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5 Principles to Guide Your Internal Learning Program

Dorie Blesoff

Last month, my colleague Stan Pierson posted an article about building your team’s e-discovery IQ, outlining five steps for helping in-house legal teams be successful with their end-to-end litigation strategy. As he points out, building a training program tailored to your team’s needs is one of the most important steps for success—but it’s not always clear where to start, so I thought I’d add a bit to the discussion.

In the past, I’ve shared key tips for developing an internal training platform and discussed these principles at Relativity Fest, but I thought I’d dive a little deeper into what to keep in mind when building a training program—and how to get started.

1. Adults are autonomous and self-directed.

Involve your team in choosing interactive trainings. A good start is gathering your team’s perspective about what topics to cover and inviting them to identify opportunities that reflect their interests. For example, would they prefer an introduction to collection best practices? A deep dive into recent court cases influencing e-discovery? A hands-on training on text analytics?

Get Started: Before formalizing a learning schedule, gather your team for a brainstorming session on what they’d like to learn. Get consensus to establish topics to prioritize for the team and invite suggestions for content or trainings of interest.

2. Your team will inevitably bring existing knowledge and life experiences to new learning.

You’ll need to connect new learning opportunities to your team’s existing knowledge and experience so they can relate theories and concepts to the work at hand. For example, if your team is attending a conference together, sit down ahead of time to plan out your schedules, sending the folks with the right background knowledge, interest, and expertise to each session.

Get Started: After you participate in trainings or study a new resource, hold a debrief to brainstorm relevant next actions that apply to your day-to-day work, and identify how you’ve already used those principles in the past.

3. Adults are goal-oriented.

Your team will appreciate an organized educational program with clearly defined goals and course objectives. When a member of our advice team like Stan conducts onsite workflow training in our software, for instance, he works closely with our customers to outline their goals for the session and highlight the milestones to reach along the way.

Get Started: Each quarter, set a team learning goal. For example, you could strive for every member to earn a particular industry or product certification, or send an employee to a conference and have them present key takeaways and proposed process improvements for the team afterward.

4. Adults are practical and relevancy-oriented.

Always focus on the aspects of a learning opportunity that will be most useful to your team in their work. They may not be interested in the knowledge for its own sake. Identify objectives before you begin a new course, and explain how the concepts are related to your team’s day-to-day experiences. This is easy when you factor in your team’s preferences for learning opportunities.

Get Started: Hold a debrief after a major initiative—like litigation or a company policy update—comes to a close. Get the team’s thoughts on what went well and how past learning opportunities influenced those outcomes. Also discuss what could’ve gone better, and what kind of training would help improve processes for next time.

5. As do all learners, adults need to be shown respect.

Instructors must acknowledge the wealth of experiences that adult participants bring to the table. Your team strives to be a well-oiled machine of legal efficiency and help keep your business running safely and effectively every day. Your employees should be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and allowed to voice their opinions freely in and out of class.

Get Started: Always invite feedback. If a course turns out to be too high-level, or an instructor wasn’t effective, make sure your team feels empowered to say so—both to you and to the instructors themselves. Use regular surveys to open this channel of communication.

If you’re looking to build an internal training program on e-discovery or Relativity, feel free to use our resources to start identifying the content that will work for you. There are plenty of written, on-demand, and in-person options to choose from. If you have any questions about how we can help your team with these, feel free to reach out to for guidance.

What challenges are you tackling while building your team’s internal learning program? Let us know in the comments.

Dorie Blesoff is chief people officer at Relativity, helping implement internal development initiatives across the company and fostering a culture of engagement. Dorie has also taught organizational development courses at Northwestern University’s Center for Learning & Organizational Change for 14 years.

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