Talking Shop: Use feedback to improve training content and presentation

Find out how to improve training by listening to trainees.

You wipe the sweat from your brow as the last student leaves your classroom after a long, hard week of training. You gather the evaluations and head to your office. You read through each form, taking note of the grades received for both the training material and your teaching. You think to yourself, “What should l do next? Of course, I’ll pass these on to the manager for his review, but what about the courseware improvement suggestions? What can I do to make a difference with the next class?”
Recently we posted a three-part Transfer of Training series, which looked at the three stages of the learning process:Part 1: "Classbegins before it starts "
Part 2: "Classroom activities that make training stick "
Part 3: "Follow up after the class 'graduates' "After all is said and done, however, what do you do with all the feedback you receive? If you’d like to add to the following list of activities that help show that feedback does make a difference, please post your comments below or e-mailus your suggestions.
If you notice themes in critical feedback about the training you provide, consider presenting some of the material in a different manner to get the point across better and/or to reinforce the skills you’re teaching. Consider incorporating some of the following into your training:
  • Internet training versus standard face-to-face training
  • Interactive multimedia programs (CBT/WBT)
  • One-on-one training versus group training
  • Quick tips manuals that can be used throughout training and taken back to work after the class

A reader suggested that trainers create a handout that summarizes the main points of learning, including a short bibliography of relevant books, articles, and online resources for further information. All of these can enhance and supplement instructor-led programs.

Beef up or streamline course content
Make revisions and additions to the training courses using the feedback gathered. Take into consideration all of the feedback your training has received; don’t give too much weight to just one or two sources. Paying attention to all the comments might reveal some trends. You may find that students felt that a particular topic was not covered in enough depth or too much depth for their level of knowledge and skills. I’ve been in a class that covered only the basics of computer usage when everyone in the class was signed up for an intermediate class. This wasted time and caused frustration among the students.

In-house trainers should review the course objectives with management. When the training material was originally developed, it was based on the objectives that were required by the course at that time. It’s possible that over time the objectives have shifted, meaning that the current curriculum isn’t meeting the current objectives of the course.

If you’re a consultant or if you work with a training center, you should review the course objectives regularly to ensure that new technology trends, information, and software haven’t slightly changed the objectives of the course.

Keep in mind that training courses cannot be static, or they won’t meet the evolving job needs of the employees or trainees.

Reinforce skills and/or address issues
As a unique way to address problem areas you’ve discovered from your feedback, consider using the following sources:
  • Articles: Provide the students with copies of any helpful articles you find that relate to the feedback you received.
  • Network sign-in messages: If you are an in-house trainer, ask the admin to put sign-in messages on the network as a way to provide tips and reminders to your students. Several training companies provide online help desk services for the first 30 to 60 days after a course is completed.
    If your company provides online help desk services for the classes you teach, here’s an idea. Have tips appear on the computer screen when students log on using the course code. The help desk administration team should be able to help you with this.
  • Bulletin boards: In-house trainers, if you have access to a centralized bulletin board, purchase some bright colored paper and print a weekly tip to put on the board.
  • E-mail: Students generally present several questions or issues on the evaluations, or they ask questions via e-mail or voice mail. Consider compiling these questions and sending out a "Top 10 Questions and Answers" list as an “extra” to each of the students in the class. This shows you’re taking their feedback seriously and that their questions and concerns are being addressed.

Whether you’re a contract trainer or you’re providing in-house training, the managers who request and pay for the training want to gauge its effectiveness and find out what you’re doing to address the feedback you received. Collect any useful information that shows your follow-up on feedback. If the curriculum is updated or changed to reflect the concerns of the class, offer a free revised version of the training manual to the students and send a letter to the managers informing them of your action.

Your goal is to prove that feedback really makes a difference in addressing post-training issues and in enhancing the course for future classes. Remember, your job depends on offering the best possible training to your students, so it pays to act on their constructive comments.

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