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Training Program Design: Keys to Success

Everyone knows employee development is necessary, but few companies actually put effort into training program design that really delivers results. According to Inc., while U.S. companies are spending more than $70 billion a year on training, the average employee only spends about one percent of their time on training and development in their workweek. So there’s a big disconnect when it comes to training program design and delivering results.

So if you’re in charge of company training, what are the keys to success when designing a program for your employees? Whether you have a learning program in place or are switching to a new system, there are a few key questions to ask yourself before you begin the design process.

1. What are my company goals?

Where do you see the company three to five years out? What are your current and future company goals? For example, if you see adding employees to a certain department or launching a new product over the next year, all these goals will shape your training program design. By focusing on key goals, you can tailor a learning program to match.

2. What do you want your employees to learn?

Although this is a simple question, the answer is often complex and requires some thought. In today’s world, flexibility is important to everyone. While this gives employees more freedom, it affects how employees learn. For example, if you have employees who work-from-home part-time, they will need training sessions that can easily be started at home and finished when in the office.

3. What is the role of the course administrators?

Training program design is important in creation, but it has to be a system that works for all parties involved. This is true when it comes to who will be administering your coursers. Whether you use a corporate Intranet or a better learning management system option, everyone from a team leader to a manager to an in-class instructor needs to be on board with the training program design and what role they will play in administering the training. Plus, the navigation and structure needs to translate easily so that once training is taking place, the process runs seamlessly with minimal questions from the employees.

4. How will employees learn?

Everyone has their own method to learn and some learning styles lend themselves to certain types of training more than others. Before implementing a training program design, think about the various employees who will be taking the training. What are the different personalities involved? What skills need to be taught? Laying out the learning structure first will create a roadmap for design.

5. How will the training be accessed?

We touched on this briefly, but if you are currently using an Intranet to house your training and considering an overhaul of your training program, it’s best to use a learning management system. That way outdated courses and training manuals will be replaced with the latest versions. Plus training can be tracked and analyzed to further tweak the program. And finally, you’ll have access to an external support staff when problems or questions arise. Utilizing this help will keep training moving forward and will create less bottlenecks that will slow down the process.

Feedback from managers and employees

After you’ve determined the direction for your training program design, you’ll want to survey employees and managers. It’s important to know what the training needs are of team leaders and what employees are looking to get out of training. If you have an existing training program in place, make sure to ask open-ended questions about the effectiveness of this platform. There are several ways to gain this feedback.

  • New hire surveys

When you onboard employees, you want them to feel they have made the right decision choosing you as an employer. Training and development is a key reason many people choose a new job in the first place. So during the onboarding process, provide new hires with a survey on training. Find out what they are looking to learn and what new skills they hope to gain. This will help tailor your training program design.

  • Manager surveys

By surveying or having a roundtable discussion with team leaders, you can learn what each departments’ goals are and how these tie into the overall company goals. Also, find out what training they feel was lacking before and what they see as improvement with a training program design.

  • Employee feedback

You may get some feedback from managers as to how their team members feel about training and development, but it’s best to formulate anonymous employee surveys as well. That way employees are free to speak openly about what’s working in training and what’s not. You’ll also want to ask how employees learn best. For example, do they prefer classroom, onsite or a blended learning environment? And what style works best for retaining information? Do they prefer gamification, roundtable discussions, bite-sized learning or some other form of training?

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Creating learning objectives

Once you have gathered your feedback from employees, managers and new hires, it’s time to lay out your learning objectives. This will make sure the company goals, department goals and individual goals are tied to your training program design. That way the training will take on a clear direction and everyone will understand what they should get out of it.

1. Knowledge level to achieve objective

The first step is to figure out what employees need to learn in order to meet the company, department and individual goals set. Basically, how will you measure the success of training taken? Using the A.S.K. approach will help you achieve this.

  • Attitude

Attitude describes how a learner chooses to act. You need to take into account feelings, actions and emotions.

  • Skills

This focuses on changing or improving the tasks that a learner performs already. In other words, what tools will enable them to do their job better.

  • Knowledge

Knowledge is increasing what participants know on the job. For example, maybe there is a new product rollout and customer service team members must know how to troubleshoot for this new product.

