Before we begin, I ask that you recognize that the development of a training program for your organization is a project in itself. Anytime you try to create a new method or tool to enhance employee job performance or enhance their potential for greater responsibility and promotions, it is a project; as long as you or a sponsor has established the desired end-state and a clear vision of “what done looks like.”

Training1Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Business and Training

You'd be hard pressed to find an industry that is devoid of at least some type of basic training program, even if it’s only a new employee orientation program. Even small businesses of only a handful of employees have training needs. The larger the business organization, in terms of numerous jobs and employees, the greater the need is for a substantial training program. We hire a new employee based on our human resources need and the candidate we select has most of the skills we desire. However, every business has its own way of doing things and has its own unique products and services. Businesses have legal and or regulatory requirements that not every person off the street brings to our door. How do we resolve these situations? We do it with training. This is our opportunity as an organization to train the employee to the skills and qualification standards that best suit our business need. We may have to outsource for the training or we can do the job in-house. In either case, what is an absolute is employees do better, are more productive and have a better attitude towards the organization when they are afforded the opportunity for skills training.

Training2Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Employee training and development is not accomplished in one singular event. Businesses don't conduct just one course on a one time basis for a single person or group and then close the door to any and all future training. Developing, improving, and building job skills in any company is a long term investment; not just the employee's future, but an investment in the business's future. Once begun, it's not just the individual employee, leader and manager that benefit from a continual long-term training program, the business organization itself benefits by improved productivity, improved morale, more efficiently deal with changes in products and services, and improved effective managerial and leadership practices.

Initial, Career and Professional Training

Training programs for employees will generally fall into three groups: Initial Training Program (ITP), Job or Career Proficiency Training (CPT) and Professional Development Training (PDT). ITP is tailored to activities teaching the specific job skills. Initial training will often include educating new employees on the company's business model, reporting procedures, benefits, vacation, sick-leave, career advancement programs, and anything else that a new employee needs to be productive. CPT is the business's opportunity to provide additional training throughout the year on new job skills, equipment, processes and procedures, and team building. PDT is the business's opportunity to take selected employees to the next level by identifying and training employees for managerial and leadership positions, team building, leadership skills, industry trends, business performance conferences, and professional certifications.

Training3Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Where Do We Begin

Who are we training? New employees may require skills unique to the organization and current employees may require new skills for a new job or a change in the current position. Current employees may require retraining in a skill or refresher training. A business may want to conduct enhancement skills training for the organizations leadership and management staff.

Input of job skills requirement begins with the business leadership and management. The second source is from the employees themselves. An organization generally has a skill set requirement for each employee based on the business need. This skill set usually influences the human resources requirement and the hiring process. If an organization needs an employee with accounting skills for the accounting department then it's pretty easy to advertise and locate an applicant with a quantifiable, qualifying education and experience. Qualifications for a job that require a degree or certification in a particular discipline like accounting, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, dental hygienist, nurse, are clear-cut examples of you either have the paper to prove or not. However, whether or not an applicant or employee has the professional qualifications for a job does not mean they have all the specific skills needed for that particular organization? Additionally, it's not always an issue of the skill, but it may be, and often is, an issue of how that organization does business or how it performs internal processes.

Gap Analysis

Where are we now? Where do we want to be? What's missing and how to do fill the "skills gap"? Skills gaps are qualification and applicable skills lacking for individuals and groups or even the whole organization. These gaps can tell-the-tale of poor employee or managerial performance and how they adversely impact the organization. Desk or job audits are often used to help determine the gaps between the employees' skills and the required skills to perform the job most effectively.

How Adults Learn

Here are some interesting numbers that can be used to help you decide how or what mode or modes you should use in delivering your message. There is an old rule of thumb that says we learn through: 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we read and hear, 50% of what we hear and see, 70% of what we say ourselves, and 90% of what we do ourselves.[1]

What does this mean to you? If you want to ensure that more of your message is received than a cursory amount, you may need to apply multiple modes of communication such as providing reading material and graphics as well as just speaking the message. You may, if practical want your audience to participate physically as well as listening and reading your message. Skills will eventually become second nature through repetition. Bottom line - If you are solely relying on the verbal presentation to deliver the message you may only expect a small portion of the message to be either retained or understood. As we move into Part Two of this discussion these learning considerations should be integrated into your planning.

Course and Training Development

Training4Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Define the Training Course

Define the specific training activity by name, its purpose and goal(s). Learning Goals are general in terms and future state and vision oriented. An example of goals for employees and managers are: "The goal is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our business meetings" - "The goal is for all employees to have the skills needed to create a PowerPoint presentation" - or "The goal is to educate our employees on the latest technology we will implement during the transition to the new product processing equipment." Professional certification or credentialing can also be a training goal for employees and management. Examples: "Our goal is to have 25% of our project and program managers certified as Project Management Professions (PMP Certified by the Project Management Institute)" or "Our goal is to have 25% of our employees Six Sigma Certified."

List the Learning Objects and Outcomes (Skills List)

What do we mean by goals, learning objectives and outcomes?

Learning Objectives get to the training specifics. We need to qualify and define the goals in specific, measurable, achievable, and quantifiable terms. Defining objectives makes is possible to determine whether or not goals are being met. If the goal is for project managers and coordinators to have the ability to plan a project schedule, some of the learning objects could include: "Identify logical and dependency relationships between project tasks," "Define Network Precedence Method," "Define Critical Path Method," "Calculate Early Start (ES) and Early Finish (EF)," Calculate Late Start (LS) and Late Finish (LF)," and "Determine Float and Slack Time." These are measurable and testable learning objectives.

