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10 questions to ask before you begin designing a training program

It's tempting to jump right into design, but asking a few questions before you start designing a training can save a lot of time and prevent headaches.
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If you’re anything like me, anytime a training request comes your way, you’ll be tempted to jump right in. “Ok, what’s the topic? What should people be able to do? Great, leave it to me, I’ll come up with something amazing!”

There are, however, some additional questions we should be asking before we jump into the development of a training program. Depending on the answers to these questions, perhaps training isn’t going to be the best solution after all.

Here are ten questions you may want to ask the next time a training project comes your way:

What’s the title or topic?

This should be the easiest question of all, but if the person requesting the training doesn’t have an answer for this one, proceed with extreme caution!

What would be an executive summary or an elevator speech you’d give to someone who asked what this training is about?

The intent here is to get a better understanding of what this training could cover.

What’s the need for this training program or what problem/challenge are you trying to solve?

The answer to this question can help in several areas: 1) It can help determine if training is the right solution and 2) It can help define “success” for this project in a big picture sense.

Why now?

Training is about change – changing behaviors, helping employees do something new or differently or better. The first step to change management (at least according to John Kotter) is to establish a sense of urgency, which means “why now?” is a very important question to help bring about change.

What would happen if this training was never created/offered?

This is a bit of a sanity check to make sure this training program would be necessary. If there’s not a strong answer here, then perhaps something else – maybe a job aid, maybe better awareness of existing resources, maybe nothing at all – would be a better solution.

Who is the target audience?

This helps narrow the scope and can have a big impact on the content and how it’s delivered. Is this for supervisors? Executives? Frontline staff who may not have a lot of down time?

What resistance could the audience have to being told they’ll need to take this training?

To answer this question, someone will need to put themselves in the shoes of the target audience and will ideally answer this question with “I” statements as if they were talking with the voice of someone in the intended audience. “I don’t have time.” “I already know this stuff.”

A year from now, if someone was to walk up to you and say: “Wow, that training initiative was sooooooooo successful!” What evidence would they be giving to you to indicate this was indeed successful?

This is what my colleague calls “the money question”. This question gets to the heart of what success for the program should be, and more importantly, how to measure it.

By the end of this training program, what specifically should the learners be able to do?

This question gets into your learning objectives. If someone wants the learners to “know” something or “understand” something, try to dig deeper. They should know or understand something so that… what? Why should they know or understand something? What should they do with that knowledge or understanding?

Where and who will the content come from?

Perhaps there are some resources that offer good content. Making sure you have names and contact information for SMEs or other people with intimate knowledge of the subject at hand can be very helpful to make sure you have true-to-life examples that can be turned into case studies, scenarios or other activities that help turn content from theory to something more concrete.

Obviously a list of 10 questions isn’t exhaustive, but it will get you started, and these questions should help you to determine if training is even the right solution. If you have additional questions, I’d love to hear what I may have missed in the comment section.

Are you interested in what to do with what you learn from these questions? Try a demo of Soapbox.

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