Building Your Training Program from the Ground Up
1.0: Establishing the Foundation
Training is a strategic and thoughtful practice. Part of this practice is analysis, which is the foundation of your training program and ever present in many popular learning methodologies such as ADDIE and SAM. Unfortunately, an increased emphasis on training as an end goal or a cure-all causes many organizations to bypass the initial analysis phase and subsequently, undermine their training foundation. I have been fortunate to have not have seen this in my career.
Developing a training program can be an intimidating endeavor. You don’t have to be an expert trainer by any means to create a program—you will not have all the answers and that’s OK.
The key is to familiarize yourself with the development process (or the building process). This entails asking important questions that are conducive to developing a solid training ground. Clear direction and clarification on what the need is can result in a successfully executed training plan and a steadfast structure. Let’s look at exactly what analysis in training and development entails.
2.0: Building Your Structure: Clarifying the Ask Through Analysis
The word, “analysis,” in training and development can be misleading. Analysis is essentially a facet of planning, not statistical compilations. Training often stems from a need of some sort. An organization must be able to identify and analyze the organizational need. From the need, clearly defined goals or SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) goals are formulated.
Example: Five percent increase in academic performance of all students in Grades 5-8 in mathematical problem solving as measured on the state assessment test given at Grade 7 and on school-based performance tasks given at Grade 5-8 (Killion, J. (2008). Assessing impact: Evaluating staff development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press).
SMART goals allow you to visualize what your training program will look like and provide consistent metrics. It’s difficult to measure what you can’t visualize (imagine how difficult it is to visualize what an unbuilt home looks like without a blueprint), and it’s also difficult to measure goals when they’re subject to change at a moment’s notice (or when the architect decides to change the blueprint numerous times).
Here are questions to ask prior to developing any training program:
- Why are we training?
- Who is the training for?
- What is the goal of the training?
- What should the training look like?
- What is the knowledge/skills gap between what learners currently know and what they need to know?
- How urgent is the need for training?
- Does it make sense to execute a training program?
- Does training bring value to the organization?
- How often should we evaluate the program, what are we evaluating, does the metrics make sense, what tools should be used to evaluate?
- Are your deadlines feasible? (Proper time needs to be allocated for development. Some programs can take several weeks to several months depending upon the number of stakeholders involved)
These questions may appear overwhelming, but having a strategic plan that is carefully executed is essential.
3.0: Repairing Structural Damage
Earlier, I referenced whether establishing a training program makes sense (Think about it, is building a home the answer for an individual asking for transportation? Of course not!). One must always be mindful that there are matters training can and cannot fix. A common misconception is that training or teambuilding exercises are always a viable solution to mitigating deeply embedded personnel/organizational issues (or structural damage). An idiosyncrasy of adult learning is that adults must have a reason to want to engage in training. If the training does not impact learners on a personal level, their behavior will remain consistent. Training alone cannot drastically alter a disengaged employee or leader, for example. If the employee or leader is unhappy with the work or feels disconnected from the organization, no amount of training is going to change that; comparatively, if an employee or leader has poor communication skills, this is likely a behavior that has been permissible over an extended period and no amount of training can “fix” this either. I use these examples of communication and engagement as they are common training topics. What eventually will happen is those individuals will go through training or teambuilding and continue the same behavior that brought them into training in the first place. For this reason, it is essential that not only the need for training be analyzed, but whether training is an appropriate tool. Seeking training as a fix also reinforces the concept that training is a means to an end as opposed to a tool that supports continuous growth.
Hopefully, you have an idea and know what tools you need to start building your dream training program. Training, just like a house, is an investment requiring manpower, funding, and planning. Always leave the offer to build on the table, plan strategically, allocate your resource effectively, and know when to abandon a structure and seek alternate solutions. Happy building!
Courtney Pittman is a Phoenix-based instructional designer and e-learning technologist. She has decades of experience in the educational sector and holds a Master’s in Education with a concentration in Adult Leaning from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education-Center for Technology in Education.