Re-Branding Your Training Department

October 08, 2012 | 136 Views

Re-Branding Your Training Department

John Isbell

Director of Learning & Development | Portillos Hotdogs, Inc.

Hello everyone - the following post is a re-cap of a breakout I recently presented at the CHART Conference in Chicago.  Its a little longer than most of my blogs but packed full of information I believe necessary for re-creating and branding your training dept within your company.  Enjoy!

What is a brand? A brand is a “name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers,” according to The MASB Common Language Project . What does your brand say about you? What are the feelings, emotions and thoughts evoked in others when they think about your brand? Do they think of dependability, usablility, partnership, innovation, importance, that they need you?

I have a series of steps to follow to help you rebrand your training department. Let’s start with the first step.

Step one: Shut Up!

That means listen. Listen to everyone around you, executives, peers, users, the current team, guests and vendors. What exactly are you listening for?

You are also listening for any bad blood, for what they really want, for the quick wins you can achieve, for brand elements and messages and for the skeletons that nobody else will tell you. When you do step one right you will:

Step Two: Begin with the end in mind.

You want to look at the big picture, of what you want to achieve from the beginning.

First, do an end-state look:

What kind of training do you want to implement? A blend is usually the best answer. Decide what combination of e-learning, Twitter, Facebook, texting, classroom, pencil/paper you want.

Why is what you are going to create different? Why is what you are doing different from what has happened before? Think of Simon Bailey’s concept of vuja de: “Shift from Average to Brilliant is, in essence, using fresh set of eyes to see the same thing everyone sees, but in a unique way.”

Step 3: Assess Your Team

If you are new to the job, it is easy to evaluate everyone since you have no history with the team. If you are not, it is a hard position to be in. You want to make sure everyone is on board. Here is what you need to ask:

Step 4: Gain Allies Early

One of the best things you can do is set up a Training Advisory Council (TAC) of influential people in the field and support center. In ours we have kitchen managers, a regional vice president and, if we are doing a server piece, servers. These are people who will help you make a decision. Don’t get all young people or the brown nosers. You need to have some of the SOB’s who will tell it to you straight. You need every side of the conversation. If you can convince the biggest dissenters, you will get buy-in. If you are in a franchise community, make a TAC for every group. You might need a couple in a large company.

Secondly, set about to Repair Relationships. In our company, we had an adversarial relationship with the culinary department. I asked, what did we do wrong and how can we repair it? Figure out what relationships are not working, find out what they want and fix it.

Next figure out what are your Quick Wins ASAP. What can you do quickly to gain allies?

And finally What are your Usable Tools? If your tools are not usable, then you are spinning your wheels. Test your tools to see which are good and which are bad. Get people to poke holes in it, ask people to be mean about it. Make sure your tools work. 

Step 5: Make Friend with Marketing

Your marketing department has all the pictures, logos, videos, history—everything you need to rebrand yourself. You don’t need to reinvent everything. The marketing department has the visual expertise and will help you figure your needs. They can teach you how to market your programs. Even if they don’t market well, they will be on your side when you need them at a later date.

Step 6: Ask and Answer the Following Questions

Ask yourself what are your company branding elements, what makes your company unique? What is your culture, your identity, your history? That will help you start to rebrand. For example: at IHOP it was really hard to find out how to rebrand pancakes. We did an orientation video and took the company back to its beginning, giving employees an historical view of where IHOP fit in with history. We brought in elements that made it seem cool.

You can use pictures, logos, videos and history. If you are a relative newcomer, make your logo more hip. Use time references. Use a rally cry and when you do, use that rally cry in everything.

Ask yourself what is the concentration for your company? Is it quality, people, speed? For example: “For the Love of Beans”, “Join the Revolution” and “Ribilicious”.

In one of my past jobs, I worked for the Improv Comedy Clubs. The company had 25 units and none of the employees knew the history of the company. The employees were miserable and the brick wall was our logo. Then we showed them a archival photo of  John Lennon standing in front of the club leaning on the wall.  It was such a cool photo that it got people to see how long we've been around and how much a part of pop culture we were.  So our big initiative ended up being teaching the employees the history of the company.  We then were able to make other changes once we got them excited about it!

Ask yourself:

Step 7: If You Build It, They Will Learn!

Start with the most impact. In other words, start with what you need to start with. Plan your work and work your plan. You can deviate, but only if you have a plan to deviate from. You need to know how to get back on track when you stray off the path and then work your plan.

Test everything.

Make edits and changes based on feedback.

Presell you program. Create buzz, excitement, tell people what is in it for them. Let them know what results you got in your test scores.

And then, you launch your program and when you launch, you celebrate because it is cool! It feels good when someone uses your program. Finally, you start over with the next program.

By this point you will have your input from your TAC, you will have buy-in, you will have created the buzz, so when you roll out your program, you will already have won.

The Pitfalls

You of course will have your pitfalls, so be prepared. These may be:


If you have amazing, tested training programs that are built on desired results with input from your key constituents and delivered through useable tools and media, then you will not have to sell your training programs any more. They will sell themselves.


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