Kate L Ward Consulting LLC

A Look Inside the Training Development Process, Soup to Nuts

From the Fall 2012 Insights newsletter of HRDQ

There's been much debate about what it costs to develop a quality training program, both in terms of time and expense. But one thing is clear: research and development is expensive - in fact, it's out of reach for many organizations. Recent studies suggest that it takes 40 hours of development time to develop just one hour of instructor-led training.

So what exactly is involved with developing an effective training program? We recently interviewed Kate Ward, the creator of numerous Reproducible Training Library programs and the author of the award-winning book, Personality Style at Work: The Secret to Working with (Almost) Anyone, about the research and development process, soup to nuts.

Why is the development process so important to the effectiveness of a training program?
The development process isn't just about finding the "best" content - it's about constructing relevant information in such a way that accomplishes a set goal. And that involves two equally important components: the facilitator and the quality of the content. The programs I develop are intended to be delivered by trainers I don't know. And because of that, it's my job to ensure the content is reliable and simple enough for trainers to deliver - whether they are new to the training classroom or seasoned veterans. Facilitators need to be able to connect with the program and present it in a way that connects to the audience.

How do you start the development process and where do you begin?
The development process begins with a comprehensive hunt for the most recent research, subject matter experts, newly published books and articles, websites, blog posts, etc. The Internet is a valuable resource for authors and developers because it allows us to access an abundance of information. Really, the challenge is to sift through it all to identify the sources that are modern, credible, and in line with our desired learning outcomes - and this can take a great deal of time and effort. The goal at this stage is to find an anchor, theme or key idea on which to hang everything else.

With a broad range of information available on almost any topic, how to do home in on what matters most to today's organizations?
What matters most to participants is content that's both useful and relevant. That's always my first-level filter, otherwise the content is meaningless. From there I ask, is this topic easy to implement in a half-day workshop and/or a one-hour e-learning program? If the program is to be added to the Reproducible Training Library, it must fit within these parameters.

How do you begin to mold all the information and knowledge you've collected into a cohesive training program?
The  development phase begins with forming a general outline and establishing concrete learning objectives. At this phase, I focus on determining four to six major modules (appropriate for a half-day workshop or one-hour e-learning program). Then I create the subtopics beneath each umbrella topic that become the targeted segments. Where appropriate, I begin to formulate teh models or processes that bring together the content and knowledge for the learner, Mnemonics and memory hooks are always a great idea to help with learning retention, but sometimes it's not possible to find a natural fit.

Is there a learning process that you consider and apply during the development process?
I'm permanently influenced by an accelerated learning course I attended many years ago that was faciliatated by Dave Meier, the Director of the Center for Accelerated Learning. He preached the important of a four-step process I follow with every learning experience I create:

1. Prepare the learner
2. Present the information
3. Provide practice
4. Perform the learning (transfer knowledge to the workplace)

Steps one, two and three take place in the classroom or during the e-learning session. Step four is difficult to provide during the program. I address this phase through the use of checklists, job aids, etc., that help learners when they are performing newly learned concepts or skilss within the workplace.

Case studies and real-world examples are another way to flesh out the basic content. It provides the learner with the opportunity to "see" the knowledge and skill in practice so that they better understand how to use it in the workplace. Most importantly, I provide participants with the opportunity to apply the informaiton to their own situations whenever possible.

Are there any specific considerations for adult learning?
Yes. Adults learn best by doing. My rule of thumb is to change the program activity every 15 minutes. In other words, I transition from lecture to discussion to group activity to individual exercise often throughout the course of the program format. Variety is key! I also try to include activities that get the participants up and out of their chairs.

Is there a difference between the development of instructor-led training workshops and self-study e-learning programs?
E-learning is visual by nature, so it's very important to include interesting graphics in the presentation. And because there isn't a live facilitator present, I must accommodate different tyeps of learning opportunities such as knowledge checks, quizzes and activities to take the participant's pulse and remind them of what they've learned. Interactivity is a vital component of any training program, adn this is especially true when it comes to e-learning.