Four tips for leaders who are in charge of training

If you're responsible for solving your organization's training needs, using the following tips from a veteran trainer can get and keep you on track, on budget, and on time.

If you're responsible for best solving your organization's training needs, using the following tips can get and keep you on track, on budget, and on time.

Do a needs analysis. You do this to determine whether you really have a training need or some other type of need. People and corporations dealing with technology as either the topic itself and/or mechanism for delivering training, often fail to ask and answer vital questions at this stage, and they can waste precious time and resources because of it. The kinds of questions you need to ask are:
  • What educational needs do you have?
  • What resources are available?
  • What are your learners like?
  • What is the time frame?
  • How cooperative can the subject matter experts be?
  • Is this really a training need, or is this perhaps a software design issue, or would job aids or some other tools or answers do?
  • What training methodologies and tools will do the trick to educate your staff?
  • Would it behoove your company to have a trainer attend key custom software development sessions so that input about screen design and how people really learn is incorporated into designs up front, instead of having to train to all kinds of inconsistencies and anomalies of software design after the training?
Create a training plan. Put your questions and answers to the aforementioned questions into your plan. Any plan is better than no plan. Consider the latest research into how people learn. If you don't know what the "personalization principle" or "modality principle" is, you're behind the times. Research, especially since 2000, shows that saying "you" and "we" either in synchronous (live) or asynchronous (recorded/materials) training is better than depersonalizing your training. In fact, in four out of five studies done by Moreno and Mayer, subjects did 20-46 percent better.

Also, when learning software or something visual, it's better for learners to hear audio as they're shown the software, than to have them view the software and simultaneously read text in text boxes. Having simultaneously competing visual sources for one visual channel is not as effective as using one visual source for one visual channel and a concurrent auditory channel to hear explanatory verbiage of the visual. A Mayer study in 2005 shows a median effect of .97 of a difference, which is a large effect.

Blend your training. The best cooks do it, so why don't your training efforts do the same? The BBC in England for many years has had successful distance learning, and that's because they don't rely on educating people using one training tool, such as the web or packets of written materials delivered to one's home. For distance learning, they use a combination of simulations, written materials (whether soft copy online or hard copy), as well as introductory, midterm, and concluding classroom sessions.

When I worked for AT&T Government Solutions, we used blended training -- the staff viewed simulations of how to learn complex software before and after taking technical classroom training. This maximized their exposures and the likelihood of learning. We also used simulations to test people directly after they learned some screens and key concepts for their work.

For the more complicated software screens that could cost the company big money if there were mistakes of data entry or editing by staff, we created simple and very visual job aids to explain sequences of steps and how to's.

To create rapid learning instead of the more costly and time-consuming fully narrated simulations, our SMEs and/or trainers, spoke unedited into microphones linked to simulation software, such as Captivate, or we had them use LiveMeeting to record their explanations of certain software.

Have you incorporated successful tips into your training regimen?

Scott Driver has managed training for the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library, project managed training for AT&T for the multibillion dollar Networx project, and through various contracting vendors large and small. He is currently working for the Defense Contract Management Agency (contracting through Solutions by Design) that manages contracts for the Department of Defense, NASA, and others.