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If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a to-do list somewhere handy. Think about your own to-do list, whether it’s on paper or in your head. Are you putting a priority on prioritizing training requests?
Jump down to the comments right now! Tell me what you’re doing this week to make sure your training request list is organized by priority.
Some instructional designers’ only methods of organizing their training requests are based on a first-come, first-served mentality. This may seem fair (especially if you’re working in an organization where certain departments have a tendency to hit you up with a big training ask at the last minute).
Plus, who has the extra time to devote to organizing and prioritizing training requests anyway? Isn’t that time better spent actually working on completing these requests? Well, research indicates that ineffective training strategies can cost organizations up to $13.5 million per year per 1,000 employees. So yea, I’d say prioritizing training is a pretty important step in the ID process!
Even though training specialists within larger organizations and freelance instructional designers each have challenges in training request prioritization that are unique to their positions, my tips for organizing and communicating your training priorities are applicable to L&D leaders in any position.
Common Mistakes in Training Project Management & Prioritization
Managers of Learning & Development and freelancers alike can constantly find themselves inundated with a barrage of training requests from all departments or different clients. When it comes to achieving your organization’s goals (or your own personal goals as an independent ID), it falls on you as a leader to make a conscious decision on what receives priority.
Companies that improve their training prioritizations can experience significant reductions in costs (in my experience, roughly 15%). This is because less-vital activities are cut and duplicated efforts are consolidated. You just can’t ignore that value! Do you find yourself falling into any of these training priority traps?
- Diving into the development of a training as soon as you receive the request in an attempt to stay on top of the barrage of training requests.
- Letting department heads or clients decide where their training falls on your priority list.
- Accepting every training request that enters your inbox without first setting realistic timing expectations for the client (I’m looking at you hard-working freelancers!)
- Keeping your project list and deadlines in your own planner or calendar which department heads and other team leaders can’t view.
If you’re nodding ‘yes’ to any of these, don’t worry. We’ve all made at least one of these mistakes, especially early in our careers. Take advantage of my personal experiences with prioritizing training requests. You will be able to maximize your efforts and likely save yourself or your company some cash!
What gives one training request priority over another?
There are many factors I consider when prioritizing training requests. But basically, the trainings that have the most value to the company should take top priority. Value doesn’t have to be monetary (but it might be!). So use the following factors, in order of MOST to LEAST important, to rank your training requests.
1. A training that aligns perfectly with the goals of a department within your organization.
A request that seems like a no-brainer: it fits the strategic vision of a specific team. The objectives are clear and the content is straight-forward. This is the kind of request you see in your inbox and wonder “why didn’t I think of that!?”.
When learning can so obviously give a team a boost in their performance, you can boost this training higher up your list. Take an easy win wherever you can, but you should definitely make sure the training isn’t too-good-to-be-true before you commit.
2. A training that has to do with a company’s compliance rules or safety.
If there’s a change or update that has to do with regulatory compliance, this training takes priority. Any time there would be legal consequences if employees don’t implement this learning, you know a training is important and should jump to the top of your list.
Regulatory changes may come with a ‘due date’ of their own (for example, many new laws go into effect on the first day of the new year). So ideally, you have some time to prepare the training and can prioritize accordingly.
Safety issues are also important to consider when deciding where the training belongs on your priority list. If the learning is fixing a problem that is putting the wellbeing of others in jeopardy, you need to get this training out as soon as possible!
3. A low-cost training
This is an important consideration. Bear in mind if a training falls into the first or second categories listed above, the importance may outweigh the cost. That’s a decision you’ll have to make alongside organizational leaders.
Otherwise, if a training is going to be relatively inexpensive to produce from start to finish, it can be worthwhile to take care of this request before you get caught up in a much more costly training.
For corporate L&D leaders, giving lower-cost projects priority works well for the bottom line- you get to solve a problem with quality learning and the company benefits without a huge investment.
