What is the most effective communication skills training? This is probably a question on the mind of any serious training professional. It's a big question with many facets to it but let me try and answer it.
I will look at:
Identifying the need for Communication Skills Training
2.Delivering Communication Skills Training Courses and Programs
3.Creating Communication Skills Training Resources and Materials
4.Measuring the effectiveness of Communication Skills Training
5.Communication Skills Training and Culture Fit
I will take each point in turn.
1.Identifying the need for Communications Skills Training
As with all identifications of training needs communications skills training needs should be identified using:
- Outputs of Performance Appraisals
- Contents of Personal Development Plans
- Self-Assessments (online or hard copy)
- 360 or 180 Degree Assessments
- Assessment or Development Centre results
- Coaching, Counselling, and Disciplinary session recommendations
- Specific Knowledge, Skills and Aptitude Tests
- Focus Group Interviews
- Internal or External Consultant Evaluations and Recommendations
- Learning Management Systems Data
- Customer Satisfaction Survey Results
- Major Corporate Changes E.g. Culture and Values Changes, Branding Changes etc.
Communication Skills Training is normally aimed at specific target populations of employee e.g. those with the same job titles, those at the same level.
It is unusual for a generic Communication Skills Training Program to be aimed at the whole population of an organisation unless it is part of a wider program of employee engagement or development, built around a new corporate initiative. In other words Communication Skills Training needs to be customised given the context in which the skills are to be used e.g in a sales or customer service situation, or in a team leadership or team working situation.
Presentation Skills Training might be an exception where a general course could be used for many levels and types of employee.
2.Delivering Communication Skills Courses or Programs
By their very nature these are best delivered through the use of Instructor Led Training (ILT) courses in which the individual learns, practises and gets feedback on the communication skills being focused on.
As a result, the individual gains both competence and confidence in knowledge and skills growth.
However in today's world of using Blended Solutions many organisations now use a combination of the following resources, in addition to ILT, to deliver Communication Skills Training:
- Highly interactive e-learning
- Online pre and post training tests to check the level of knowledge improvement.
- Online group learning activities using highly interactive and practical Virtual Classrooms or other Virtual Learning Environments
- Coaching support from the trainer
- Handover from coach to mentor for ongoing longer term support.
- Access to a library of additional learning and development resources by the trainee including online self-assessment tools, videos, ebooks, articles, blogs, vlogs, webinars and online communities.
One thing is for sure and that is Communication Skills Training needs to be action-learning based with a high degree of interaction and practical participation. The trainer's expertise is crucial to success.
- Creating Communication Skills Training Resources and Materials.
Resources and Materials need to be media rich and very experiential and should include:
- Videos to demonstrate best practices
- Audios to demonstrate best practices
- Role Plays to practise knowledge and skills
- Individual and Group Exercises/Interactions
- Self- Awareness Tests/Diagnostics
- Playback of recorded videos and/or audios
- Use of simulation equipment e.g. telephone training equipment
- Breakout sessions
- Real time use of digital technologies e.g mobiles, tablets
- Completion of individual workbooks
Real thought needs to be given to the use of Resources and Materials to create powerful, relevant and memorable learning experiences.
. 4.Measuring the Effectiveness of Communication Skills Training
Measures of success should include:
- Changes in observed behaviors of trainees
- Observable improvement of use of knowledge and skills of trainees
- Third party feedback e.g. from customers, coaches, line managers, peers and staff on their new perceptions of an individual
- Results achieved by trainees e.g increased sales, improved customer satisfaction. achievement of individual performance against competencies or other standards
- Rating of trainer and course or program
- Value for money/return on investment based on the above
- Contribution to team results
- Contribution to corporate results-.
5.Communication Skills Training and Culture Fit
All communication skills training needs to be aligned to the culture and values of the organisation. I suppose this is obvious but it is worth reinforcing!
Here's a tip. In all Communication Skills Course Evaluations completed by trainees list down the corporate values one by one. Put alongside each one a rating scale 1= None, 5= Huge
Ask trainees to rate the contribution of the training to supporting corporate culture and values. Use responses to improve the alignment of the training to corporate values.
If your Performance Appraisal Documentation does not already do so include a rating of the individual against living out corporate values. You can then relate improvements in communication skills on the appraisal form to improvements in behaviors which live out the corporate values.
It is interesting that every organisation I have ever worked with seemingly has a communication problem of some sort!
Maybe if they used their Communication Skills Training more effectively their communications problems might diminish. Maybe!