Designing Your Training Program – Part 2

Last time in Designing Your Training Program – Part 1, we talked about the first four considerations in designing a training program:

  • Training Goals
  • Training Resources
  • Training Personnel
  • Measuring Success

Designing Your Training ProgramThis time we will talk about methods for training.  Please understand that a related conversation will happen for each training you develop, but if you don’t have the capabilities for each of these types in the beginning, you will have to removed that option from your training menu.  The four major types of training you need to consider having available are:

  • Face-to-face training
  • Online training
  • Blended/mixed method training
  • Mentorship

Face-To-Face Training

If you ask someone to think about training, their first thought will probably be something like sitting in a classroom listening (or trying to listen) to someone standing in the front of the room explain how to do something.  Face-to-face training is the typical way that people have been learning skills and has been for years.  For some activities, face-to-face training is still the best choice.  Ideally in face-to-face training, the trainer will stand in the front of the room described the new activity and then have students practice it.  With technology and other skill based trainings, practicing the skills on a computer or other technology can really help to transfer the knowledge to participants.  Practicing the skills also works well with softskill training like leadership and teambuilding activities.  Unfortunately, many trainers rely on lecture with little chance for activities in their face-to-face training and so the retention of knowledge falls off dramatically. Face-to-face training should be included on your training menu, but be careful when constructing materials to allow for practice/skill-building time.

Online Training

Online training/learning, sometimes called computer based learning, has been around for quite a while.  It was extremely popular in the 80’s and 90’s when personal computers entered schools and the workforce in large numbers. The use of CBL(computer based learning) tapered off in the mid to late 90’s for a variety of reasons.  However, with the growth of the Internet, online learning has expanded again in the last 10 years or so.  Most people at some point in time have used some kind of a learning management system or a MOOC like UDEMY or Coursera that required them to be on a computer for at least part of the time.  Many people have also gone to testing centers to take a proctored test for a certification of college course. These are all examples of using online training.  If you are looking at using online training in your organization know that you can’t simply take a face-to-face class and produce pdf for your course content.  You will need to get an instructional designer with e-learning experience involved to make your content useful to your learners.

Blended/Mixed Method Training

Blended or mixed method training or learning, hasn’t been around quite as long as computer aided learning, but it truly has experienced a real growth in the last decade or so.  For those of you who don’t know what blending learning is, it is actually a combination of face-to-face and online or computer-based learning.  In the business world, a typical blended learning training for a participant to go online before the first face-to-face session to do a pre-test and some pre-reading.  This sets the stage for what is to come. They would then come to a face-to-face class for that hands on, instructor led learning.  Their time with the instructor can be more focused on the specific needs and questions because the preliminaries have already been taken care of.  There may be several sessions of face-to-face learning with online or computer-based learning mixed into face-to-face sessions.  Then the final sessions of a mixed or blended learning situation would be online again.  It may include getting questions answered about applying the skills to the participant’s specific situation or turning in some kind of project.  In some cases there is an ongoing discussion between participants that helps with hands on application of skills.

Mentorship

The final type of learning, who will talk about in this session is mentorship.  Mentorship is not necessarily a type of learning, but more businesses are going to this type of a situation or relationship for at least a portion of what they do.  This can sometimes be almost an apprenticeship between a mentor and mentee.  It could be set up many ways but what it amounts to is for the organization to match with someone who is more experienced in a certain area with someone who needs to learn that skill.  Then through either direct observation or conversation at set times the mentee learns in an informal situation how to do certain tasks.  This form of training in centuries old but it too is seeing a resurgence in use.

Final Thoughts

As we moved through these trainings, one of the things that happened was moved from a more formal, traditional type of learning to a more informal type of learning.  So, what’s the value of all of this for you in developing your training program?  Its value is to help you make some decisions now about how your program will look.  The decision you make early in your developing of your program that will guide what happens in the future of your training program.  You don’t necessarily have to have all four of these major types of learning.  But if you don’t, it should be a conscious decision.  It should be something you’re making your mind up about intentionally.  It may be that your particular organization doesn’t have the technology or the need for a blending learning situation so you have to use face-to-face for all of your training.  It may be that you don’t have the time to pull everyone out to do a face-to-face and so you need to do an online learning situation.  Whatever the reason you have for selecting the methods of training you use in your organization, make sure that there is a valid reason for doing so.  Each type of learning has its strengths and weaknesses.  Hopefully you won’t have to choose one type or the other based simply upon dollars and you can also factor in learners needs when choosing the type or types of learning you can design into your training plan.

