Our top tips for running a successful global learning and development project
For organisations with a global reach, a global learning and development programme can realise many benefits; consistent messaging, improved cross- border communication, measurable business results, and potentially a single supplier relationship.
However, there are many differences between a well delivered, successful global project and a mediocre global project. How do you make sure that yours is the former and not the latter?
In 2014, JSB was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade in recognition of the work we have been doing with our clients globally. In fact, over 45% of the work we deliver for our clients is outside of the UK. Below we have captured our top tips for running a successful global learning and development project.
1.Take time to define
The importance of taking time to define the business case for running a global learning programme cannot be overstated. You need to fully understand and articulate the benefits that a global learning programme in this instance can bring, as opposed to a series of regionally procured projects with a common theme. Make sure that as a core team you have considered all the questions below as a minimum:
- What do you need the programme to deliver to the organisation?
- What is in scope of this programme, and, more importantly, what is out of scope?
- How will you know if you have been successful? Have you identified a measurement strategy?
- Have you identified key stakeholders and influencers in each location/region, and consulted with them to understand their concerns and level s of support?
- What do you need in place to be able to start the design of the programme?
- Do you have the capability in-house to design and deliver this programme, or indeed to project manage the project itself?
- When do you need to start delivery of the programme?
- Is there a timescale within which the programme must have completed delivery?
- What other initiatives are taking place within the organisation that may need to be reflected in the programme, or which may, in fact, get in the way?
- Have you captured and articulated all your assumptions and risks?
- Will the project be funded centrally or cross-charged internally to recoup funds from departmental budgets? If departmentally funded, do you have the senior sponsorship that will ensure the commitment to the project and avoid conflicts with other initiatives all battling for the same pot of money?
- Have you identified the target participant audience? How will participants be nominated?
If you have answered ‘No’ to the question above around internal capability, once you have documented and thought through all the above points, along with all the usual business case elements, such as budgets, you will need to select the right partner.
2.Choose the right partner
Many learning organisations claim to have an international reach, but, in fact, fly consultants out of the UK. Truly successful global learning and development programmes marry the focus of consistent content with localised adaptation, thus delivering the key messages without a ‘one size fits all’ attitude.
Look for a partner that can become a truly positive member of the team, bringing lessons learned from previous projects to help you ensure a smooth ride.
Having spent a significant amount of time defining your project internally, once you have chosen your partner the likely temptation will be to want to see the project gathering pace quickly so that you can start to see results from all your efforts, but this leads us to the next tip:
3.Take time to on-board your learning partner
Your learning partner needs to spend time with you to understand exactly what you need them to deliver at all stages of the project. They need to understand the thought processes that brought you to your final solution. They need to understand the different stakeholder responsibilities and relationships. They need to understand what success will really look and feel like for you underneath the headlines. You need to make sure that ALL assumptions have been clarified. Essentially they need to be set up for success – their success is your success after all.
4.Tread carefully in the minefield of translation
You will also need to consider the language skills of the participants – even if as an organisation it is important for you to have English language materials and English language delivery, if you will have participants with varying levels of competence in spoken and written English, a facilitator who can revert to a native language to explain a key learning point during a session if required, is worth their weight in gold and helps to avoid losing the engagement of some participants.
The decision to translate materials needs to be made right at the beginning of the project, so that the time to translate and check materials is built in to the project timeline right from the beginning. When translating learning and development materials you need to consider the following:
- Ensure the design team is aware that materials will be translated. They will need to avoid acronyms and keep the text simple, avoiding complex, wordy descriptions which can confuse and prove costly
- Select a translation agency that has a proven track record of working on L&D projects, as these are very different in terms of content and context to straightforward business translation
- Have all translations checked for context by a native speaker before signing them off, to ensure the learning and development context still makes sense
- Bear in mind the cost of re-translation if you update materials in the future
And last, but perhaps most importantly….
5.Simplify, simplify, simplify!
This should be your mantra for absolutely every element of the project. From the learning messages and objectives, to the logistics, to the measurement, to the communication of the programme, to the format and presentation of the materials. Keeping things uncomplicated and easy to understand will add impact and increase levels of engagement.
After every decision, ask yourself if there are any unnecessary complexities that aren’t adding value. Every element needs to add something to the project. This doesn’t mean that the programme should be dull or run of the mill, you should still seek to deliver messages that engage and inspire in a creative way, but it does mean that the project will be accessible to all.
Above all, keep in mind the business reasons for running the programme in the first place. Keeping things simple will maximise the impact on both the participants and the organisation.