Whichever training courses you choose to offer, remember that in addition to the specific skills your team will gain, a training program is a chance to share three important things:
- Quality Standards: My contacts in the PR agency business frequently bemoan the lack of quality standards that some of their staffers apply. Training is a great platform to articulate your agency’s standards in any number of areas, from client service to social media to ethics, and to bring those standards to life in the way that a mere company memo or email never could.
- Company “Artificial Intelligence”: As firms grow, they often find themselves having to re-teach the practices and approaches that helped lead to their success. What is the magic sauce that your firm created that makes its special events truly special? How has it fostered relationships with bloggers that’s led to increased positive dialogue about your clients’ offerings? What has it done in the past to identify and reach the real influencers? Training is an ideal way to share and reinforce these practices so that they become part of your team M.O., allowing staffers to spend less time reinventing the wheel.
- Agency Vision/Culture: This is what’s fueled your firm’s growth, yet this is what many agency owners find is most at risk as they expand. Training sessions can be an important platform for agency owners and leaders to share what got the agency to where it is today, and lay out the vision for where the agency can go tomorrow. It’s also a useful vehicle to articulate and reinforce the agency’s core values, which in turn can enhance staff motivation and loyalty.
Here are two more tips to enhance your training program:
- Kick off the program with an outsider: You want to communicate that your organization values professional development. What better way to do so than to bring in an outside expert for your first training program of the year? This kind of investment says “We take training seriously, and we expect you to as well.” And don’t forget the benefits of the “consultant effect,” whereby your staff takes more seriously the points you’ve been making ad infinitum, simply because an outsider is making them. (Disclosure: Jacobs Communications Consulting offers training.)
- Have the CEO present at least once a year: You not only want to signal that the agency takes professional development seriously, but that your leader does so too. Equally important, you should take every opportunity to encourage staffers to feel a personal connection to the leader. So have the CEO lead a session. After all, per Point 3 above, who better than the CEO to discuss agency values and to inspire the troops with a vision for the future? Ideal topics include “What Got Me Where I Am Today,” “How To Succeed At (Agency Name),” and “Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, And How We’ll Get There.”
My last thought is about how to create a learning environment in your agency. Let’s save that for next time.
I welcome your thoughts on how you’ve created a training program that benefits your agency. And if you need help creating your firm’s training program, you know where to find me.