2. Make your learning objective active

After you’ve categorized your learning objectives, you can put them down on paper. In order to do this, use action verbs to describe the behavior in order to learn. Make sure your objective can also be measured. Here are some action verbs to consider:

  • Attitude
  • Advocate
  • Accept
  • Agree
  • Allow
  • Analyze
  • Knowledge
  • Compare
  • Define
  • Describe
  • Skills
  • Actuate
  • Adjust
  • Administer

3. Craft your objectives

Once you figure out what action your employees should take, make sure your objectives include four pieces: audience, behavior, condition, and degree of mastery. This will help you measure whether your objectives were met or not once it’s time to evaluate your training program design

  • Audience

Who will be doing the learning?

  • Behavior

What will the audience do to learn? This part should contain your action verb.

  • Condition

Where will the training take place?

  • Degree of mastery

Since you have several levels of employees that need training and everyone’s skill level is different, it’s important to identify how much training is needed by each employee to meet the objective set.

Finally, remember that objectives should be S.M.A.R.T. In other words, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Choosing training environment

After you’ve done your research into what training is needed to meet the goals and objectives set by the company and the various departments, you’ll need to decide what type of training will work best. Will you have in-person training, online training or a blended learning program?

In-person advantages

  • Social interaction during training sessions
  • The ability to get immediate answers to questions
  • Hands-on training is easier in a physical setting
  • Fewer chances for multitasking and decreased focus
  • Flexibility and personalization of each training session

Online training advantages

  • Generally more cost-effective
  • Options to incorporate bite-sized and self-paced learning (which are becoming increasingly necessary in the modern workplace)
  • Higher completion rates
  • Ability to re-access materials which leads to increased retention

Blended learning advantages

Better costs

No one or company for that matter wants to spend more than they have to. Blended learning keeps costs in check.


Certain subject matter lends itself to e-learning. And some subject matter is best learned in person. Using a blended learning approach, you can choose when to use which method.

Teaching options

If a subject is complex, it may make sense to have an instructor-led class. Employees can ask questions and engage in small group discussions to break up the subject matter. On the other hand, topics that are short or relatively simple are better suited online.

Focus on employees

One of the benefits of blended learning is shifting attention away from the company and to the employees. Everyone learns at a different pace and everyone learns in a different fashion. Blended learning lets you create a learning platform to fit everyone’s needs.

Improves soft skills

In the digital age we live in, an employee may go an entire day without much co-worker or manager interaction. One of the advantages of blended learning is it breeds interaction. Employees in an online course enter group chats. In a classroom setting, an employee may share how they plan to use their training on the job with co-workers.

Types of training

Once you have your training environment set, it’s time to think about how your employees will best retain what’s being taught. As we touched on earlier, while one employee learns best in bite-sized training sessions another may learn best using gamification in training. Here are three training methods to consider.

  • Peer to peer learning

Peer to peer learning is exactly like it sounds. It’s simply employees learning from one another. This can be accomplished during training in several ways. For example, you can host learning lunches where a topic is discussed within a team or department in an informal way. Or you could have an online chat room within your training module which allows employees to ask each other questions. No matter how you initiate peer to peer learning, it’s a valuable tool that also empowers the employees to be the teachers.

  • Simulations

Simulations reinforce what was learned and help with changing employee habits. In order to begin, you first want to teach employees key skills in whatever format you want. Then, you want to set up a simulation highlighting these key skills along with any pre-existing knowledge your employees may have. This will help tie new skills with what they are already using.

  • Story mapping

Story Mapping was invented by Jeff Patton. He has been using this technique to design software products for several years now.  Basically, story maps look at a product or feature from a user perspective. This same technique can be a useful in training program design. You want your employees to always think in terms of how your product or service is used by your customers and using story mapping during training will ensure this happens.

Use a learning management system

Once you have an outline for your training program design, it’s time to put it into action. If you don’t currently use a learning management system, it’s a good idea to get one. By having this provider, they can help you organize your training and get you up and running quickly and efficiently. Plus, if you need help with certain training modules, they can suggest templates to use. And more importantly, you’ll have built-in customer service if you or your employees run into issues during training. This will free you up to focus on refining your training strategy.

Implement the training program design

Once you have your training program design ready to go, it’s time to roll it out. Just remember to make it clear to everyone why this new training initiative is being implemented and anticipate questions. And after it’s implemented, set aside time to review and gauge how it’s going. The better job you do of thinking through all the facets of your training program design, the more successful it will be for the company.

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