Developing a Learning Culture

Consulting: From Beast to Bunny with ELM’s Easy Approach

When most people hear the word, consultant they think, Nice gig. If you can get it. Or they think, Yikes. No way we have the time, energy or funds to hire one. Hiring a consultant shouldn’t be a beastly initiative that steals years of your time and gobbles up your resources. What most of us want is a friendly, bunny-like consultant that nibbles the budget, rather than eats it whole.

We are talking about consulting, right?

We need consultants that can make a huge impact without using a lot of the budget or taking years (on retainer) to come up with a 1000-page solution.  It doesn’t have to be that big. Sometimes, we only need a day or a few hours to gain perspective and get some sound advice. Consultants should offer higher value and flexibility with smaller consulting projects.

When do you know if you need a consultant?

You know you need a consultant when:


1. Your alignment is off.

Companies with internal learning teams often need advice about how to work more efficiently, harmoniously and at a higher level of performance. An outside expert perspective is helpful for defining roles. That way everyone works towards the same goal as part of the same process.


One Fortune 500 tech company asked us to design a workshop that would encourage two of its key learning development roles to collaborate more and act as internal consultants. To meet those needs, we created a personalized workshop experience for those roles.

A SaaS customer was getting a wide range of results from its sales team. We found the sales staff wasn’t following the same methodology. We identified behaviors that were fundamental to creating unity and helped the company build a learning path around them.

2. You’re struggling with TMI or NEI (Not enough information).

Some companies find themselves drowning in a sea of information and subject matter experts and they need a life raft, fast. Or, they have holes in their boat—not enough information and a finite budget to fill them. They can’t stop to find the leaks when they are too busy bailing out the boat.


One large social media company had a large learning experience team, disparate sources of content and lots of conflicting opinions. It needed a third-party to mediate. We assisted its team by prioritizing and making sense of the content. Then, we created an overall learning curriculum for the team based on actionable results.

A job search website had limited content and a set budget. We devised a plan for completing its curriculum, allocated its resources to fill in the gaps, and stayed within the budget. By using the content on hand for maximum impact, we could direct the budget to where it was really needed.

3. You’re feeling a little off-balance.

Blended learning is kind of like a teeter-totter. Too much weight in either direction and the training could fall flat. Some companies find themselves too heavy on instructor training, or overly weighted towards digital learning. It’s hard to find that sweet spot unless you have help.


A Fortune 500 company we worked with in the past had an engaging two-day workshop where the employees could have one-on-ones with the VP of Creativity. The company asked us to help blend that same experience with digital learning, as they needed to scale. We designed a cohort-based blended learning model centering social engagement around individual learning.

Another large tech company had a small instructor-led training that it wanted to boost engagement for. We did a rapid consult to help identify three scrappy ways to extend the learning from the classroom, to remind learners to keep practicing.

4. You’re dealing with a lot of buckets.

Think of learning initiatives like buckets and the budget like water. Some companies have all the buckets laid out and enough water for every bucket, but they don’t know how much they should put in each, mostly because they can’t ballpark how much each initiative will cost. They need to talk with an expert.


One consumer goods retail company reaches out to us each year for an annual consulting. We talk about its initiatives and look at each one separately. Then we devise a strategy for how to spend most effectively based on the company’s business needs, internal team infrastructure, stakeholders, and other factors.

5. You need to train the trainers.

Sharing a little knowledge in the learning industry goes a long way. We want to keep learning so we can grow as designers. By bringing in a fresh perspective to impart a totally different approach, we breathe new life into our learning design teams.


That same company was looking to train its internal instructional designers on how to build more efficiently and effectively within their authoring tools, so ELM designed a custom workshop to increase team comfort with collaboration and share methods for efficiency and scale.

Consulting doesn’t have to be a massive beast that eats time, energy and resources. Most companies just need a fresh perspective and some quick advice. At ELM, most of our consulting work is with customers who have large instructional design teams in place and just need a blueprint or smaller companies who can take that same blueprint and go anywhere they want to have the development work done. If you find yourself in a situation similar to one above, remember that getting advice doesn’t have to be a huge initiative. Just reach out and ask!

 SME: Ashley Hudson-Hines; Consulting Consultant

 SME: Sarah Bacerra; Sr. Learning Experience Designer

 Designer: Kim Cyprian; Jr. Designer