Designing Your Agency’s Training Program Part One

Are you responsible for designing your communications firm’s training program? Then this post is for you. And please note, I believe that these tips will apply no matter your agency’s size.

1.  Get Commitment and Ongoing, Active Support from the Top. This is absolutely your most important tip, because without it, you most likely won’t get your program off the ground. Even if you’re lucky enough to launch it without the owner’s active support, you certainly won’t be able to sustain it in a meaningful way.

(And if you’re the agency owner and you want the program to succeed, and why wouldn’t you, be prepared to support the program. Actively!)

First, confirm with the agency leader that you’re in sync on program goals and deliverables. If you’re not, you can’t expect her/his support. Be willing to modify your vision based on that input.

Once you’re in sync, ask for the leader’s support, both written and oral. If your agency is large enough that there are a number of agency leaders, obtain their buy-in and active support too.

Update the agency owner and these leaders regularly on the program’s progress. What’s working, what’s not, and your plan to course-correct. Again, don’t be shy about getting their suggestions. It’s well worth it.

Finally, have the CEO lead a session once or twice a year. It can be on how they got to where they are today, what makes for an ideal employee at your particular firm, or their vision for the agency and the industry in the future. Perhaps the leader has some other topic they’d like to share. Whatever he or she chooses, it’s a great opportunity to share and obtain employee buy-in for the agency’s most important values.

2.  Link The Program To Agency Strategic Goals. Your training program can’t succeed in a vacuum. Increase its chance of success and its value by aligning it with the agency’s strategic growth goals for the year. Is this the year that your agency wants to turn its professionals into real social media pros? Does your agency want to create client initiatives that will be delivered via mobile channels? Does the agency need to create better leaders? Do many of your staffers need to improve how they manage, whether up, across or down? These all sound like training topics worth considering.

If you aren’t absolutely sure what the agency’s strategic goals are, find out. Now.

 3.  Link The Program to Agency Professional Development Goals. Work with your HR professional(s) to understand the key professional development goals they’ve articulated for the staff. No HR department? No worries. Access employee reviews and make your best assessment of the most important growth and improvement areas for the majority of the staff, paying special attention to those professional development areas which 1) have the greatest impact on the agency’s strategic goals; 2) have the greatest impact on client satisfaction and growth; and 3) are most important to the growth of your must-keep performers.

4.  Link The Program to Client Feedback On Agency Performance. I’m hoping your firm actively obtains client feedback on a regular basis. If not, you might find my post Make Your Client A Partner In Meeting, Beating Expectations of value. If you’re getting this important  feedback, you know you can use it to help create a better, more strategic training program. Your clients’ input on “Agency Areas of Improvement,” as well as “What Keeps Us Up at Night” will offer must-have topics for your training program.

In future posts about designing agency training programs, I’ll share “Other Input Sources To Tap Before Designing The Program,” “Designing The Program,” ” Building Support From Internal Agency Cheerleaders,” “Getting Participant Feedback,” and “Cultivating A Learning Environment.”

What other steps have you taken to design an effective agency training program?


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