What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned from this endeavor?
Never take anything for granted. When we started, getting over the initial hurdles of signing up the companies was the greatest feeling of euphoria. I thought we’d made it—but in fact, that was just the beginning. It takes constant work to stay in front of people, to remind them the processes that we’re doing are steeped in serious change and take a lot of effort.
What general advice do you have for training professionals?
Understand your audience and what their needs are as much as possible. Make the training germane and as immediately useful as you can. Also, make it entertaining, and do your best to try to understand the learning styles of the people you’re trying to affect.
It requires tremendous trust on the part of consortium members to share their training programs and their knowledge. How has this trust been fostered at LearnShare?
By consistently reminding folks of the goal. It also helps to get the people on the board together regularly to foster their relationships, and to have the people who work for the board members and the LearnShare staff get together regularly and talk. Another key is to spread the work out across the consortium members so there’s an even commitment. We found pretty early on that it’s easy for some companies to take the lead, and for some to just sit back and watch, wait and see. We’re trying to push the commitment across all member companies instead of waiting for them to step up and volunteer.
What advice do you have for training professionals who might want to start or join a consortium?
It’s important to find a key group of committed individuals. It’s important for the facilitator or the lead office to be doing nothing but this—it’s impossible to do this part time. It helps to have a clearly defined objective and a clearly defined strategy. And you absolutely have to stay focused.
What type of companies might not benefit from joining a training consortium?
Our model is really to centralize; that’s what we’re trying to get companies to do, especially around the purchase of new programs, so this process wouldn’t work in companies that are highly decentralized. Also, if a company doesn’t have the technological infrastructure for education in place, it wouldn’t make sense.
Are there lessons trainers can take away from the LearnShare concept without starting or joining a consortium?
When we started, some of the companies said "I’m starting a LearnShare inside my organization," which means essentially developing one point of purchase.
Workforce, March 1999, Vol. 78, No. 3, p. 64.