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Communicating with Program Stakeholders
Submitted by Leslie Allan on January 27th, 2014
Your major employee training initiative has got approval from the executive. Congratulations! How and when you communicate with all of the key stakeholders will play an important part in whether your training program meets its mark. Elsewhere, I shared my thoughts on why and how to create a Program Communication Plan. Your communication plan effectively sets the agenda for program communications with all of the major players involved in your program.
Communication requirements will vary from organization to organization and from program to program. In this post, I want to share my general recommendations borne of experience and the learning that comes from the making of many mistakes. The general principles and techniques I share here apply just as well to change initiatives in which there is no major training component.
Let me begin with a general rule that I have worked with over the years: Arrange for higher level managers to send out information about the training program to program participants and their immediate managers. Involving senior managers in the distribution of program information not only increases their commitment to the program, it also imparts a sense of importance to the program participants and their managers.
In some cases, I have found this approach to be overly optimistic. Where information is passed down, sometimes the filtering process leaves the original message unidentifiable. If there is a risk that the message will not get through or will become distorted, communicate directly with those affected, letting the higher levels of management know what you are doing.
This applies especially to detailed information, such as the program purpose, pre-reading requirements, program schedule and participant list. Nonetheless, for optimal training transfer for major programs, it is essential for you to conscript the support of your senior managers. If enlisting them as a communication vehicle is not viable, consider the following actions:
- send out a program introduction newsletter in the name of a senior manager, and
- conscript them to attend and introduce a program kick-off session, and
- plan for them to introduce the trainer at one or more training sessions
For these actions, identify the key messages that will help to enlist the support of program participants. Where higher level managers communicate these messages, you will maximize employee buy-in to the program. Explain to senior managers that by performing these tasks, participants will be more motivated to apply the skills learned during the program.
There will be many times such as these where you will need to recruit the support of senior managers and other key stakeholders. Using email and written memos to enlist support for your cause will often result in their quick disappearance under the delete key or finding their way straight into the rubbish bin. These are poor media for gaining attention and commitment. Two-way methods of communication, such as face-to-face meetings and telephone, are much more conducive to gaining attention and backing.
A mistake I often see supervisors and managers commit is communicating key messages only once. Important messages will need to be repeated many times to convince the skeptical and disillusioned. Repeat messages using a variety of mediums and styles. Use, where and when appropriate, program kick-off sessions, newsletter and web site postings, emails, team and one-on-one meetings.
Make as much of the communication as possible two-way, giving the prospective participants an opportunity to ask questions and clarify understanding. A powerful way to build commitment is by involving employees in the design of the program. This does not mean that employees need to become instructional designers. However, they should at the very least be consulted during the needs analysis phase of the program.
The importance of a personal element to the communication, two-way dialogue, repetition and involvement in decision-making is equally applicable to training an individual employee as it is to conducting major programs involving whole groups. Here, the employee’s supervisor or manager will need to communicate clearly to the employee any changes in policy and procedures, role and performance expectations, course particulars, personal incentives and, of course, ongoing performance feedback. Our PRACTICE Approach™ sets the structure for what needs to be communicated to each employee. Be sure to check it out to ensure that you are communicating the right information to the right people at the right time.
If you want to engage effectively with your key stakeholders and create the right learning environment for participants, then check out our high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.