Master the art of crafting effective training materials with step-by-step guidelines, ensuring learner engagement and knowledge retention.
Crafting impactful training materials is a gateway to unlocking effective learning. Whether you're an educator, a corporate trainer, or someone passionate about sharing knowledge, the process of creating training materials can be both an art and a science.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the essential steps that will transform your content into a powerful educational experience.
Here are the 6 steps to develop effective training materials:
1. Start With Your Learning Objectives
Every training material should have clear learning objectives. What do you want your learners to achieve by the end of the training? Defining these objectives will guide your content creation process and help learners track their progress.
For example, your first instinct might be to say that a training manual is about your company's intranet.
But it’s better to have a set of specific learning goals outlined:
- Users are able to log in and troubleshoot login problems.
- Users know how to use chat, messaging, and social features.
- Users can find and access relevant documentation for their responsibilities.
By setting out these goals in a specific manner, you can check to see that your training material includes all the relevant information.
When you’ve identified areas where your employees are weak, you’ll know where to concentrate your training materials. Your learning objectives should answer these questions:
- Who will be learning the material?
- What, specifically, will they learn?
- What will they be able to do with the information after they’ve learned it?
- How will they maintain that knowledge?
- When will they complete the training?
2. Choose Different Delivery Methods
Modern technology enables countless methods for delivering training materials. Popular options include:
- written training manuals
- video series
- live webinars
- slide decks
- in-person training
- blended learning approaches
There’s no right choice, every audience is best suited to different methods. Choose the right method for your trainees. And don’t hesitate to offer multiple delivery methods.
A webinar can be supported by documentation, for example, or a slide deck by a voiceover video. And there may be other factors that influence how you deliver your training.
For example, a small company might be able to take advantage of in-person training more cost-efficiently, because you can train all the employees at once.
A large enterprise or a distributed company might benefit from online self-paced training that requires less coordination.
Different delivery methods are useful for various learning strategies. For example, video is a great medium for bite-sized learning. You could format your materials as FAQs, walkthroughs, wikis, or anything else that you think learners will find useful.
When in doubt, ask learners what they would find most useful. You’ll get a lot of different answers, but you may also see some trends that suggest a type of training material to develop.
3. Segment Training Information
You might be tempted to start writing your slides or scripting your videos at this point. But if you jump ahead, you’re likely to miss something. Start with a detailed outline instead. This makes the writing process easier, but also helps you organize your information in a way that best serves your trainees.
There are many ways to organize training materials, but in most cases, a job or task-based system is best. This approach builds on the knowledge that readers already have and makes for a reference document that can be used later.
For example, if you’re writing documentation on a sales process, you might organize it like this:
- How to Use This Manual
- Sales Prospecting
- Making the First Call
- Follow-Up Email Schedule
- Tips for Closing Deals Over the Phone
- Handing Off Customers to Implementation Team
- Further Resources
The information is presented in the order that the events will take place in the real world. When a salesperson needs to find information on a particular part of the process, they can skim the table of contents to figure out where they need to be.
Keep in mind that you should segment the information in your training materials in the way that will be most useful to your employees. In that case, a topical approach or even a hierarchical one might be more fitting.
Using a learning management system can also help with this issue, as you can tag and organize your content in any way you want. This means you can organize it however you want, and still make each piece of information as easy to find as possible.
4. Write for Quick Consumption of Content
Now that you have a goal for your training materials, a plan for delivery, and a detailed outline, you can start writing.
In the beginning, it’s fine to write down all the information you think is relevant. But when you get to the editing stage, it’s worth taking extra time to ensure that your trainees can quickly and easily consume content.
It’s easy to overlook this step of training material development. There are so many other things to think about. But if employees can’t quickly learn from your training materials, they’re not going to use them, and that defeats the purpose. Employees are busy, and they need access to information quickly.
5. Plan for Assessment
How will you know if your training materials are effectively educating your trainees? The only way to know for sure is to use assessments.
You might not think of assessments as a core part of developing training materials. Assessments are given after the training.
To start this step, ask yourself what a successful assessment looks like. Would an employee physically demonstrate their knowledge of a process? Answer multiple-choice questions? Teach something to a class? Show their applied knowledge on the job?
Once you know how you’re going to assess learners, ensure that your training sets them up to succeed.
6. Collect Feedback from Trainees
You should be bouncing ideas off of other people throughout this entire process. But when you think you’ve completed your training materials, it’s worth sitting down with someone to go through everything you’ve done and get feedback on where you can improve.
It’s a good idea to incorporate feedback even after you’ve created and published your training materials, too. Sessions and resources should have dedicated feedback mechanisms so learners can let you know what they found useful or distracting.
Use this information to continuously improve your training materials. Just because you’ve published your training doesn’t mean that development is done.
You can always create better training materials.
Examples of training materials
Training materials come in all different types depending on the skills you're looking to improve for your employees. Each material for employee training purposes needs to be effective, engaging, and serve a purpose.
Here are a few of the most common employee training material examples:
A type of training material filled with practice problems, situations, and empty sections for employees to explain their answers. Think of workbooks as printed or digital textbooks used to analyze how an employee thinks or solves problems.
These can be anything from training on product knowledge, company information, compliance, or HR-related onboarding processes. A slide is a simple way of delivering learning materials to employees that can be accessed at any time, anywhere.
Training exercises put employees in situations to see how they react or handle a real-world problem. They can be in the form of role-playing, games, discussions, polls, or dialogue simulations. Exercises are an engaging way for employees to train while also promoting collaborative learning.
4. Learning paths
A form of a training program that's comprised of a series of courses designed for employees to improve their knowledge or learn a new skill. Learning tracks can be complete courses that go over the skills being trained using actual job duties as individual exercises.
An increasingly popular counterpart to slides. Training videos are easier for employees to follow along with, especially if the instructor makes the content fun, simple, and understandable. Videos can be used for product features, HR, compliance, or even sales enablement.
These are quizzes or tests assigned to employees to test their knowledge in a particular subject, proficiencies, competencies, and even identify training needs. Assessments can be delivered before, during, or after training to see if the employee already knows the subject, what segmented group should they be a part of or even areas of improvement.
Be sure to choose the optimal training material best suited for employee learning and development and the content being supplied.
Training Material Development Isn’t a One-Time Activity
Developing training materials is an ongoing process. Yes, it’s important when you’re getting ready to start your training program. But you can always make updates and improvements.
Take a few minutes today to go over one set of training materials and see where you can make a small improvement. Is a sentence awkwardly worded? Could a screenshot be updated? Might you link to a useful resource?
Get in the habit of constantly improving your training materials. That way, when you sit down to develop an entirely new resource, you’ll know where you often trip up and how you can improve your development process from the beginning.