Ask the Right Questions, Get the Right Training

Kat Bourgeois
Posted: June 23, 2014

I’ve long held a belief that the solution to every problem is to ask the right question. My theory holds true for most aspects of life, but it really works when the problem is determining the ideal training solution. Let’s review a sampling of questions that we at ttcInnovations ask — good questions that lead to smart designs and desired results. There are fancy names for this type of analysis, but let’s just call it the “big five”: who, what, when, where, and how.

Who are your learners?

  • Are they new to the company, their role, the task, the system or process?
  • Are they eager to learn or difficult to engage?
  • Are they “committed” or “distracted”?
  • Do their work expectations compromise or facilitate taking time to learn?
  • How many of them are there? 2,000? 10?

Here, we are looking for experience, current know-how and time commitments, but we are also seeking intuitive responses. You have to dive deep to learn if an audience who had problems with a recent system upgrade is more or less likely to respond well to the next round of system training. Responses to these questions help us target the training to our learners and “meet the audience where they are” in our design.

What do they need to learn?

  • Is the content complex or simple?
  • Knowledge-based or how-to?
  • Will they be learning new skills or refining current (technical or soft) skills?

Understanding the content leads to an appropriate balance between practice and content transfer, and gives insight to the finer details of the training design. Sometimes, a filmed demonstration or “hot spot” PowerPoint® works best. Other times, hands-on trial and error is a must.

When do they need to learn the content?

  • Is there a critical performance gap that needs to be filled now?
  • Can they develop mastery over time?
  • Are the learners ready to take on a new learning challenge?
  • Have they met prerequisites?

It’s all about timing here. The best design might be an inspiring, but brief, huddle with an engaging handout or one that includes a series of sessions and assignments over a period of weeks with lots of performance support.

Where are your learners?

  • Are the learners amassed in a single location or scattered around the world?
  • Is peer sharing needed?
  • Are facilitators, mentors, and knowledgeable peers ideally located?

Technology has created many new possibilities for training, but more choices mean more decisions. The best solution, whether your problem is a performance issue or training new employees, is almost always a blended one, but there are endless options. (For example: we might recommend training a small cadre of “champions” who will go back to their locations to train or mentor others.)

How should the training occur?

This question is all ours. Fortunately, if we have asked the right questions, we can offer clients thoughtful recommendations and a fantastic training design.

We ask questions of our clients at all levels of the organization. We want to know what leaders, managers, and prospective learners have to say. You don’t know if you don’t ask!


About the Author