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Want to Innovate Faster? Align Internal, External Training

When evaluating your education resources, beware of silos.

Channel Partners

December 6, 2016

4 Min Read

Vincent MorinBy Vincent Morin

In today’s cutthroat high-tech landscape, simply innovating isn’t enough. Companies must also innovate faster than their competitors, a challenge that’s complicated by increasingly narrow update cycles. In a 2015 Boston Consulting Group survey, “speed of innovation” was rated the most impactful aspect of product development, and long development times were cited as the biggest obstacle to an ROI on a given innovation.

However, while it’s important that an organization’s technology advances quickly enough to maintain an edge over competitors’ solutions, it’s also important to recognize that, at such speeds, there is a greater risk of an important stakeholder getting left behind — whether that be a partner, customer or even an employee. To make sure all stakeholders are kept updated on new innovations, aligning internal and external training programs is critical.

Here are steps to ensure that happens. Are your supplier partners making the grade?

Create training synergy: As companies grow their sales teams, customer rosters, and channel and partner networks, training can become unwieldy and fragmented. Yet an efficient and well-designed training program can make a critical difference in whether the potential of a company’s innovation is communicated, and ultimately realized, in the market.

In fact, according to research by CIPD, a leading HR and development professional body in the U.K., benefits of training include increased performance, lower turnover, higher engagement and a better understanding of the business — this last one is particularly important for channel partners, as a full understanding of a supplier’s new technology is vital to that technology’s commercial success.

Misaligned internal and external training initiatives can cause numerous headaches, such as conflicting messages between different arms of the business and wasted resources due to duplication of efforts.

Servicing functionally different groups of learners with easy access to the most up-to-date, relevant, high-quality training resources calls for close alignment of internal resources. Consider pulling together dedicated teams that manage and build out training for employees, as well as partners and customers. That way, you’re in a position to better control messaging, coordinate new training lessons quickly and efficiently, and enable partners to be more self-sufficient. My company, Ciena, tested this premise by establishing a close partnership between our external-facing Global Knowledge Transfer (GKT) team and our internal Learning Business Partner (LBP) team to commission and launch learning solutions that all groups would benefit from.

Remember, teams that learn together, earn together: Global Knowledge Transfer, the organization that manages training for both partners and customers, focuses on evolving the learning experience and has established an approach to developing new learning products and delivering them. These products include both pre-sales and post-sales training materials, including hands-on courses, technical education, on-demand content and “sponsored” learning for external audiences where anyone – not just partners, customers and employees – can participate and grow their knowledge and skills. For external parties, this approach is used in addition to existing internal training programs around new technologies, solutions and products, which are then driven into the marketplace.

On the other side of the equation, the employee-focused team of Learning Business Partners expanded its training portfolio with soft-skills learning, including an enhanced manager development program and a leadership development program. Having these two teams coordinating can go a long way toward assuring best practices are being shared, improvements are being pushed forward and performance metrics are being met.

Practically speaking, this collaboration can take many forms. To demonstrate, let’s focus on one: course commissioning. In such a scenario, regardless of which team identifies a need for a course, its purpose is aligned for both audiences — as it’s being developed, not after-the-fact. This creates a better fit for both sides and a common set of goals and vocabulary around a topic that stakeholders use to communicate.

For example, if a new partner course is developed for an external audience by GKT that internal sales and sales engineers would benefit from, LBP members would take that partner course and add it to the employee learning road map. The outcome would be to accelerate the learning and better align employee and partner knowledge on the topic. 

This kind of systematic approach provides a heightened level of knowledge transfer for employees, partners and customers. Further, these programs support company leader, as they act as change agents aligning their teams to the overall company vision and industry evolution.

Add to that an openness to share learning resources beyond these three groups into the general public, and any organization can strengthen its position as a leader — not just around education within their industry, but within the industry itself.

Vincent Morin is VP of Global Knowledge Transfer and Sales Engineering at Ciena.

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