Outcomes: This is a list or explanation of what a student should walk away from the training with, as in, skills, understanding, and experience with the training topic. Verify Objectives/Outcomes with Course Sponsor (Sponsor is the proponent of the training).

How do we go from goals to objectives to learning objectives (LO)? Think Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) from project management. A goal is made of one or more objectives. If we want an employee to know how to create a presentation in PowerPoint, we have to decide what a student needs to do in that software program in order to: LO-1 Opening the PowerPoint program; LO-2 Opening, saving and closing a file; LO-3 Using templates; LO-4 Entering texts and graphics, so on and so forth. Break the training activity down into bite size chucks that can be performed and evaluated in a pass or fail, go or no-go. This means the student can either perform the task to the required standard or not. And if not, the retraining can be isolated to that particular task without having to re-due the entire block of instruction.

Develop a Course Outline and Agenda

Training5Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014
  •  Introductions
  • Pretest
  • Course Modules
  • Practical Exercises
  • Test/Assess Student Learning
  • Student Course Evaluation
  • Closing Review, Final Comments, and a Training Certificate
  • Outline Explained

 Introductions: Include ice breaker when the class starts. Get the students' attention at the outset of the training through jokes, funny story, 2-5 minutes of attendee introductions (the old getting to know you drill).

Pretest: Evaluate student understanding of the course goals and learning objectives (pretesting is an option; however, reviewing the "why we are here" is a necessity). A pretest can be given immediately after the outline review. Although not a necessity, a pretest serves two purposes: first it is a way to demonstrate to the class members what they don't know and why they are in the training; secondly, for attendees that easily pass the pretest, there are two options - the attendee can stay and help as a class coach to assist the instructor in teaching and coaching students on the course material; the other option is for those students who pass the pretest easily - let them leave the class. There is no reason to waste those employees time training on a skill they already have in their personal skill set.

Individual Course Modules: Break the course material into 45-50 minute segments. Incorporate 10 minute breaks between each module. Occasionally, you can go with a 90 minute block of instruction; however, after that time, you will begin to lose the student's attention. When using a longer time, like 60-90 minute block, incorporate a practical exercises or hands-on exercise. These exercises tend to reinvigorate student attention to the material. Tailor each module on a different learning objective/outcome if possible. Separating the learning objectives in this way will help to keep the students focus on that particular learning outcome.

Practical Exercises make it an experience: use hands-on activity, especially the get up off the chair type activities to change of pace and break any boredom or lack of attention. Students learn and retain more by combining reading, hearing, seeing and doing - repeatedly.

Develop Testing/Evaluation Method and Materials: The “what and how” you will measure the success of achieving the course learning objectives and skills proficiency. This can be a written test or a hands-on performance evaluation of the task performance to standards.

Course Evaluation: Create a course evaluation form so that students can provide the training staff as to the effectiveness of the training and the training experience. This can be a single sheet of paper with the title of the course with the date and time and include a simple statement of "what went right" and "what went wrong." It can be a webpage or business intranet form or even an email form. It's whatever works easiest for the student yet still give the training staff the valuable input needed to adjust, if necessary, future training.

Closing Review, Final Comments and a Training Certificates: Restate what the learning objectives were for the training and thank the students for their participation. Let them walk away with something. Document that the student completing the training satisfactorily.

Training6Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Acquire Course Material Resources: Resources must match the training needs experience. Technology type training may require every student to have a hands-on experience as in the case of working with PowerPoint, Microsoft Project, Excel or the use of specialized equipment. When a business relies heavily on its business intranet site for data collection, analysis and reporting it is beneficial for every student to have access to it during the conduct of the training. If this is not practical, then make sure that the screen view is displayed large enough and clear enough for every student to observe easily.

Rehearse or walk-through the course before executing the class with the actual students. This is the time to make sure the course materials look right, the agenda and information flow properly, exercises and testing material serve the purpose intended, there are enough supplies to provide for all the students, and the technology resources work properly. The working technology resource issue is very critical whenever you are conducting courses like hands-on PC training, usage of job related equipment, and more so, when using video conferencing, online, or Podcast training.

Conduct the Training: Just as in Meeting Management, conduct the training as scheduled and start and finish on time. Present to the attendees the course outline with the learning objectives, tasks, and method(s) of instruction (video, PowerPoint, handout, practical exercises, etc.). 

Ways to Make Training More Effective and Entertaining

Leader7Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Be company and industry specific: Customize each session by adding examples and case studies that are specific to the trainee's industry, product line, market, division, or work group. Trainees want to see themselves and their needs, problems, challenges, and concerns reflected in the presentation.

Put the "Human" in human resources. Don't just give a lecture to the air. Have a conversation with the students. When you talk, make eye contact with the individuals in the room, one person at a time. Remember reference tools and resources; give them something to take with them when they leave even if references are a list of websites, company intranet sites, policy books, etc.

Trainees like videos.

Videos make use of the student's sight and sound learning.

Consider using an extended classroom experience. An example of this is when the business has a lecturer or instructor at a different location than that of the students and the course is broadcast to the classroom or directly to the students desktop via tools like SKYPE, Google Video, Net-Meeting or the companies intranet. Many universities have some form of video instruction for some of their college courses.

Training8Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Final Word

Training and Employee Development is integral and indispensable to an organization's success or failure in delivering quality management, continuous improvement, employee career development, and employee retention. Business is constantly changing, the skills required constantly increasing, and each organization has its own unique knowledge and skills requirements. Training and Development are the means of helping employees and the organization "keep-up" and succeed in this high speed evolving and ever changing industry. One of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Successful People[2] is "Sharpening the Saw:" Training is exactly that, an organization's efforts to help each employee and, in turn, the organization as a whole in sharpening individual skills and group productivity.