Designing a Training Course: Part 1

Many companies have their own internal training department, responsible for organising the training needed by their company. Often this involves sourcing and booking suitable open courses for individuals or arranging for a specialist training company, such as Spearhead Training, to run an in-company course for a specific group of employees. However, it is not unusual for the company’s senior management team to expect the training department to design and deliver some of the training themselves. This can be a daunting task: the “trainers” in many training departments may have the job title but in reality have limited experience of actually designing and delivering training programmes. Faced with this situation, how should you start? Here are some tips to help you...

1. Start with the end in mind.

Training, like so many business activities, benefits from being well planned from the very start. The trainer who starts to design a training course without fully understanding what the training is intended to change will waste a lot of their own time and their learners’ time too. The feedback they get from the courses and workshops they deliver is likely to reflect that they did not meet the learners’ needs.

Often the problem arises because the training requester has not really thought about what it is they really want to achieve. This is a common problem for training suppliers as they are often approached by an intermediary rather than directly by the training requester. If the intermediary, as is often the case, doesn’t know why the training is really required then their brief to you will at best be vague and in the worst case totally wrong.

It is your job as the trainer to help them clarify their vague brief into a concrete outcome. They wouldn’t go into a travel agent and say “I want to go on holiday” and expect you to book their ideal vacation! You need, as a starting point, to know the intended destination for the training you have been asked to design.

2. Understand where you are starting from.

Once you have identified the destination (or training objectives, to give them their proper name) then you need to understand the starting point. Who will you be expected to train? What do they know already? What can they currently do? This information will allow you to pitch the training you design at the right level. A word of caution: it is not uncommon for people to overestimate the current abilities and knowledge of the people they want trained!

3. Divide and conquer

If the training course you are designing is to be rolled out across the whole company it is tempting to deliver it to large groups of mixed abilities as this reduces the amount of time and resource you need to devote to the training. Don’t. People learn best in small groups and trying to run a course which contains people who are “beginners” with people who are “highly experienced” simply does not work. You will be forced to run the course for the “beginners” and your “experienced” people will be either bored or disruptive.

Using the information you gathered about the people you will be training, group them into similar levels. Yes, you will need to write more than one programme, pitched at the different levels, but this will result in more effective training outcomes and ultimately a better return on your companies investment in training.

These three actions are essential, but are just the starting point for designing effective training. We will pick up on this important topic with more tips for you in future blog articles.