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Designing Your Training Program-Part 1

When you start out to designing your training program, there are a number of things to consider.  This is not about what the content is or what types of training should be delivered, what is the best method to train in your situation. This section is about all of those and none of those.  In this post we will talk about several consideration when developing your training program.  The thoughts here are general in nature so not all will apply to your situation.  If you have other things you have encountered please add to the conversation to help others out.Designing Your Training Program

First consideration: What is my company’s plan for training?

In a perfect world every company would have a plan written down for what they want their training program to accomplish, what the resources are that are dedicated to the end, how they want to achieve their training goals, what/how many personnel will be assigned to the task and they will measure success.  Few of us live in a perfect world. For most of us we have to work within a world of partial and incomplete information. Here are some thoughts to help those living in a world where you have to design a training program.

Training Goals

Work with your executive team to outline the goals for training.  If they have never done this before, you may need to hold their hands and guide them through this process.

Setting training goals would start with a Needs Assessment.  A well-constructed and administered needs assessment will help uncover strengths and areas for potential improvement.  Remember that not all areas for improvement call for formal training – some can be resolved by changes in processes or procedures.

Goal setting is one of the areas where you will need to address in some fashion ROI (Return On Investment).  Unfortunately, training is one of the first areas that gets cut in a budgeting process because there is no immediate or obvious measure for what a company gets for every dollar they spend on training.  Here are some ideas to measure ROI for your training program.

For more information about goal setting for training programs, here is a plan to get you started Setting Training Goals.

When setting training goals, also remember to include plans for future growth.  You probably won’t know these.  This is part of why this portion of developing a training program should be done in conjunction with the executive team.

Second consideration: Training Resources

We started this conversation training goals because goals dictate most of the other training considerations.  The first of those is resources needed to provide quality training.  Every training situation is different – for some having a white board with markers that work more than enough to be successful.  Other situations need a full computer lab with a training environment version of the software loaded for each participant.

From the goals you are given, determine what the participants need to be successful.    Take into account different learning styles, space requirements, and technical needs.  Some people learn best by doing while others would rather listen and take notes.  It varies somewhat based upon the skill and/or knowledge being learned but there are usually some common themes.

In the past I have given software trainings where the participants not only didn’t have a computer to work on, they barely had room to write.  It was not what I would call an optima learning situation.  Remember that even though you probably won’t get everything you ask for but you will (hopefully) get at least some of it.

Third consideration: Training Personnel

Goals will (again) dictate how many people and what the tasks are for the training department.  I have seen very good training departments with a single person.  I have also seen less successful training departments with more staff than they could keep busy.  The number of people is less important than their knowledge of their function in the training plan and what the program should accomplish.

It isn’t unusual for training to be contracted out which reduces the long-term cost but still provide high value training. Ours is only one of several companies that will develop specialized training to fit the specific needs of a company.  Many will like us be happy to talk to you about your training needs and see if we are the best fit or if you would be better off with another solution

Some training may be available from local colleges or universities.  While less flexible in dates and material delivered, colleges and universities may be the solution for long term training.

Fourth consideration: Measuring Success

We will cover evaluating in great specifics in a future post so this is a brief version.  Evaluation of a training should not be an afterthought.  Standards for both the manner of evaluation and reporting should be established before a training is ever administered.  Finding out if your training was successful is a good way to show ROI to the executives.

Next time we will talk about considerations for methods of training to include in your training design.

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Building a Training Program

Build your training programIn previous blog post we talked about different elements of developing your training program.  But perhaps we should step back and take a larger view in the development of a training program that is more comprehensive.  There are several steps that you must take to develop a training program that will support companywide training for more than a single project.  These steps include

  • Designing your program
  • Identifying needs
  • Deciding on a training model
  • A training program’s basic outline
  • Evaluating training
  • Elements of a training class.

Program Design

In the section on program design, we will talk about what should be in a training program and what should not.  Not all training programs are identical, some have elements that will not be present others.

Also in this section, we will talk about the best way training should be delivered in a variety of situations.  At times, face-to-face training, sometimes called instructor led training, is the best choice.  For other types of training e-learning, using a learning management system, may be the better choice for the training.  We’ll talk about situations where are each of those would be better or worse for your training situation.

Identifying Needs

Previous training discussions talked about assessing needs.  We’ll just briefly review those posts and talk about how they fit into an overall plan.

