10 Consultative Skills that Drive Better Learning Programs

Posted by Amanda Holm on May 27, 2014 10:27:00 AM

These tips on using consultative skills in learning initiatives were pulled from  blog posts, white papers, and case studies.

1. Build relationships with all stakeholders involved in decision-making, and continue to network with stakeholders to stay current on their strategic business needs.

businessmenmed2. Come into the dialogue as an advisor and business partner, not as an order taker. This means coming prepared with information and ideas and then setting expectations and goals.

3. Be prepared to discuss the impact of your recommended solution; don't assume your stakeholders will understand what you are trying to accomplish. Avoid training jargon; help your partners understand how this will help their business.

4. Ask questions about business goals, not just training goals. Demonstrate your understanding of the business strategy and your interest in connecting learning to that strategy.

5. Analyze information about the current state and the desired future state to identify performance improvement opportunities beyond what your business partners are asking for.

6. Provide proactive recommendations that target specific performance gaps and link them to the specific business outcomes you are trying to achieve.

7. Collaborate with your stakeholders on their training requests to offer guidance that shapes their thinking and helps you reach a consensus regarding the most appropriate solutions.

8. Cultivate your expertise in subject areas that add value to your business goals.

9. Position yourself as a resource that your partners can trust for a range of needs related to performance improvement–not just learning programs.

10. Be willing to tell your business partners if training is not the answer and be prepared to help them find the most appropriate performance improvement solution.

 For additional information click on the following links: 



Amanda Cushman Holm is the 

Sales and Marketing Specialist at 
Performance Development Group
Onboarding Financial Advisors

Topics: Consulting

My SMEs don't have time to contribute content to training. What can I do?

Posted by Reni Gorman on Apr 27, 2010 3:43:00 AM

by Reni Gorman

Ever find yourself asking this question?

"My SMEs don’t have time to contribute content to training. What can I do?"

I have come across this question several times. Subject matter experts are that for a reason, and because so many rely on them, contributing content to training is the last thing they have time for. I have thought it over many, many times and I have the following ideas to offer:

    • Put SMEs in a pool and tap one at a time to contribute. For example, if you are creating an e-learning course, you may ask one SME to help you gather material, discuss your high-level design with another, and a third SME would review your first set of storyboards. You may even end up with a better product than if you only worked with one SME because the different opinions and contributions balance each other out. Now, that could also mean frustration as SMEs may disagree; in that case, you can tap into yet another SME in your pool to act as “tie breaker.” This works nicely because the time for each to contribute is greatly minimized while you still maximize your design with the multiple perspectives—the best of both worlds (but a challenge to manage)


    • Hire SME consultants. This may seem simple but many don’t think of it. However, you can hire SME consultants who will be there, dedicated and focused only on helping you create training. Before you hire anyone, get your internal SMEs to at least interview them to make sure they are on the same page before you bring someone in. You will still need to have an internal SME to answer organization-specific questions, but they'll need to commit considerably less time.


    • Give the task of “extracting knowledge” from SMEs to a new hire and use to onboard. New hires (I am talking about analysts out of college) are usually thirsty for knowledge and anxious to contribute. What better way to get them going than to aim them toward an SME or SME pool and tell them to go interview them and collect data? You may have trouble finding the time to do this, but a new hire will take the challenge on with excitement and laser focus—and just think of how much they will learn


    • Provide incentives. SMEs need to balance your training project with dozens of other priorities. It's not suprising that your priority is sometimes the last thing on their minds. So what can you do? Figure out what motivates them—is it recognition from senior management? That one usually works. Make sure you get their senior manager’s attention and support so the training initiative is considered a key project. If you can’t do that then you can always recognize them from the training department. Take SMEs who have been helpful in the past and use them to entice the rest, put their picture on the training intranet and call them SME of the month, then send a thank you to their manager with a link. All you need is the first SME highlighted in this manner and the rest will come—trust me, I know, I have done it.

Well, that is all I have! If anyone has any other ideas, please submit them, we would love to gather all these great ideas together for all of us to share. Happy SME hunting!

Topics: Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Consulting

How to Talk Learning To Business

Posted by Rich Mesch on Apr 5, 2010 7:46:00 AM

by Rich Mesch

Does your business value learning?

A lot of smart people have asked that question. A Gallup Management Journal article from a couple of years ago addressed it well. However, if you read the article, you’ll discover that the value of learning to the business in question was in how it affected performance.

So, ask yourself that question again: does your business value learning? Or do they value performance, and just see learning as one of many ways to achieve it?

