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If Training is the Answer, What is the Question? Part II: Structure the Training

What do people need to know prior to attending training?

In the first article of this series, we identified the four principle elements essential to every successful training program. Now, we’ll explore what should be considered and discussed before training ever begins.

Training is often the easiest of the four elements to address. To align the training with the desired outcomes, it is important to first ask the question: If training is the answer, what is the question? If the person requesting the training cannot articulate the desired behavior change and the expected improvement in results from that change, consider how much more difficult it will be for the people attending the training to know what to do differently after the training and why. We need to begin with the desired end result in mind.

Both the employees attending the training and their managers need to understand the purpose for the training. They should be able to answer questions such as, which business results are driving the need for the training? How will using the skills presented in the training contribute to achieving those results?

In addition, everyone needs to understand the expectations for both using, and supporting the use, of the new skills after the training is completed. What should people do differently after the training? What evidence will they be asked to provide that demonstrates they are effectively applying the new skills? What will be the consequences of using the skills learned in the training?

Prior to holding a training session, communicate how the training will be used and its relevance to all participants and the organization. To do this, ask the sponsors of the training to answer the following questions:

  • Which business results are driving the need for the training?
  • What is the gap that needs to be closed?
  • What are people expected to do differently after attending the training?

Participants need to know, prior to a workshop, how the training relates to their work and what managers expect of them after the training. Managers need to know what to expect of their people and how to support them in their use of the new methods. Management engagement demonstrates that the organization is committed to implementing the new skills and achieving sustainable results.

Examples of How to Structure Training

To give you a better sense of how these ideas translate to the organization, here are a few examples across different verticals that demonstrate structuring the training.

Telecommunications Firm

A major telecommunications and wireless device company was looking to maximize customer satisfaction in a changing customer environment with changing customer expectations. They performed an analysis to benchmark their service environment and identify both strengths and weaknesses. Based on this analysis, KT worked with them to design solutions that made the most impact, both strategically and financially, and calculated areas of greatest ROI. As a part of the implementation of targeted improvements, we determined specific populations to be trained, the level of training required for each, and established the desired results expected.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

KT worked with an international pharmaceutical manufacturer to improve their approach to conducting and documenting investigations in response to an FDA warning letter that cited their backlog of open investigations and their failure to consistently get to root causes. To begin the initiative, the Vice President of Technical Operations held a town hall meeting to review the need for change within the entire organization. They supplemented this with hour-long meetings with participants held one week in advance of workshops to provide an overview of what to expect in the workshop and how to prepare.

Healthcare Services Organization

At a major hospital group in the Midwest, the issue was one of confidence in their decision making as they added new hospitals to the organization and began to implement continuous improvement efforts. The gap, identified in their employee engagement survey, was one of communication and coordination of efforts across thirteen autonomous hospitals with a lot of independent thinking. People needed to see that the business leaders were making good decisions that were visible to a wide range of constituents. They also needed to see that the organization was solving their problems at the root cause and finding counter measures.

Computer Chip/ Electronics Manufacturer

An internationally held computer chip/electronics manufacturer wanted to offer a one-off workshop on effective troubleshooting and decision making. To better understand the current state and identify specific improvement objectives, KT conducted an analysis. The analysis highlighted areas for improvement and allowed us to communicate improvement objectives, prioritize product issues to be resolved and identify which skills and skill sets were required at different levels of the organization o achieve their desired results.

Metrics and Measuring Results

The challenge for organizations, as the rest of this article series will explore, is that training alone is insufficient to produce a change in results. But, if we need metrics to measure the value of the training, this would be a good point to establish ways to measure that value. Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation provide a good starting point: a) reaction; b) learning; c) behavior; and d) results.

If we understand both the desired behavioral change and the desired results, we can assess four areas:

  • The learner’s initial reaction to how well the instruction prepared them for the specific behavior change.
  • The extent to which the learners learned the skills required to affect the behavior change.
  • The extent to which the learners actually change their behavior in everyday work after receiving instruction.
  • The change in results.

Now with a better understanding of how to structure training, in the next article we’ll explore how to take the next step: Integrate the use of skills acquired in training into existing processes.

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If Training is the Answer, What is the Question? Part I: Four Principles
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If Training is the Answer, What is the Question? Part III: Integrate New Skills
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If Training is the Answer, What is the Question? Part IV: Provide Coaching On-the-Job
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If Training is the Answer, What is the Question? Part V: Integrate New Skills Into Performance

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