How many times a week does someone lean their head into your office and say, “Hey, we need a training course on xyz?” But do they really need it? Too often, people request learning solutions for issues that learning can’t, or won’t, solve.

Only create learning solutions only when there is real demand for them. If you do this consistently, I promise you will save your company tons of time and money AND you’ll gain credibility and respect for the role you play in helping your organization reach its goals.

The Difference Between Real and Artificial Demand

When  you receive a request for a learning solution, the first thing you need to do is to figure out whether the demand is real or artificial.

Real Demand is when there is a specific, measurable goal that can be achieved with a learning solution and there is motivation and resources to make changes to achieve it. Real demand is an employee saying “I want to learn how to analyze web traffic data” or a manager saying “My label technicians need to calibrate their equipment more accurately.” You can write a SMART goal for real demand.

Artificial Demand is when you or someone else thinks a learning solution is valuable, but there’s no plan to change people’s behavior or improve their performance. No resources except the course you create. You can’t write a SMART goal for artificial demand.

Listen for it. Artificial demand frequently sounds like this:

  • “People need to be aware of safety.”
  • “Our employees need to understand our values.”
  • “Our supervisors need to be better communicators.”

Responding to artificial demand creates a huge amount of training waste. Pretty much all the time, money and resources that go into the learning solution achieve nothing of value.

It also sets you up to be blamed when the learning solution doesn’t (actually, can’t) deliver. Not good for your credibility or your career!

Real or Artificial? How to Tell.

When you evaluate a request, what you’re looking for is a clear and measurable goal that a learning solution can achieve. Check out these examples:

Example #1 – Sales Training

The Division Vice President says “We need to diversify our customer base, so our sales people need to be better at finding new customers. We need a training course on prospecting.”

Well, do you really? The reality might be that the sales people are already competent at prospecting, but their compensation is geared to encourage getting more sales from existing accounts.

If that’s the case, creating a training course in prospecting will NOT achieve the goal. It’s artificial demand. And creating this course actually masks the root cause of the problem, which is the current sales compensation scheme.

Example #2 – Hospital Infection Protocols

The Director of Nursing at a hospital says “infection rates have gone up since we hired that last group of new RNs. I want you to devise a quick way to test whether they understand the infection protocols, identify the ones who don’t understand, and create a learning solution to ensure that they do.

Is this real demand? You bet it is. You have data and a clear goal to achieve. Go for it.

Your First Step: Verify Demand BEFORE You Act

One of the most valuable activities you can perform in your training role is to distinguish between real and artificial demand, and then, in cases of artificial demand, work with the “demander” to define a goal that a learning solution CAN achieve.

Always verify that there is real demand for learning BEFORE you engage in ANY program development. With Lean for Training, you have a wealth of tools, such as Good Problem Statements and Learnscape Mapping, to help you accomplish this.

Increasing Your Value to the Organization

When you first begin to separate real and artificial demand, you may experience some initial resistance from the requesters until they get used to your new approach. However, as your training solutions generate better and better measurable results, they will quickly come to value your strategic expertise in helping them reach their goals.

The Lean for Training Bottom Line

Evaluating requests for real versus artificial demand is the highest and best use of your expertise. Doing so consistently will gain you respect and credibility.

~ Todd Hudson, Head Maverick