What Is a Learning Consultant?
As a full-service eLearning company, Neovation Learning Solutions sees customers who need a variety of training types — as well as many organizations with knowledge or skills gaps that cannot be filled by training alone. That’s why our relationships always begin with a consultation.
We play the role of learning consultants to new and long-term clients so we can be sure that we understand their needs, their workflow, their learner population, and their working and learning environment before we recommend a solution. This article explains what that means and why it matters.
The role of a learning consultant
A learning consultant creates a bridge between the training your organization offers and the outcomes it wants: It ties training curricula and tools to clear, performance-based goals that reflect your business goals and needs.
The consultant also analyzes your organization to identify anything that might stand in the way of achieving those goals, whether gaps in performance, knowledge, or skills or resistance to training, to new software or tools, or to evolving processes.
The learning consultant then makes recommendations. They might recommend training — they might not. Sometimes a support solution, such as a microlearning-based performance support platform or a knowledge base, is more appropriate. These tools offer self-directed learners accurate, up-to-date information so they can solve problems without interrupting their workflow and simultaneously improve their knowledge and their performance.
The learning consultant makes recommendations about platforms and services as well as specific suggestions about types of training or performance support needed. They might help your organization choose an LMS or LXP — a learning management system or learning experience platform. The consultant could also provide administrative support or guide your organization through planning and up to a successful training launch.
The consultant gets to know your organization
The learning consultant will take a big-picture view and collect a lot of information before suggesting a solution. Let’s say you’ve asked your eLearning vendor to create training for your sales consultants that will help them learn and remember the features of your new line of garden-care products. In the role of a learning consultant, your contact at the eLearning company would not start by asking whether you want an eLearning module or a video. They would take a giant step back and look beyond this specific content request to gain an idea of how learning happens in your organization.
A training audit
Rather than jumping in to start designing an eLearning module, your learning consultant will start asking a lot of questions. They’d do an audit of the training content you have, and they would interview your training admins to determine what’s working and what’s not. This would entail looking at learner data and analytics as well as employee performance data. They’d ultimately come up with a plan or proposal that, in addition to recommending specific training modules for sales consultants, also looks at performance support and knowledge retention strategies, learning culture, and more.
Understanding the organization
The consultant would take a look at how your operation works and where the learners fit in:
- Are the sales consultants employees? Franchisees? Part of an extended enterprise?
- What are these learners like — this could mean asking about age and technical experience but also learning preferences. Do they ask for mobile learning or prefer to train at their desks? Do they even have desks? Where do they work: onsite, at remote branches, independently? Or are they based at your site often but often on the road?
- How much do trainees know (or need to know) about how your company works?
At this point, your learning consultant might dig into the company’s goals and ask about KPIs that the executives are keen to change.
Turning to training
The audit would continue with questions about your online training infrastructure, such as:
- Do you use an LMS? Which one?
- What online training platforms do you use?
- Are employees able to use a desktop or laptop for their training? What about a mobile device?
- How much time do employees have each day or week for training?
The consultant would also touch on content — perhaps asking whether your organization has new product lines once a year, quarterly, or on some other schedule. They would want to know what types of training you offer or require and how frequently.
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- Runs polls
- Shares slides and the whiteboard
- Watches the chat box for questions
- Watches for learners using the “raised hand” icon to signal a question or problem
- Monitors for technology glitches — remaining alert for any learners reporting problems on their end.
Simple games layered on top of content
Scenario-based games that use the content
Fan excessive competition among employees or teams by offering large prizes for top performers and/or shaming those with lower scores
Challenge employees to beat their own past performance, or design a leaderboard that shows each employee only the four scorers above and below them
Points, rewards, badges
Award points or levels for completing sections of training or playing for a set number of minutes
Award levels, badges or points for recalling or applying content correctly, demonstrating mastery
- Remember — bookmark, google, link, search
- Understand — annotate, Boolean search, journal, tweet
- Apply — chart, display, execute, present, upload
- Analyze — attribute, deconstruct, illustrate, mash, mind map
- Evaluate — comment, editorialize, moderate, network, post
- Create — blog, film, integrate, podcast, program, publish
Learning consultants suggest targeted solutions
The learning consultant’s role is not to sell you on a specific training package. Their role — their goal — is to help you improve performance, fill skills gaps, and achieve your long-term business goals. Training is a part of that, but far from the only piece.
Organizations that bring in a learning consultant to help them overhaul their entire training strategy may find that the consultant raises entirely new options to consider. Taking a strategic look at their entire learning and talent development ecosystem might guide the organization to new approaches to training and supporting their employees.
By calling on a learning consultant before you hire an instructional designer to create a specific training element, your business will benefit in several ways. The learning consultant brings a high level of expertise and a crucial outsider’s perspective that enables them to see things that are less obvious to insiders. Sometimes, a prescription for change is easier to take when recommended by an outside expert. Sometimes the data the consultant gathers makes the solutions more visible.
You may end up with a training package, one that is laser-targeted to your specific needs. Or you might decide that a new or different learning management or delivery platform is the way to go. In addition to training, you may see ways to boost performance with support tools or identify a need for training and messaging around changing the learning culture or improving some workflows. Overall, you will have a clearer picture of where your organization is, where it needs to go, and how to get it there than if you stayed narrowly focused on answering all of your questions with a new training package.