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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

How Audience-Driven Is Your Training?

ask "who" before deciding "what"

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

In any fair-sized organization, a variety of quite different audiences is receiving some kind of training. Training is a tool used to increase sales, improve customer service, enhance safe operation of machinery, improve productivity in manufacturing and shipping, ensure an ethical workplace, boost the impact of executive communication and decision making, and much more.

Those audiences differ in many ways, ways that should have an impact on training design. Any given group may be concentrated in one location, or dispersed among many smaller units. They may spend all day at computers, or on an assembly line, or in the cabs of a vehicle fleet, or on the phone, or traveling from one prospect/client to the next.

Their history with corporate and management communications can be very different. Some get a lot of e-mails and memos, some have regular staff meetings, some hear "official" communications rarely, and, generally, only when things go wrong. Some are accustomed to gathering and responding to information on-line, others may rarely do so.

Those differences, between individuals and between groups, have an enormous impact on how training is best received. Yet more often than not, the question that gets the most attention, when a new training need is identified, is "What do they have to learn?" We focus on the change in behavior so strongly that we shortchange our thinking about how best to deliver the training.

In fact, more than a few organizations really don't think about tailoring delivery to various audiences at all. As a training developer, I've had companies contact me to say, "We are moving all of our training on-line." Really? It the on-line approach the most effective for every training audience you have in a large organization?

In other cases, all training is in the classroom. Sometimes there is little to no discussion of whether the trainees should come to the training, or the training should go to where the trainees are.

"Best practices initiatives" often hurt, rather than help, forcing something that works for one audience onto the work practices of a very different audience. A highly effective program, aimed at desk workers concentrated in a single location, is then rolled out to, say, people who travel constantly on sales or service calls. Ideas about how to hold better meetings are codified into rules for interacting with staff -- even when some managers are rarely able to get all of their staff into a meeting at the same time. Patterns that are successful, conversely, for staff who never see each other become the model for workers who are shoulder to shoulder all day, every day.

I know there are practical and financial constraints to every training project. Sometimes on-line is the only reasonable option, sometimes gathering for a meeting or seminar is the only thing that makes sense, in the big picture. Other methods might produce somewhat better results, but not enough better to justify the extra time or money required.

But more often than not, that focus on "what needs to change" overwhelms thoughtful consideration of "Whom are we trying to change?"

When your internal clients ask you to help them shape their employees' behavior, help them focus on those employees first. Understanding who is receiving the training, in depth, will make it surprisingly easy to make better design decisions, for greater training impact, throughout the rest of the process.

© 2013 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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