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The Four Ds of Strong Training

We’re happy to have a guest post today. Lotus Yon is an experienced human resources and organizational development professional with a focused passion in leadership and employee engagement. She’s held several different roles within HR and OD, and blogs at OD Advocate where she enjoys challenging leaders and other professionals to think differently about the world of work.

Where will you start to improve your organization’s training?

Learning and development is not always the department that receives the best budget in organizations. As a support department, it often is expected to demonstrate business results while managing with a small amount of resources. The good news is the fundamentals of strong training are laid with good design, not a huge budget. There are ways to build a strong training program and show real results that help prove a training department’s value and gain buy-in from senior leaders.

There are things to stop doing and things to start doing in order to be more successful. Yet many training teams still struggle to do these four areas well.

1. Develop Strong Content

Stop relying solely on subject matter experts and start becoming a subject matter superstar. As instructional designers and trainers, we will always need our subject matter experts, but if we want to develop and deliver strong training to our learners, we need to shift our mindset. I’ve seen many training professionals leave 75% or more of the decisions up to the subject matter experts and design training around those decisions. The result is usually a lack of engagement and retention.

The best curriculum developers I know embed themselves in the content. They work with their subject matter experts not just to get the content for the training, but to actually become subject matter experts themselves on the topic. They do additional research, shadow the experts, ask lots of questions and offer great suggestions and solutions.

2. Design Strong Materials

Stop forgetting about aesthetics and start designing with the learner in mind. It can be easy to get lost in the content and lose sight of the importance of how to put that content together in an appealing and engaging way for our learners. Before ever reading or listening to a single word, people make judgments about the training they are about to receive and the trainer they are about to learn from. These judgments are based on aesthetics.

Learners notice inconsistencies such as bolding certain callouts on one page but not others.

At a simple level, aesthetics could be the way a training room looks when learners enter or the way a trainer is dressed for class. Apply that same thinking to the design of training materials. That means learners develop biases and preconceived notions about training based on how it looks. Are the handouts formatted the same way? Are the colors on the elearning appealing? Are the fonts on the presentation visible? Are images used appropriately? Are the curriculum guides too busy and the pages too crowded?

As learners dive into the training, design continues to be just as crucial. Learners notice inconsistencies such as bolding certain callouts on one page but not others, using serif font for the body text in one section but sans serif font in another section, centering titles on one slide but left aligning them on another slide, busy slide after busy slide that are just full of text or dark font against dark backgrounds that make it difficult to read.

So, take the time to design training materials with the learner in mind. Think about the distractions that can be caused by poor font choices, spelling or grammar errors, inconsistencies or complicated design versus simple design.

3. Diversify Strong Options

Stop using the same training methods over and over again and start building a more robust and diverse toolbox for training. In many industries, training departments are still only offering training via instructor-led classrooms. With five generations in the workforce, we’re going to have to diversify our training options much more than before. This means offering elearning modules, mobile learning options, video education, infographics, interactive games, social learning platforms and much more. One size is not going fit all anymore.

4. Deliver Strong Solutions

Stop resorting to the same training solution for every problem and start delivering training that adds value. After ensuring a diversified set of training options are available, we have to think about when to use each type of training. One of the most important skills of the best instructional designers and trainers is being able to evaluate a request and determine the best delivery method. A subject matter expert might say they want a video for a specific topic but the audience might be a group of tactile learners, in which case, a video would not help them retain the information. Take the time to understand the need before jumping to a conclusion of how to deliver training.

Focusing efforts in these four areas can take a training team from mediocre to top notch. These philosophies and practices not only help build strong training, but they help promote an organization’s training so users participate because they want to, not because they need to. So, where will you start to improve your organization’s training?