Have you ever walked away from a learning discussion with an issue owner in your business, feeling frustrated? Because he or she just didn’t get it? And you wished you could do a better job of explaining the value of learning?

Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to speak learning to business. Maybe it’s time we started talking business to business.

The senior leadership of organizations focuses on business objectives and business metrics. Ultimately, they are focused on profitability, revenue growth, sustainability, market position, and reputation. This posting on the Chief Learning Officer site makes the point well, and backs it up with some research. If you want to know what a business really values, look at what they measure. If they’re willing to take the time to measure something, it’s probably pretty important.

Why is this relevant now? Because I keep hearing people in the learning community talk about things like social media, and how businesses need to change their mindsets and get on board now. And it frustrates me like crazy. Because I agree with them. But we can’t demand that businesses change in order to meet the needs of the learning organization. The learning organization needs to establish the value.

How do you do that?
    • Know what your business values
    • Know how your business measures that value
    • Determine how your learning initiative impacts value metrics
    • Talk to your stakeholders in business terms, not learning terms
    • Recognize that real change involves the whole business, not just the learning organization

Topics: Emerging Technologies, Performance Improvement, Consulting, Social Media

A is for Analysis; Analysis of What?

Posted by Rich Mesch on Feb 12, 2010 12:23:00 AM

I was asked a question the other day that made me pause before responding. The question was:

“Where does the performance consulting process end and the “A” in the ADDIE process begin?”

I paused because, in reality, the separation is not so cut and dry. There is overlap. So, in this entry, I’ll address the separation and overlap. Please comment and share your insights as well.

Let’s first define what we mean by the PC process and ADDIE process.
    • The PC process we’re referring to here is a performance analysis model (e.g., Gilbert’s Behavioral Engineering Model).
    • The ADDIE process is an instructional design model. ADDIE stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate.

In regards to the question posed above, it’s the “A” step that creates some confusion between these two processes. The tasks in this “Analyze” step include: clarifying the instructional problem, establishing instructional goals and objectives, assessing the audience’s needs, examining learners’ existing knowledge, and considering the learning environment, constraints, delivery modalities, and timeline.

Notice that the focus here is on “instruction.” That focus presumes that instruction is the solution to a performance problem. Indeed, sometimes it is. How do we arrive at this conclusion? We arrive at it through the PC process.

Let’s break down the distinctions between the PC Process and ADDIE “A” in the table below:


PC Process “A” in ADDIE Process
Focuses on business and performance outcomes Focuses on an instructional outcome
Concerns itself with the desired behavior and the environment necessary to support that behavior

(Performance = Behavior x Environment)
Concerns itself with the learning objectives necessary to support the desired behavior
Endeavors to change performance in order to impact the business Endeavors to educate in order to change behavior
Examines root causes for a performance problem Examines knowledge gap for a training problem
Defines success primarily in terms of on-the-job application and business impact Defines success primarily in terms of satisfaction, comprehension, and on-the-job application

With these distinctions drawn, it’s important to note that the overlap between the two elements often occurs when a knowledge and skill gap is uncovered by the Performance Consultant as a root cause for a performance problem.

Information about that knowledge and skill gap can be passed from the Performance Consultant to the Instructional Designer for the training solution. That information does assist the Designer in the analysis phase of the ADDIE process. It’s good background. Now, the Designer can dig into the knowledge and skill gap further by conducting a thorough training needs analysis. It’s this TNA that allows for the successful design, development, implementation, and evaluation of the training solution.

Topics: Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Design, Consulting, Organizational Change, Organizational Learning

Becoming a Business Partner: Tip # 1 - Know your Client Inside and Out

Posted by Rich Mesch on Oct 29, 2009 2:07:00 AM

by Sherry Engel

So how do we get to the point that we know the client so well that we become a part of their trusted team?

To become a trusted partner, we must think business, not learning.
    • How can we help our clients meet their business goals and objectives?

    • What challenges are they facing in the industry and/or marketplace?
    • What metrics are on their scorecard?
How do you get insight into this type of information? There are many ways to really get to know your client. Here are some quick tips!
    • Research the industry and marketplace– Check out GlobalEDGE for industry profiles, or Hoovers for background on specific organizations  
    • Talk to others that have a relationship with the client – possibly your HR business partner, individuals you know that may have worked with the client in the past, etc.
    • Understand cultural differences that may be a part of your client’s organization – GlobalEDGE also features information on cultural differences across the world. 
    • Have interactive, consultative discussions ….more to come in next week’s blog entry!

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Consulting, Client Focus