If life in your training department is not running as smoothly as you’d like, first you need to conduct a needs analysis to find out how your department handles organization, communication, and scheduling. Once you have determined what problems need to be fixed, the next step is designing a plan of action. In this article, we will discuss how to formulate and implement an effective plan.

Communication within the department
The communications portion of the repair plan concerns all aspects of communication in your training group between individual trainers, training managers, and other departments in your company. Poor communication is the root of many problems, so solving these problems will go a long way toward improving your working conditions.

Talk among trainers
Sharing ideas with colleagues is one of the best ways for trainers to improve their skills. Trainers should get together for an informal session at least twice a month to discuss problems, ideas, new classes, future training needs, etc. These sessions, which should be scheduled at a consistent time, can be face-to-face meetings, group meetings in someone’s office, or a meeting online using a chat room or Internet meeting software such as IE Net Meeting.

Meetings with the manager
The sooner you address problems in your department, the better. Trainers who have regular meetings with their manager are more likely to bring up problems that can be quickly addressed. These meetings can also promote a more cohesive department by keeping a manager in touch with trainers and their concerns about what is going on in the classroom.

Within the department
The key point here is consistency: pick a method of communication and use it regularly. Options include communication by computer using a folder in your department’s directory on the network, a bulletin board in common areas, or an e-mail sent to all trainers.

Soliciting feedback
Establish a written policy for ideas, complaints, and suggestions about the department. This keeps the flow of ideas going and promotes improvements in both training and the department in general. Post a suggestion box, an idea box, and a problem box somewhere in the department, and let the trainers know they are free to use the boxes with no repercussions. Then, at the weekly staff meetings, pull out the suggestions, ideas, and complaints, and address the issues.
How do you find out what trainers are thinking about their job, their classes, and their manager? Do you let people submit anonymous criticisms? How do you address these comments? Tell us how you handle feedback from your staff.
Student surveys
A good survey is an all-around effective tool. They can be useful in determining a trainer’s effectiveness and, if kept in a database, can be queried over time to track trends.

Organization of materials and classroom
If you look around your department and can’t find handouts or schedules quickly, you may need to reorganize. This plan should include training materials and work schedules.

All training materials should be kept in an easy-to-access, organized area. There should be a table or shelf nearby so materials can be organized on the spot. There should be enough materials (handouts, surveys, tests, etc.) available for a minimum of two weeks of training, and everything should be clearly labeled.

Designing materials
Following a set format for training materials results in a consistent, professional look. It also makes it easy for trainers to produce new handouts or manuals. The training manager should create a style guide stating the guidelines to follow when selecting fonts, using graphics, and deciding on other design elements.

Transporting equipment
Not every training department has its own classroom. Many departments have to transport their materials, including hubs, laptops, cables, etc, from one class location to another. If you fit this description, buy a cart to make this task easier. There are now carts available that lock and can hold all your equipment, cables, and handouts in a neat and organized fashion. Another option is to store equipment in a shared training room in a cabinet that you can lock.

Organizing the equipment
One person should be assigned to keep materials in order, or a rotating schedule should be created to spread the responsibility among the trainers. This person should check once a week to ensure that there is a two-week supply of materials, and refresh the supply as needed. A good practice is to check materials after lunch on Friday, so materials can be replenished that afternoon and be ready for the next week’s classes.

If your training materials are in electronic format, it’s a good idea to make one person responsible for updating the files and creating new ones.

Organizing the classroom
If you decide to standardize your classroom setup, make a diagram of the room that is easy to follow and keep it with your training materials.

Scheduling trainers and classes
Communication and organization are key to any organization, but managing classes and trainers is what you really have to get right. If this part of your department is in good order, your trainers will be happy and your classes will be productive.

Instructor schedule
Nothing can create chaos more quickly than not having enough trainers to provide coverage for scheduled classes. Trainers should be rotated through all classes so that everyone receives cross training and can fill in as needed.

“Off time,” when trainers do not have a scheduled class to teach, is an important part of the schedule too. Trainers can spend this time developing new training plans, sitting in on other classes, or learning new technology. Finally, there should be a minimum of one trainer scheduled for “off time” on any week so that your department is always prepared with a trainer able to fill in during emergencies.

Class schedule
Someone, usually the training manager or departmental support staff, should be responsible for maintaining and posting the department’s training schedule. A hard copy of the month’s schedule should be posted in a common area, and an electronic copy should be posted in a training public folder on the network.

Get started!
Now that your plan is in place, assign someone to complete each task, and set a deadline. Have regular meetings to monitor progress and to address any problems that come up. Put the plan into action, and watch for needed changes. Make notes, and keep track of what’s going on. Congratulations, your nightmare training department is one step closer to becoming a dream.