Preparing for Training

Curriculum DevelopmentThe last several weeks we have been going through how to conduct a needs assessment to know what training is needed.  For the next few weeks we will talk about preparing for training.  As before I will take you through several steps or phases of that preparation.  Those phases include:

  • Developing curriculum
  • Preparing the space and equipment
  • Getting materials ready
  • The day of training

This phase is about developing the curriculum.  This is not intended to be a short course in instructional design – because there is no such thing.  Developing effective curriculum takes hours of training for a designer and years of practice to develop their craft.  This post is intended to give a trainer some hints and suggestions about potential trouble spots to watch for that may make your training less than effective for your learners.  Some of it you might do yourself and some would be a conversation with an instructional designer (assuming you’re not doing it all yourself).

The curriculum you will use in your training can come from several different sources.  It may be a package that you purchased from a vendor for this topic, it may be something that was developed in house previously as part of regular training, or it may be training curriculum that you are developing from scratch to meet this need.  Regardless of where the training content comes from, there are several things you should do with it before you present it to learners.

Learning Objectives/Outcomes

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Crunch the numbers

Crunch the NumbersNow it’s time to analyze your data – or crunch the numbers.  This last part of a needs survey or assessment can be as easy or hard as you want to make it.  With a small sample and less at stake, perhaps eye-balling the numbers will provide the information needed.  If you are working with a larger sample or the decisions made from your results may be more impactful, then the analysis should be more scientific.  Either way if your needs survey was well-constructed, analyzing the data shouldn’t be too difficult.  Here are the basic steps you need to follow to for this last process:

  • Clean the data
  • Group the data
  • Run analytics on the data
  • Prepare your needs survey report

Cleaning your data

When we clean data, we are looking through it to make sure that responses are consistent.  Some people will also code responses during this activity for easier analysis.  But that discussion comes a little later – first we need to clean the data. Continue reading

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Administer a Needs Survey

The moment of truth – administering your survey!!!

You have gone through determining the scope of your survey, written the questions, beta tested your survey, adjusted questions and answers that were unclear, and beta tested it a second time (you didn’t skip that step did you???).  Now it is time to have people take your survey for real – start to collect real data!!

QuestionaireThere are several considerations about administering your survey to look at.  Those include day or days to have people take the survey, the time of day, the setting, and any technical requirements.  Every organization will have answer to these considerations but the following are some general data and observations that may help you administer a better survey.  First, let’s start with some research on best days and times to administer a survey.

Survey Monkey’s research from 2011 covered both external and internal surveys: Continue reading

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How do I know if my survey questions will give me the answers I need?

The whole point of running a needs assessment survey is to get information.  Before administering the survey, you should check your work so far to make sure it will get you what you want.  You would hate to administer the survey, get confusion/angry emails from the participants who didn’t understand your questions, and then have to rework the survey and run it a second time.  To reduce the chances of that happening, there are two tasks that you need to do to improve the quality of the data you will get from your needs assessment survey.

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OK. So I have to do a Needs Survey. How do I write the questions?

In the last post on needs assessments, Why Should I Have to Run a Needs Survey?, we talked about why you should run the needs assessment.  In this post we will talk about how to prepare for that assessment.  Needs Survey QuestionsConstant Contact has several suggestions about writing survey questions.  Use the following list as your guide to help avoid these possible pitfalls.

  1. Write questions that are simple and to the point. …
  2. Use words with clear meanings. …
  3. Limit the number of ranking options. …
  4. In a multiple choice question, cover all options without overlapping. …
  5. Avoid double-barreled questions.
  6. Offer an “out” for questions that don’t apply.
  7. Avoid offering too few or too many options.
  8. Make recall easy.

Constant Contact has given some good ideas about how to prepare for a survey.  But let’s take those ideas and apply them specifically to a needs survey.  Remember that the needs survey is intended to discover information that will be used to make business decisions.  We’ve all had a teacher at some point in our education who wrote “gotcha” test questions.  A “gotcha” test question is one that asks for information you would only know if you memorized every procedure manual written.  That is OK for a lawyer’s bar exam but not it’s what you’re writing here.  The questions that you should write for your survey should be easily understood, limited in the topic it’s asking about and have clear choices for responses.

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Planning for Successful Training

Frustrated in Training I’ve had several conversations recently with someone that is in training for a job doing data entry for billing at a national firm.  The program started out well with lots of time to learn and practice skills.  Early in the conversations I in fact said that someone who knew what they were doing set up the training plan (I was thinking someone with training development or instructional design experience but didn’t say it out loud).  The training for this job was set for two weeks and while the pace picked up some toward the end of the first week, it still wasn’t bad.  Starting the second week however the pace increased significantly.  By the middle of that week the instructor was covering material faster that his students could highlight in their manuals much less practice the new skills.  Three-quarters of the way through the training one person quit and a second is deciding if it is worth staying on.  I wish that this was unusual for onboarding training programs – but I have seen and heard the same story several times.

This type of training experiences usually occurs because of one of three reasons: Continue reading

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Why Should I Have to Run a Needs Survey?

Needs SurveyI have been in training situations where a needs survey either wasn’t done or totally ignored.  I have talked to other trainers who felt the same way – we went into the workshop with material prepared for one topic and the participants took the learning a totally different direction.  Life happens and that is part of our job description to adapt on the fly.  However, the training would have been more useful if we had the correct materials with us when we went in.  Because this has happened several times I have started to wonder why needs assessments don’t play a bigger part in training.  To help organizations, training participants and trainers get more out of workshops and seminars, I have pulled together information from several sources to help develop, administer and understand results from needs surveys.

Running a needs survey can basically be broken down into five different tasks:

  1. Determine the scope of the survey
  2. Develop questions
  3. Beta test survey
  4. Administer survey
  5. Crunch the numbers

I will cover each of these but today will start with Determining the scope of the survey.

The scope of a needs survey actually covers several different areas:

  • The topic(s) to be included in the survey
  • The survey participants
  • The time frame the survey will be available

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Where is Training More Effective – Onsite or Offsite?

Planning for trainingAs with many questions in business, the is no easy answer to whether training is more effective.  Onsite or offsite, it depends!  OK, what does it depend on?  There are several factors that work into the formula providing the correct answer for your business and this one training – cost, space, access to materials, and interruptions are some of those factors.


The first consideration many managers look at is the cost of holding an event offsite as opposed to onsite.  Even though cost is a real consideration and comes up early in the discussion, it really should be one of the last factors to be considered.  Other factors, if given reasonable consideration, could easily out weight the cost of an offsite facility.  However, when planning for cost be sure to include any transportation, meals/food, and parking that may be associated with holding an offsite training. Continue reading

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Selecting Training Spaces

Whova gave some great suggestions in their September 2016 post 10 Things to Consider When Choosing your Event Venue about selecting training spaces.

  1. Cost
  2. Location
  3. Ambiance
  4. Services and Amenities
  5. Capacity and Minimums
  6. Parking
  7. Layout
  8. Accessibility
  9. Insurance
  10. Acoustics

However, as a technology trainer there are three things I would add to their list; power, availability of computers, and offsite location. Continue reading

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Public versus In-house Training

TrainingThere are several training setting options available to organizations.  Two of the most common are to have people attend training in a general public setting or to have the training delivered in-house to just the participants from your organization.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Public Training

Advantages Disadvantages
Reduced cost (for fewer participants)

Different perspectives

Various industries represented

Less setup/administration by organization


Higher cost (for more participants)

Standard curriculum

Lack of one-on-one training

Inability to target training to areas of need

In-house Training Continue reading

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