How to Make the Case for Non-Traditional Learning Solutions
After our last post on Why We're Doubling Down on Knowledge Sharing Over Training, we got a wonderful response from one of our favorite readers:
I’m loving the new focus on knowledge sharing! I still love course development, but too many times (almost always), courses happen in isolation, which makes them less effective (or not effective at all). I’d love for you to write more posts on how to convince organizations to invest in the supports needed to facilitate true knowledge sharing. I’ve done a few big learning needs analyses in the last couple of years that resulted in recommendations like what you mentioned in the post, and the organizations were really only interested in courses. Their responses were something like, 'we can’t do that right now, but we could revise these courses we have.'"
It does to us. We've been there. But we're breaking free.
So in this post, we're going to talk about how to get buy in for non-traditional learning solutions.
Ask Questions & Listen to Your Clients
Before you can provide a solution for your clients, you need to understand their learning context. You need to figure out what would actually result in meaningful change for their organization.
Don't go in with the assumption that your fancy non-traditional solution is better than training, but also, don't assume that because someone tells you training is the answer that training is the answer.
Ask probing questions that get to the heart of the issue, that paint a picture of the work environment, that explore key data.
Allow your client the space to share with you what they need, and listen to them when they do.
When the client feels heard, they're more likely to believe that you have come to them with a solution that meets their needs. And hopefully, if you've actually listened, that's exactly what you're providing.
Set Up the Pitch
You've done a great job of listening, analyzing, and solution mapping. Now, it's time for the pitch.
Don't just send off a proposal. Set a meeting.
During the meeting, there are three things you'll want to do to set up the pitch:
spend time telling the story of their problem and why they came to you
break down your findings, leveraging hard numbers and specific examples
share your recommended solutions
By the time you've gotten to recommendations, the client has a full view of the landscape. They see the gaps. They see you've listened. They see you've considered the problem from multiple angles. They want to see the solution.
Link the Solution Back to Goals
At this point, you've revealed your recommendations. When it comes to non-traditional learning solutions, the client may find the recommendations fascinating, startling, exciting, or even confusing-- maybe a mix of all of those things.
There's a good chance your plan is not what they originally had in mind. But hopefully, they agree that they've hired an expert because they wanted more than they were capable of designing without in-depth knowledge of learning and performance.
To get buy in, you ABSOLUTELY MUST link the solution back to the client's goals.
How does this solution serve the organization?
How does it enable the organization to meet its performance goals? Larger business goals?
What benefits are there to this solution, extending beyond the goal?
What can they expect if they implement this solution?
What's at risk if the client fails to solve their problem?
Make sure you preemptively respond to these question in your pitch.
Show How It Works (And How Traditional Solutions Don't)
The biggest challenges with non-traditional learning solutions is that they're non-traditional, as in, many people haven't experienced them. It's hard for clients with limited knowledge of L&D to imagine how this solution will work.
The best way to get buy-in is to demo your solution. Depending on the earning potential, determine the quality of the demo and the time you're willing to put in.
A demo can be as simple as some sketches, a lo-fi prototype, a minimum viable product (MVP), or just about anything in between.
With social learning networks, I've found the most success with putting potential clients in the digital learning environment. It's almost impossible to just do a linear product walk through and get them to feel the feelings I need them to feel to truly understand the experience.
You can also use research and case studies to show that your solution is founded in best practices, especially when you can't provide a demo.
And if you need to show your client what could happen if they insist on the traditional route, HR.com's State of Learning report offers some compelling reasons why traditional learning may not be the best solution, if you need a place to start.
Make It Easy for Them
This is our motto when working with clients at Your Instructional Designer, and when it comes to pitching non-traditional learning solutions, it's no different.
It's our job to have a viewpoint based on best practices and research in the field.
It's our job to have a process that we can use to guide the project to successful completion.
It's out job to provide clear proposals and supporting documentation.
It's our job to follow up.
All our clients should have to do is trust us to get the job done (and participate where needed).
You're providing a solution that you truly believe will have a positive impact in your client's organization and for the people they serve.
You come armed with knowledge of learning technologies, learning theories, and design theories.
You've spent time thinking this through based on your experiences and expertise.
Let your client see that you're confident in your solution.
If you aren't confident, they certainly won't be either.
Expect pushback. Expect questions. Know that doesn't mean you were wrong or that they think less of your work.
Prepare in advance. Go in ready to share, listen, and serve.
If you're ready to move beyond training-only solutions and implement learning that matters, we're here to serve you.