Your organization’s training list has a million learning topics. Every stakeholder involved believes their topics are the priority, and they needed them yesterday. You’ve done your analysis of business goals, and performance objectives, rationalizing the high, medium, and low priorities.


Where do you start?

Conventional thinking may mean that you start with the HIGH priority topics and hope to make your way through some of the medium by the end of 2021.
This may be inefficient and ineffective and may not get you even half-way through your laundry list.

It’s time to think and approach things based on your organization and structure.

1 – Think BIG Picture – best for smaller orgs and business units
Starting from the very top – what are the 3 biggest challenges or pain points for your business? Even if you are a department training manager, take it to the next level and do a double analysis on this one – consider what is challenging your department, and the organization as a whole. Are any of those situations or problems affected by anything on your list? If no, then you probably don’t have the right list. If yes, then take these four steps to identify your training priorities:

1. Which topics directly affect those business challenges?
2. How (this is your learning objective or training goal) the topic is supposed to address or resolve the challenge?
3. Which topics indirectly impact the organization and how?
4. Are there any overlaps in topics, objectives and impacts?

Now have your actual training priorities.
This is a quick (although not always popular) method to make the case for getting a jump on known priorities while waiting on business decisions and unknowns delaying future training. It’s not intended to replace in-depth analysis, but rather a way to simplify your information, see the big picture and get consensus on the priorities.

2 – Go DEEP and save the Big Picture for later – best for larger orgs and new roles
Maybe you’re new to the company or industry and want to be sure to capture the insight and knowledge of your colleagues across the organization. Maybe you don’t have the authority to make prioritization decisions just yet, or just feel like you need some input from the rest of the business. Whatever the case, it’s always smart to do your homework and have the data ready to present. This may be the long way around, but it usually has the best outcome. Take these steps:

1. Categorize your topics into business areas or groups of topics – basically steps 1-4 on the previous approach but with a data presentation  spin.
a. Consider affected departments, divisions, product or workflow teams, roles across departments with similar functions, colleges in higher ed, localized offices, etc.
b. Include in your presentation some insight and preferably metrics into what business needs/goals could be impacted with or without training in that area.

2. Identify your stakeholders and get their first impressions
a. Ideally, this is multiple people per topic: your do-er and your decision maker.
Tapping the department or team manager is fantastic, but you also need someone who is “boots on the ground” involved. These individual contributors will be able to fill in details about the information, process, and/or best practices.
b. Make sure they outline the process involved, the level of training and skill needed, and what they need to achieve their business goals.
c. Get to know all their problems – figure out the challenges but also the processes, the pain points, the bottlenecks, the communication junctions or task handoffs where things inevitably get lost.
d. Document everything, but save the most important and juiciest details for your presentation. Keep the rest in the notes if you want to refer to any of it.

Now it’s time to get organized. When developing your presentation, make sure to include your approach, analysis, data gathered, and all of the anecdotal information. Make sure to structure your presentation in a way that works for multiple audiences across the organization.

It may take some time to wrangle calendars and get time with the stakeholders and decision makers, but this is a critical step in gathering consensus on priorities.

Some important things to remember:
1. Not everyone is going to agree with you. Everyone has their own agenda and priorities they are trying to push and business goals to accomplish. This is your opportunity to present compelling information, supported by data and aligned to affecting organizational challenges.
2. You can never be too prepared. I have yet to hear a stakeholder or senior leader say you have “too much” evidence, data, surveys, interviews, or analysis. Come prepared and ready to present what you have spent time analyzing and preparing. Stakeholders and decision makers feel comfortable making decisions and identifying priorities when they feel they have all the information they need. Give them what they want.
3. Don’t get discouraged if people aren’t as excited as you about defining training priorities.
Leadership and stakeholders may not seem the impact to the business. Managers may be afraid of change or that they are being asked for “extra”. It’s not their fault, they have unfortunately been trained to think that change is hard and therefor inherently bad.
4. Spread the excitement – they will follow! Excitement and positivity is infectious! Show your excitement in every way you can and keep it going – use every email, status update, and planning meeting to consistently convey how excited, committed, and passionate you are about a training initiative. Sing the praises of your stakeholders and subject matter experts – appreciate their contributions. People will be more accommodating, more helpful, more interested in getting involved. Make it fun and they will be engaged.