Freelance instructional designers, I hope I didn’t lose you when I said low cost! Yes, I know it can be tempting to get to work on the job that’s going to end in a huge financial payoff for you. Think of it this way, expensive projects are going to require a huge time investment from you. Not to mention, the more money a client is spending, the more requests and changes they are going to ask for!
By taking care of a lower-cost training that requires less of a time commitment, you get to cross a project off your to-do list. There’s no reason why you can’t get started with some important analysis on that higher-cost project in the meantime. The more time you spend in analysis, the less surprises you’re going to run into with that big, expensive project when you do have time to go into development.
4. A training that will solve a serious problem within the company
Here’s my last consideration when prioritizing training- how big is the problem that requires a learning solution? Is it a mistake or workflow that’s seriously costing the company (in wasted time or money)?
If the problem is negatively impacting the performance or production of the company in a big way, it’s important to address it before the business runs into bigger issues because of it.
4 Quick Tips for Prioritizing Training Requests
Okay, now you’ve got an idea of how to start rating trainings based on their importance. I want to leave you with 4 tips for making prioritizing training a breeze.
• Get important information about the training that has been requested upfront.
In order to actually use the factors I’ve listed above to rank a training request, you first need to learn more about the project. It’s hard to determine the cost or relevance of training when you only have a vague idea of what the content will be.
I like to have a system in place for submitting request that allows me to get a lot of this information up front. If you can make a similar requirement in your organization, that makes the prioritization process a little easier.
Put together a quick template with some simple questions about the desired training. Questions that you’d ask in your training analysis like: What are the objectives? What is the ideal delivery date? etc… that you can send off to anyone who hits you up with a project request.
You can even end up saving yourself and other departments time spent in meetings if you review a request. It turns out, sometimes, that training is just not the solution to the problem that’s being described!
• Have projects list and deadlines in a place that is visible to everyone.
You don’t have to share your entire task list with your whole organization. However, if you’re working for a big team and project managing multiple projects, it’s important to have some transparency in what trainings are being developed when.
It’s great for your own accountability. It can also make it easier for department heads to see why you aren’t able to drop everything and get to work on their specific request right away!
Sometimes it’s also eye-opening for those outside of L&D to see just how long it takes to develop even a short course, which can make conversations about timing a little easier.
Having a shared calendar or drive where training requests are scheduled and stored are two ways you can easily share the training schedule with anyone who would benefit from having access.
• Stay involved in your organization, and know how to sense upcoming priority shifts.
Regardless of your position, keeping up with the important things happening in departments outside your own is a great way to stay in the loop in your organization. For L&D leaders, staying in the loop means you can spot shifts that are likely to result in a training request.
For example, anytime a department starts evaluating new software or hardware that will simplify their processes- you can bet as soon as they make a decision you’ll get a request for training on the new systems. Check in with department leaders and ask to be CC’d when the decision is finalized. In this way, you can look for room on your calendar for the inevitable training request.
• Know the difference between urgent and important and don’t be afraid to reprioritize accordingly!
Any training request that you’ve reviewed and put on the list of projects is going to hold some importance. If it weren’t important, you wouldn’t be devoting time and resources to the project.
However, while all trainings are important, not all trainings are urgent! Since all learning is important, it’s impossible to say that you’ll prioritize important requests. Urgent, on the other hand, is something important AND time-sensitive.
You’re the expert! If you decide that a new training request impacts business in a big way, you can make the decision to pause any in-process projects that- while important- are not addressing an urgent business need.
How will you put a priority on prioritizing training requests this year?
Now that I’ve shared my organizational tips for organizing your training request list, jump over to my Facebook page. Share the tricks that have worked for you in the past.
If you haven’t made prioritizing training a priority in the past, share which of my tips you’re going to use right away to structure your project schedule in a way that’s more beneficial to you and to the organization you’re serving. You might also want to check out my post on the 7 Mistakes Contributing to Training Project Management Failure.
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Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
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