Building a Training Program from the Ground Up
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Building a Training Program from the Ground Up

In the wildly popular course, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells us that every project has two parts:  a mental creation and a physical creation.  When considering the process of building a training program from the ground up it is essential that you start first with the mental creation, answering the question “What do we need to accomplish with this training and why?”  Lots of people fall into the trap of believing that their objective is clear, so view this step as a waste of time.    Let's look at an example of this fallacy in action:

Bill is in charge of developing a training program for all new hires at Susie's Bistro.  The restaurant opens in three weeks and is expecting a major influx of customers in the first few months.  He is mostly concerned about the four new servers who have no experience in the restaurant industry.  He builds a training program that teaches the menu, the steps of placing and picking up orders, how to process payments, and other skills.  The restaurant opens and within six months the reviews are horrible, new customers vanish, and turnover has started averaging 3-4 servers a month. 

What went wrong?

Like many training managers, Bill oversimplified the training goal: I need to prepare the staff to serve meals to customers.  Yes, Bill's training program met the technical needs of the business but failed to deliver the expectations regarding soft skills, company culture, advancement potential, big picture thinking, and future goal setting.  If you don't clearly define the end goal of training before you develop the plan, you may successfully address many pressing objectives, but fail to deliver long term results.  Any effective training program will assess the needs of all stakeholders including the trainee, the trainer, various departments, customers, owners, and fellow team members before a single Standard Operating Procedure is written.  Simply stated, don't create a WHAT without addressing the WHY.

Once you've gotten a full picture of the need, including the rationale and stakeholder expectations, you are ready to create the process by which you will train.  Every part of the training function must answer the WHAT and WHY with the HOW.  The HOW is what training seeks to convey and instill.  Where most businesses drop the ball is in their selection of trainers.  The trainers you select should be human shaped versions of the company mission and values.  They do not need to be the most technically proficient or even the most senior individual of the hierarchy.  You want trainers who understand and buy into the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of the training program.  The reason for this is simple:  Skills can be taught by anyone.  The WHAT, WHY, and HOW can only be taught through consistently modeled behavior.

If you can clearly and fully define your training objectives, then pick the proper trainers to deliver the message, you have the foundation for building a successful training program.  Next you've got to back up the plan and trainers with the time, money, and encouragement to consistently deliver the training program.  The moment you start cutting corners for the sake of labor budgets and deadlines is the moment you start to chip away at the reason you created training in the first place.

So here are the steps:

  1. Define the WHAT and WHY.  Make it clear and all-encompassing.
  2. Create the HOW.  This starts with identifying all-star trainers who model step one.
  3. Provide the resources necessary to accomplish the objective.

Industry specific materials and processes are easily reproduced and all templates, models, and best practices can easily be found on Google.  But I warn you, skip steps one through three, and you might as well search for How to Build Mediocre Training Programs from the Ground Up

Topics: Learning & Development


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