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How To Deal With Misguided Training Requests – 6 Questions To Ask

Do you find that, too often, you are working as an order-taker? By that I mean that a manager contacts the talent development (TD) department with a request for a specific learning solution with the clear expectation that this request will be acted upon. In this article, you’ll learn 6 different ways to handle training requests.

What To Ask When Dealing With Misguided Training Requests
“Training requests” as a fix for anything and everything are a consistent thorn in the paw for all Learning and Development departments. Learning professionals know the challenge of misguided training requests can be remedied. As natural problem solvers and creative thinkers, we have produced a glut of books, articles, and Instructional Design systems. We are informed, armed, and ready to address erroneous training requests. We explain to the misguided requester the proper place and application for training, how training can help, and when it cannot. However, are there times when we should just acquiesce? Is there a justification for accepting a “training request” that is not training at all?

Let’s look at an example: Vice President Jan requests that all 500 staff members attend a training on the organization’s core values. Jan would like this to happen in the next 45 days.

Requests like this, coming from high up in the organizational chain, can give a person nightmares. Before drafting a response, formulate a series of questions to help with analysis and don’t forget to include an ego and bias check. The questions will differ based on your role in the organization and who is making the request.

One consideration should never change: the impact of your decision should never put the department’s strategic goals at risk. If you don’t have strategic goals for your department, stop reading and start writing. As Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. But that doesn’t mean where you wind up is where anyone wants to be.”

Here are some starter questions to consider when you are presented with this challenge.

1. Is It Possible To Form A Rational, Achievable Goal Out Of The Request?
The last thing you want is to set yourself up for failure, or more accurately, have no measure for success. It is best to set the measure for success to something akin to “Facilitate 5 Core Value sessions before August 1.” Keep it specific and time-bound, very much like a SMART goal. The learning professional in you may think the request is a waste of time or fret learning objectives. We will ignore that voice for now.

2. Are There Resources Available To devote To The Request?
Realistically, despite the advantages the forthcoming questions may uncover, it is not worth running your team or yourself into the ground. Do not divert resources from critical projects or day-to-day tasks that are necessary for the department to function.

3. What Is The Short-Term Impact, Both Positive And Negative, To The Target Audience And The Organization?
Try to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Will you feel demoralized or disengaged as a result? Will the organization lose a large amount of staff hours if the request involves classroom hours?

4. Will Accepting The Request Set An Irreversible, Bad Precedent For Future Requests?
Even in circumstances where the requester understands that the request is not “training” and promises this will be the last time, you know it will not be. Construct a response for future similar requests and determine its feasibility.

5. Imagine This Request Came From Someone You Admire Or A Single Friend; How Would You respond?
Especially in the case of repeat offenders, it is easy to allow a gut reaction of dislike to taint clear thinking. Remember, fairness and justice are concepts employed only on people who are not your friends. If there were ever a time to consider fairness, it’s now.

6. Are There Political Gains To Be Made By Accepting This Request – Gains That Will Advance Your Department’s Strategic Goals?
“Political will” is the motivation to use political skills to self-empower. A smart balance of doing for others and doing for you can lead to a position of influence. Do not confuse political will with being manipulative or conniving. Helping others can result in help for you and your department in achieving its strategic goals.

Final Word
“Training requests” as a fix for everything are a burden. Yet service to our organizations is top priority. Referring to the example of Jan—maybe Jan is making this request because of a commitment to the board of directors that all staff will attend a special core values training session. Conducting a discussion and training session on the organization’s core values could be accomplished with minimal resources if planned smartly. The sessions could serve as an engagement boost to staff and garner positive reviews for your facilitators. Moreover, a can-do attitude and willingness to help the organization will not go unnoticed by Jan, who happens to be in a real position of influence.