by Rob Zell:

When I started my career in the world of corporate training, my first assignment was to revamp the field curriculum for a retail establishment. I was brand new to the world of retail corporate training but I had confidence in my educational background and my common sense.

Unfortunately, I was faced with a boss who had an idea of training that was based on look and feel of the materials more than the content. We had many a protracted argument about what the materials should be and in the end, as you might imagine, he won out. Some classic blunders occurred along the way in the development of the materials:

  1. The timeline was set without any knowledge of the scope of the work. This put the team under unnecessary pressure to reach an unrealistic deadline. Quality suffered both in the content (major pieces were missing) and presentation (typos, etc.). This led to costly reprints.
  2. The presentation dictated the content rather than letting the content determine the presentation. This VP wanted books, flashy, slick, glossy books that were expensive to produce and not reusable. In a business with high hourly turnover, this proved to be costly and inefficient. This led to costly reprints.
  3. The VP wanted all of the operations content reproduced in the training materials. There was already a voluminous Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOP) that included all the relevant information. It was intended to be used as the fundamental resource of the organization. Rather than using this to supplement the training, we circumvented it. When operational procedures changed, the training materials were instantly out of date. This led to costly reprints.

See a pattern developing here? Had we followed some basic best practices of training development, we could have saved the company thousands of dollars. If you want to create quality materials that will stand the test of organizational change, follow some simple steps:

  1. Make sure the desired behavioral change drives the delivery format. Work performed on the sales floor should be trained using tools that work on the sales floor or at a minimum simulate the sales floor experience.
  2. Examine the scope of work before determining the timeline. Sometimes you don’t have the time for your perfect timeline. In this case, make sure you present the organization with good/better/best options so that your client can make an informed decision.
  3. Teach people to fish. If there are tools that exist in the organization and are the standard for performance, make sure that the training materials refer learners to the tools. In the end, learners are better prepared to succeed if they know how to use the resources available.

What do you think? I was just starting in my career and didn’t have the tools or the political credibility to influence my boss. How have you been able to change the shape and direction of training when faced with similar obstacles?

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