Training Models

There are variety of training models available for trainers to choose from.  Depending upon your situation, some models will be better than others.  When we get to this section, we will talk about three or four of the most commonly used training models.  Their strengths and weaknesses and the situations you should consider using each of them.

Training Evaluation

One of the elements of training that often gets overlooked, is the evaluation.  In today’s current business climate of doing more with less, training evaluation can be critical for continued funding of the training program.

Elements of a training program.

When we get to this section of this series of posts, we’ll talk about some of the basic elements commonly found in most training.  Those elements are pre-assignments to training; pretraining assessments; energizers; training tools; and finally post training assessment.

Creating Proposals

Whether you’re an independent consultant developing training or a staff trainer for an organization, there will be times when you need to create a proposal for a training program.  In this section of this series we will talk about common elements in a training proposal.

As we go through this series, please share your experiences developing and running a training program.

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How Do You Prepare on The Day of Training

Preparing for TrainingHow you prepare on the day of training really brings out different personality styles. I’m not talking about the way you actually deliver the training but how you get ready for that day.  I am a concrete sequential (if you hadn’t already figured that out yet) which means I tend to make lists, think of training as a step-by-step process, and I happen to be more task oriented than people oriented.  My wife on the other hand is a random abstract which means she is more likely to go with the moment, think of training by the end result, and she is more interested in the people than the specific tasks needed to get there.  To better understand how those to styles work, let me illustrate with the difference in how we prepare for training.  Let’s assume we are both doing the same training in two weeks.

Reviewing briefly, I over prepare and tend to have multiple backups of everything.  It is all filed, in order and ready to pull to be used.  If it is a small group I may even label the handouts by who gets what.  I want everything prepared so I don’t have to think or worry about the process the day of the event.  I like it planned and scripted out as much as possible.  I will try to practice the major parts of the presentation and probably have them timed out to fit into a schedule I developed (probably down to the minute).  I also will probably be changing and tweaking my portion of the training right up to the beginning of the actual training.

My wife will do some of that prep as well but is far less likely to have the materials grouped and labeled.  She won’t write a script for the presentations but will rather sketch out an outline of what she wants to say.  She has done almost as many trainings as I have (more for adult learners than I have where I have more with kids than she does). She is more likely to adapt on the fly than I am.

Each of us has a style of training that works for us and we will totally operate within our own style.  The times we are doing a training together we both adapt and include the other’s style into the event trying to build on each of our strengths.

Each style has its strengths and each has its weaknesses.  It is important for you to know which style you operate best in and work to your

Strengths and weaknesses of each style of preparation:

Over Preparation – strengths

  • All materials ready for training ahead of time so not rushed
  • All objectives will be covered
  • Most scenarios planned for

Over Preparation – weaknesses

  • Less adaptable to opportunities and circumstances
  • Some content may be rushed to get it all in
  • Time will probably be spent preparing for things that don’t happen

On the fly – strengths

  • Easy to adapt to opportunities and circumstances
  • Can be a more natural/conversational tone to training
  • Preparation time utilized better

On the fly – weaknesses

  • Training less likely to cover desired training objectives
  • Training may not flow as well/may seem disjointed
  • Finally, this style requires specific talent to pull off (more people think they can do this than really can).  I have seen many teacher and trainers use this style and leave the participants in a state of confusion about how things are related or work together to meet and end goal.

Regardless of your primary training style, it is important that you are comfortable with it and still meet the needs of the participants.  Depending on your training group those two may seem in conflict with each other always remember first and foremost the training is not about you but rather about the participants getting the desired knowledge and skills.  Call it a growth exercise for you if you aren’t in your comfort zone.

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Getting Materials Ready for Training

Last time we talked about Preparing the Space and Equipment.  I touched on how I prepare materials but thought I would go more in-depth with this post.  When preparing materials for a training, I look at three things: preparing materials, organizing for distribution, and backup plans.

Preparing Materials

I like to have someone else look at the materials I am going to use before I copy them.  Copying MaterialsThis “someone” should be a person other than the one who helped you beta test your training.   If they have seen your training already, they bring some expectations and prior knowledge that may prevent them from giving you an accurate picture of your materials.

The person you are looking for in this role may or may not have experience in your training but they should be looking at the completeness of the materials.  Are all the images where they are said to be?  Did you leave out a resource they need to complete the activities.  Their fresh eyes can help you see what you left out and what is repetitive in the materials. Continue reading

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