Complacency is Villainy – Interview with PresteraFX

Our network of customers includes corporate learning teams and training providers, all of whom strive to provide the most impactful training possible. In this series, we aim to connect our network by interviewing training service providers about their expertise and how you should decide on the best provider for your team.

Here, we feature PresteraFX on how they developed as a team, the questions you should ask a prospective vendor, and how to stay on top of your craft. 

What is Prestera FX’s area of expertise?

We are experts in organizational effectiveness. We help HR and business leaders who are transforming their workforce, making big changes to how they engage, manage and develop their people. We combine expertise in supporting organizational change with a great deal of technical know-how in the areas of:

 Leadership Development

  • Professional Development
  • Performance Improvement
  • Training & Certification
  • New Hire Onboarding

 You might say that these are five levers that we help organizations use to expand capabilities and capacity as well as improve employee engagement, organizational culture, and performance.

 How did you develop your expertise?

 Originally founded in 2001, under the name EffectPerformance, the Prestera FX team has forged strong connections with each other and our clients, developed deep expertise, and leveraged time-proven processes/tools to produce results across hundreds of projects. Our team is made up organization development, instructional design, and multimedia consultants with 10-20 years of experience within each specialty. For years, we have worked almost exclusively with mid to large businesses, including Johnson & Johnson, AIG, BMS, Endo, Dialight, and Main Line Health.

 What does a typical client engagement look like for you?

 We’re problem solvers, so engagements typically start with a client sharing with us some perceived organizational need. That need could be something relatively simple, like the need to develop some new capability within the organization or it could be something as complex as a complete re-structuring of the company. Issues could range from poorly integrated new hires to high turnover rates, poor performance, morale issues, or even a brain drain with poor bench strength.

 Our first step is to meet with the stakeholders to understand their perspectives, then we typically collect some data and conduct some rapid needs analysis to guide our design efforts. We architect the solution, typically with lots of stakeholder involvement, then we build out the solution and implement it, guided by a change management and communication plan to ensure that the solution sticks.

 Some solutions are small and well-contained, such as creating a new hire onboarding process, producing a training program, or developing a competency model. More complex solutions are needed to drive performance improvement, organizational change, and leadership development, but we have built up a nice toolset over the years to help us manage that complexity and speed up the process for our clients.

What questions do you usually ask your clients to understand the projects they bring to you?

 Regardless of the size of the need, we always want to understand the bigger picture, and how this need fits into the broader organizational context. Some questions we like to ask include:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why do you think it is a problem?
  • How big a problem is it (scope, cost, etc.)?
  • What is the target population being affected by it?
  • What solutions have been tried in the past, and how did they fare?
  • When we solve this problem, how will you know?
  • How does this fit into organizational objectives and priorities?
  • What leadership support/sponsorship do we have?
  • How do you envision working together?
  • What internal resources do we have to work with?
  • What are your constraints (timeline, resources, budget, etc.)?
  • How will you gauge the success of this project?

 When do you recommend an organization bring in outside help?

 When they’re engaged in something new that is outside of their core capabilities, they should engage outside experts for advice and an outsider’s perspective as early as possible, so as not to waste time, money, and political capital going down rabbit holes. Also, when they lack the internal capabilities and/or to build out the solution in a timely fashion, they should engage outside help to accelerate the buildout. I always recommend that they stay as focused as possible on the change management: the internal stakeholder management, the implementation and follow-through, and the ongoing metrics and leader engagement that is needed in order to make these initiatives work. Our most successful clients excel in the change management work, leaving a lot of the design, development, and implementation work to us.

How should an L&D team decide on the best provider for their needs?

 If you do not have experience with a provider, talk to their current and former clients to understand how well they followed through on their promises. Often, vendors tell you what you want to hear upfront, but then struggle to deliver. You do not want to find that out the hard way, so invest the time into those reference checks. Of course, looking at samples and talking to team members can help also, but those team members may not be assigned to your project and those samples may not be representative of what you will get, so talk to references and get a sense for how they perform across multiple projects for multiple clients. That pattern is more likely to be indicative of how they will perform for you.  And if they are relatively new vendors who do not have references, well that’s a flag right there, but if you’re convinced, at least do yourself a favor and start them off with something very small to limit your risk.

Prestera-FX-heroHow do you define success with clients?

 Ultimately, we want to have a positive impact on the client organization, and specifically our target population. We want to leave them more capable, more engaged, and more effective than when we arrived. Our second priority is to create a great client experience. We keep our promises, design with passion and empathy, and follow through with the attention to detail of a master blacksmith…our kind of client values that. Third, we like to have fun and be challenged professionally, so when we get to sink our creative teeth into new and complex problems and work through those issues together, we get a great deal of satisfaction, which keeps us coming back for more.

What advice do you give to an L&D professional who is just getting their start?

 Hone your craft, work with great colleagues even if means taking a pay cut, execute like you own the place, and become a ninja black belt in whatever your specialty is, then pay it forward as you work with clients and colleagues to solve new and increasingly complex problems. Keep yourself challenged…complacency, “thy name is villainy.”

How do you stay on top of industry news and trends?

We’re a bunch of geeks, really. Most of us on the team are avid readers, so we consume a lot of books, articles, blog posts, and newsletters, but we also love to teach, so it’s only natural that we share what we’re learning by publishing blog posts and articles and presenting at conferences and local seminars.

Our Creative Director, Belen, has become an avid birding enthusiast, and not only has she applied her photography and graphic design skills to produce bird calendars and things like that but she’s also become a sought-after speaker on the topic of Washington state birds.  We’re also constantly talking to colleagues across disciplines, sharing with them and learning from them…in our field, we meet a lot of professionals who just want to help people excel, so it’s a great community for sharing ideas.

Gus teaches Masters-level courses, including a Change Management course at American University. When you write and teach, you’re forced to organize the information in your head, the research you’ve done, and the client experiences you’ve had…you’re forced to synthesize all that and re-organize it in a way that will make sense to others who haven’t consumed all that. It also makes you more attuned to what is happening in the marketplace of ideas, both in terms of industry trends and new techniques and technologies that are gaining steam.

 Lastly, our clients, when they bring new problems to us, it prods us to do some research and use that to help us come up with new solutions. The more clients we talk to, the smarter we get, so it’s a virtuous cycle.

Ready to take your training to the next level? Check out the PowerPoint for Trainers e-learning course we co-produced with PresteraFX! (Use code MIMEOHALF to get the course for $10)


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