Training Program Design Critical to Succeed with Transformation Initiatives

A lot has been written about how training programs are critical to the success of change management and business transformation efforts. In addition to increasing knowledge about a new initiative, effective programs can improve employee engagement and participation in the change. Unfortunately, there are common pitfalls to training that can limit its impact and return on investment. Here are the top four:

  1. Misjudging the impact of the change and need for training within the organization.
  2. Treating training as an afterthought or a ‘plug-in’ at the conclusion of a change initiative.
  3. Assigning the training design to experts in the pending change versus experts in training and knowledge transfer.
  4. Underestimating training costs or cutting training budgets as other project costs overrun.

However, these can be easily avoided by investing in the services of professional Instructional Systems Designers (ISDs) for the lifecycle of the change initiative. ISDs analyze the needs of the learners and design training programs to maximize results. ISDs ensure that training programs are outcomes focused. They also are formally trained in learning theory and develop programs to meet audiences where they are, not just where we want or think them to be.

ISDs can further change management and transformation goals by designing training that builds employee awareness, knowledge, readiness, and engagement.

Analyze needs: Change agents may make assumptions about what learners need, but fail to assess their knowledge and ability objectively. Training may be launched as an afterthought around anecdotal stories without a look at baseline knowledge and readiness for change. As a result, training fails to build an understanding of, or participation in, a change initiative. When brought in at the beginning of a change initiative, ISDs can use quantitative or qualitative approaches to assess organizational needs and learner readiness. ISDs can build a gap assessment to provide a framework for clear and measurable training objectives that further the goals of the change initiative.

Outcomes Focused: ISDs align training content and delivery mechanisms to specific and measurable outcomes intended for the training. They look at what the learner should know or be able to do at the conclusion of the training and design a program around it that is tailored to the needed results. ISDs consider whether the content needs to be more cognitive or behavior-based, how to assess competence in a subject, and how best to transfer knowledge. They keep training focused on desired and measurable outcomes. ISDs also can provide the change team with guidance on efforts and communications that can increase adoption of a change.

Learning Theory: People learn differently, and content must be taught differently depending on desired outcomes. For instance, we would laugh if a new driver said, “Yeah, I sat in an hour-long PowerPoint presentation, so I’m ready to take the wheel.” Driving requires both cognitive approaches (classroom and book-based learning of the laws of driving) and behavioral approaches (practicing driving skills). ISDs are trained to blend the right learning methods for the needed results.

Meeting the Audience Where They Are: In professional environments, adult learning theory is key to the development of training. Malcolm Knowles, a pre-eminent scholar in adult learning, surmised that adult learners need relevant, interactive, experience-based, and problem-centered approaches to learning. In a change and transformation environment, ISDs meet learners where they are in the change lifecycle and apply proven theory to build understanding and engagement of the change, using language and techniques that resonate with the adult workforce.

Training that is relevant, interactive, experience-based, and problem-centered is key to success.

Transformation solutions must be designed from the start to improve performance through people, process, and technology in significant, measurable, and sustainable ways. Stakeholders see results when the impact of training programs are designed for and objectively measured against desired outcomes.

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by Tracy Granneman