Businesses seeking to address a performance or knowledge gap in their staff often turn to training programs. However, in their haste to fix the problem,
they may overlook the factors that enable training programs to effectively disseminate information and change behavior.
There are many reasons why training programs fail, the most common being that the programs’ goals are not clearly defined and the training lacks direction. Without clearly defined objectives, trainers struggle to achieve the desired results and businesses have no way to measure the effectiveness of the program.
Businesses and trainers need to work through four steps to define the specific learning objectives for training programs. These steps begin by evaluating the reasons for the knowledge gap and moving into the specifics needed to close the gap.
Step No. 1: Evaluate the Situation
Take a holistic view of the business and the challenges it is facing. Many times the knee-jerk reaction to a business challenge is to throw training at it, even though that may not solve the issue. At this stage of the evaluation you should consider:
- Which business needs or strategies are affected by the current challenge?
- Which market challenges exist that may be affecting the business? Is there any data to support these market challenges?
- What is happening that should not be happening?
- What is not happening that should be happening?
Once this evaluation step is completed, you will need to examine the findings to determine if the gap can be closed with training. For example, if a sales team is experiencing lowered sales, then a sales training program could be a solution. However, if the first evaluation step shows that sales are down because the commission structure was just reduced and that has affected morale, then a training program is probably not a good solution.
In many cases, you will find is that training is part of, but not the entire, solution. In these cases, make sure that factors that are outside of the realm of training are noted and addressed.
Step No. 2: Determine What’s Missing
Once the business need is determined and the gap between current results and desired results is identified, the next step is to determine which behaviors need to change. In other words, what is the performance gap that the training must close? In this step, you will be answering the following questions:
- What is the result employees should achieve and how close are they to achieving it?
- If employees performed their job perfectly, what would that look like? What would they do?
- What should employees stop doing?
- What should employees start doing?
- What should employees keep doing?
- Besides training, what else do employees need to perform in the desired manner?
The last question is critical to answer for the success of the training. All training programs are designed to provide information to the trainees. But
if the trainees do not have the tools they need to utilize the information, you will end up with frustrated employees.
Consider all the tools employees could possibly need, including job aids such as cards and documents to take with them. Create a list of these items and address each one when creating your training program.
Step No. 3: Choose the Focus
The third step is to determine what knowledge and skills the learners need to close the performance gap. Consider the following questions:
- What knowledge and skills do employees need?
- How important is each of these skills to closing the performance gap?
- At what level should employees perform at the end of the training?
Defining the necessary knowledge and skills will determine the focus and length of the training program. You are probably better off focusing on a few priority objectives that will have the most impact on your business and addressing other needs later.
Determine how well employees should demonstrate the knowledge and skills at the end of the training. Not only does this set the expectations for the training, but it also provides a method to evaluate the effectiveness of the training when it is finished.
Step No. 4: Know Your Audience
The final step is to define the learners’ needs before they attend the class. An understanding of your target audience will help you design an effective training program. Consider the following questions:
- Do employees have any knowledge of the subject matter?
- What is their background?
- What type of environment do they typically work in? Does their workday follow a regular routine? Is it fast-paced and highly stressful?
Following these four steps will help you design an effective training program that delivers the results the company needs. Remember, training is not the cure for every ill, so clearly define what else needs to be addressed to achieve the company’s business objectives. Define the gap in performance results and determine what knowledge and skills the learners need to close it. Finally, consider how your trainees learn and what knowledge they will bring into the training that you can build upon.
Use these four steps as building blocks that make up a solid foundation for your training program.