New to training? Answering the following 4 questions will help get you started on the path to success. Obviously there are more than 4 questions you should be getting answers too, but these should rank the highest on your list. The most important thing to remember is that this is only the beginning. The answers you receive will most likely only lead to more questions. And that's a good thing.
- Are you training internal employees or external customers?
- Are you a cost center or profit center?
- Is your content fixed or highly dynamic?
- Does training currently exist or will you be starting from scratch?
Internal Employees vs. External Customers
Knowing who the learner is should always rank high on your priority scale. But before getting to know them in more detail, just knowing if they are internal or external will make your job much easier. Having this understanding will also help drive the decisions you will need to make next.
For example, you'll find that the methods you use for learning about employees will vary greatly from how you learn about customers. In many cases your internal employees are all in the same building giving you direct access to learning about their environment. But getting similar information on external customers will be more resource intensive. And the technologies you use will differ as well.
Cost Center vs. Profit Center
This is arguably the most important question. And it's very closely tied to questions about internal vs external. If you are only responsible for training internal employees then most likely you will function as a cost center. And if you are only responsible for training external customers then you may or may not function as a profit center. Your business may not charge customers for training in which case you'll function as a cost center.
There is also the possibility that you will be responsible for both. In this case, it will be tempting to create a strategy that "kills two birds with one stone." This is doable however forces you to make significant compromises in your course design, development, and delivery methods. When working through your initial brain storming sessions I would recommend keeping the 2 separate. After you have defined what is best for each, then bring the plans together and look for places to share resources.
Fixed Content vs. Dynamic Content
Understanding the nature of your content is also important. If you are training the basic laws of physics you don't need to worry about your content changing any time soon. However, training employees how to use a particular software application is a very different content problem. Dynamic content will require a more flexible delivery method where training can be updated quickly as the content changes.
This is one of the reasons why I'm a big proponent of an iterative development model. An iterative development model allows you to deliver training while you continually design improvements to the training. This also gets you and your team familiar with the rate at which the content changes. You don't want to spend weeks designing and developing training just to discover that updates are needed 2 days before you launch the course. Be fast, first! Then make it better.
Existing Training vs. Starting from Scratch
This is probably the most natural first question to ask. You want to know if there are courses, and processes, and employees, currently in place. You want to understand what those are and how best to keep them running. At least until you can decide how best to stop or change those systems or processes. You'll spend a lot of time getting to know what you have before defining a strategy for moving forward.
Starting from scratch may seem like a dream. But it comes with it's own set of problems. A completely blank slate can be overwhelming. But this is why these four questions are important. Getting answers to all four questions defines the constraints within which you will build your strategy. And again, an iterative approach to design, development and delivery of training can give you quick wins while continuing to define the specifics of your strategy.
This blog post was inspired by Rick Galliani, Director of Training for CallidusCloud. Rick and I will be delivering 2 sessions at Calliduscloud Connections in May as part of the new Litmos Certification program.