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

Investigate Your New Audiences

get participant input BEFORE you pilot

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

When your internal clients ask you for a new training service, whether that's a seminar or online course or some other approach, when do you get to know your audience?

You may be dealing with a new subset of employees. Or you may be working with a different process or situation or need, even if you have had those employees in other training events. In other words, although the people may be familiar, they constitute a new audience for a new message.

At many companies, the first offering of a training event shows a pattern I have seen repeated again and again in corporate training functions, the pilot-and-fix model. Basically, the first offering reveals a ton of stuff about the trainees' perspective, and the training requires revision to truly be effective with the target audience.

Now, the first run of any training is bound to have imperfections. And as a general practice, you should regularly review and improve your training offerings, even if you have delivered them many times.

But there's a problem of degree, namely, that it is pretty common for truly significant revisions, not tweaks, to be needed after the first time trainers work with the audience. The "pilot" is almost a throw-away event, and there is much too much of a trial-and-error flavor to the process.

It may turn out that the ideal process conflicts with other practices, or can't be entered into systems, or deviates from other policies and directives. Or participants point out unforeseen impacts on customer service, or efficiency and costs.

And then there are the cases where the new process or product or approach is the right one, but no one has thought through how the participants are going to react to being told to change their behavior. Maybe they have been through multiple changes of direction recently, and they are either indifferent or grumpy.

The point is, too much time and energy is wasted overhauling the training after that first event, whether it is planned as a pilot or not. Even a deliberate pilot should be very close, requiring only minor tweaks, not major changes, before the next delivery.

When a new training event is requested, make sure you are not talking exclusively to management/supervisors about what is needed and how it should be delivered. Take the time to make some connections with the kinds of people who will actually be in that event. Share your design and get their reactions.

And then make the necessary changes before you deliver the training, so that after that first event, you only have tweaks to deal with, nothing more.

These ugly surprises from the first delivery are way too easily accepted in too many corporate training departments. A different attitude, and some up front effort, can ensure that that first delivery is a real contribution to your company's success, not a throw-away effort that needs a lot of repair before it can be offered again.

© 2012 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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