Designing Training Like a Pro

Designing Training and instructional design tips

This post is about designing training, but first, allow me some rent-free time in your head. Imagine stepping into a room where learning isn’t just a passive activity but an engaging, dynamic experience. