and Rob Petersen. The idea is that we teach your team how to approach your own search marketing problems–you leave the workshop with a plan for your team to move forward. It’s perfect for companies looking to start or re-start their search marketing program.
In that way, it is a better kind of training because you don’t have the problem of applying the learning to your business–it is already customized to you. And although it is no substitute for consulting if that is what you need, it does get you one step down the path. It might make sense for you to hire one of us to do consulting after the training session (I am Chief Strategist at Converseon, so I can bring a great consulting team to that problem if you need it), but the training session has great value in itself.
Each of us have done these kinds of sessions for companies in the past, but we realized that having multiple instructors makes the training far more valuable than any of us alone, and we believe in the approach of training that results in a plan for your team to execute.
We’re just starting out with this new kind of training, so we’d love feedback on whether we are on the right track. We are committed to customizing what we do to fit client needs, so any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.