Conduct a training needs assessment to determine whether or not this ‘new thing’ needs training. Don’t just check a box with training. Make sure it is meaningful and needed.
Quick detour: Nod your head if you’ve ever been called to a meeting to discuss something that could have been sent in an email. Slow down, you might get whiplash!
This can be a frustrating, albeit common, occurrence in any work environment. We can probably all identify with something like this where we feel our time has not been used effectively or efficiently.
As instructional designers, eLearning developers, and trainers, we have a keen eye to notice when anything needs to be explained better. I have to remind myself all the time that every cereal box I read or the business sign I pass while driving doesn’t need my critique. We naturally want to make processes better for the learner.
This is especially true for new programs or anything that needs our design-savvy. I’ve had many experiences where something new came down the pipe and my boss or other colleagues jumped straight to “We need training!” Training wasn’t needed but our people did need to be informed and feel confident with that new thing. But that doesn’t always mean that creating a training is the best use of my time or the most effective and efficient way for others to learn. This is where the training needs assessment comes into play.
So how do we know what to do and when? That requires that we understand the difference between training and simply sharing information.
The Training Needs Assessment
Training vs. Information Sharing
Just like with meetings that could have been an email, not everything new requires a training solution. Sometimes all that is needed is information sharing. It’s important to know the difference or else you can end up wasting a lot of your time and energy with something that might not be the most effective and efficient way for learners to absorb and apply the content.
When to Train
When conducting a training needs assessment, you will identify needed behavior changes. Conducting training means there is a need to change a behavior or teach something new, not just to inform others. Usually, this also means that there are measurable learning outcomes with an element of evaluation.
Think about what it means to train something. When we train our bodies with a new workout regimen, we have a measurable outcome in mind. We want to lose weight, be healthier, or not look like we don’t require medical attention after a couple flights of stairs (maybe that’s just me). No matter the intended outcome, we have the end in mind from the start. But, we have to behave differently to get there.
If I intended to train my body to lose weight with new workouts and recipes, I would be able to measure the progress by stepping on a scale. Training our brains still requires that we behave differently with an end in mind that can be measured.
Consider this example. Big Company Corporation (totally made up) has a new digital system for conducting annual employee performance reviews. Big Company’s CEO comes to you because he wants everyone to complete these reviews using the new digital system. The performance review criteria is not changing, just delivered in a new format. Training or Information Sharing?
This is a…training scenario. Even though the criteria is not changing, learners will need to apply what they know to a new platform and engage in a new behavior. We can also measure this by tracking who has or has not completed their digital reviews.
Tay Tay Tip:
Anything that happens with a big lag between learning events like annual reviews or even our yearly taxes, might require that learners receive training even if it doesn’t include a new behavior. Our brains need to relearn the same behaviors when there’s not enough practice time to apply the learning on a regular basis. These events might also have many updates or new information (just like taxes) to apply to the behavior, which requires making new brain connections.
Knowing when to train doesn’t always mean that your well-meaning boss or colleague won’t still ask you to develop and deliver a training with that new thing. You need to be ready to offer them a chance to evaluate what they want to be achieved as a result of the training.
Key questions to ask could include:
- What should the learner be able to do as a result of this training?
- What should a learner be able to do differently as a result of this training?
- How would this training help the learner achieve higher performance at their job?
If the training requestor can’t answer these questions in the training needs assessment with a new behavior or change in behavior, then they aren’t ready to have a conversation about a need for training. You might need to suggest some great ways to share information, which I’ll discuss below. I’ve got a great Scoping Meeting Template that will help answer these preliminary questions in the Instructional Designer Tool Kit, plus a slew of other things that could help narrow down your need for training or information. You can download it here.
When to Share Information
If someone just needs to be informed about something, that does not require training. It requires some sort of informational message or document. This does NOT mean that it has to be just a boring email or list. Let me tell you, there’s just nothing better to my design nerd heart than a great infographic. The most effective infographics are explanatory and fun!
Infographics are a great way to share important information in a visual way. We tend to be visual beings. Adding graphics is a great way to get the information to a wide range of levels. Peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Robin, wine and…anything! Information and graphics make a great pair, especially when it comes to learning. I have a great example infographic explaining the ADDIE design model in the Instructional Designer Tool Kit. If you haven’t already grabbed that kit, download it here.
Here’s another training needs assessment example. Big Company Corporation’s CEO needs everyone in the company to receive and acknowledge the new Paid Leave policy. She wants you to deliver training to explain the policy. This is…you guessed it, information sharing!
Information sharing can still convey a critical message like a company policy or update. The employees in this example are not changing their behaviors, they’re just receiving the information. So, this doesn’t require training. You can also share this information in a variety of ways—infographic, slide show, etc. Infographics are my personal favorite, but you can do what works for you.
Sharing information is still a great way to engage the learner. It can also assist in their recall of content, and become a reference they actually want to use with great graphical significance.
My free Facebook Group is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.