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Developing a successful training program starts long before you write the training manual. | Tips | Resources | I-O Research

Developing a successful training program starts long before you write the training manual.

Training is not something that can be thrown together in a matter of days if you want the training to be successful and worthwhile for the trainees and company. There are many steps involved in developing a successful training program that start well before you write a training manual. In today’s society where jobs are constantly changing, the market is fluctuating, and there is a decreasing amount of money for training programs, each training session must produce changes. In this article, the various steps from assessing training needs through evaluating a training program will be reviewed.

Phase 1: Conduct a Needs Assessment

Step 1: Obtain Organizational Support

The first step in completing the organizational needs assessment is gaining organizational support. This support is critical to the success of the training program. Therefore, a liaison (to go between the management and training development team) should be appointed to avoid a “we vs. they” attitude when conflict arises, this person can act as a problem-solver down the road.

Step 2: Organizational Analysis

After organizational support has been obtained an organizational analysis should be completed. This involves the specification of goals consistent with current company goals and identifying the values of the job environment so that the values used during training are compatible. If the values during training are the same as those expected on the job then the transfer of training (information learned) to the work environment is more likely because the situations will be similar. Additionally, all external and legal constraints need to be uncovered as well as the equipment, time, and money available for the training.

Step 3: Task and KSA Analysis

The third step in the assessment phase is the requirements analysis. Here the target job for the training is defined. Just identifying a single job title may not be sufficient, however, it is important to identify all jobs that have similar tasks. This is the basis for the Task and KSA analysis. First, the tasks for the job are outlined. From this task list, the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) needed to complete the task should be documented. During this documentation it is important to note the importance and frequency of the KSA as well as its origin (e.g., on-the-job training, prior experience, college degree program). Make sure that the KSAs can be clearly mapped back to each task.

Step 4: Performance Indicators and Gap Analysis

The KSAs identified are then linked back to the tasks and competency levels are set (based on the top performers for that job). Based on the competency levels needed for each KSA performance indicators/objectives are developed. Gaps in the expected and actual KSA performance levels are identified and training is then developed to close the gaps.

Step 5: Trainee Willingness

Before beginning any training is important to assess your trainees for willingness to participate in the training. Just as a lack of organizational management support can derail a training effort, so can the lack of support from workers.

Phase 2: Instructional Design

Step 1: Knowledge Type

When designing the training, it is important to decide what you want to be learned: declarative knowledge (facts, memorization), procedural knowledge (knowing what and how and when to apply), schemata, metacognition (planning, monitoring, and revising behaviors), or cognitive task analyses knowledge (how tasks are accomplished and builds links).

Step 2: Outline Training Objectives, Delivery Order and Method

Training objectives should now be outlined. This should include a listing of what the trainee should be able to do after training, the conditions under which the behavior will be performed in training, and the criterion for acceptable performance (based on the competencies set in the KSA and Task analysis).

The skills that will be learned must then be placed in the proper sequential order so that they make sense to the trainee and facilitate rather than hinder learning. When organizing the training, it is important to think about the delivery method of the information.

There are many methods available for training depending on the purpose of the training and resources available. One potential training method is in the classroom. This training typically consists of lecture, discussion, and role playing. When utilizing classroom training it is important to keep the trainees engaged by allowing active participation and using a variety of delivery methods (such as those just listed). Self-directed learning programs are also becoming more popular, especially as time constraints become greater in the workplace. These methods include reading textbooks that target specific knowledge and programmed instruction such as computer programs that guide the trainee through material and tests. Finally, simulated settings can be used and are typically a lot like the work setting in that you get to reproduce the behavioral processes necessary (high psychological fidelity) without the expense or danger sometimes involved (e.g., medical professionals, pilots). In addition to these well-known methods, there are many emerging methods such as distance learning, CD-ROM and interactive multimedia, web-based instruction, intelligent tutoring systems (program diagnoses the trainee’s current level and selects appropriate activities), and virtual reality. Each of the methods described here are more or less effective based on the purpose of the training and the material to be learned. Therefore, a single method may not work for every training program or for every group of trainees. The trainer must carefully evaluate the pros and cons to each method for each particular training program.

Finally, a decision needs to be made about the spacing of the training. Will the training be massed (all at once) or distributed (delivered over time)?

Step 3: Develop Feedback Mechanisms

Finally, feedback needs to be developed. Feedback aids learning by providing information about what the trainee is doing well and what needs to be improved and it also helps to motivate trainees.

Step 4: Pre-Training Evaluation

Before any trainee can participate in the training, they must be assessed for readiness (do they have the prerequisite skills necessary to be successful in the training or will they need remedial training prior to the program). No matter how well a training program has been designed, if the trainee doesn’t have the prerequisite KSAs then they will not be able to master the new material.

Phase 3: Transfer of Training

Training design doesn’t begin and end with information; some provisions for transfer of the training information must be made. More specifically, trainers need to decide how adaptable the trainee needs to be and make sure that the information learned in training can be adequately adapted to the work setting. For example, if a trainee will always put the widget in a part the same way, then the training can focus only on putting the widget in that particular part in that specific manner. If the widget occasionally goes in a different way based on small differences in the parts then the trainee needs to be able to generalize his/her knowledge about putting the widget in place based on an assessment of the part.

Additionally, an important part in encouraging the transfer of KSAs learned through training is the opportunity to perform. More specifically, the trainees must be given the opportunity to use their new skills, they must have support from co-workers to use the new skills, and have the necessary resources available.

Phase 4: Relapse Prevention

Refresher training aids should be developed so that trainees can retain the information over a longer period of time especially in jobs where there is little opportunity to use the skills, but they are critical nonetheless. For example, a nuclear power plant doesn’t deal with major catastrophes everyday, but they still need to know what to do in case of an emergency, refresher training would keep this information fresh in their minds.

Phase 5: Evaluation

The final phase in training program development is the evaluation phase. Evaluating a training program can be done on 4 different levels: reaction (simple trainee reactions – I liked it, I didn’t like it), learning (objective, quantifiable), behavior (on-the-job performance), and results (results of training and how they map to organizational goals, bottom line). This clearly shows that evaluation can be subjective, objective, or both.

The level of the evaluation is not the only decision to make; timing of the evaluation must also be decided (immediate, shortly after training- proximal, or leaving considerable time after training- distal). Whatever criterion measures are decided upon, whatever level is assessed, the criterion measures must be reliable, unbiased, and related to subsequent job performance. It is essential that the evaluation be based on the KSAs focused on during training. We don’t test students on calculus principles when they have not taken the course, why would we evaluate employees on tasks and KSAs that they have not received training on?

Finally, contamination may be a problem when evaluating the trainee. For example, managers may rate trainees higher simply because they have completed the training, rather than due to actual change in performance. Ultimately, the evaluation plan must compare the trainee to the standard of achievement set in Phase 1 and may also compare the trainee to other trainees.

Conclusions: Developing a successful training program requires the use of all 5 phases discussed above. A training program developed any other way may not effectively solve the problem (or lack of skills), thus wasting money and time.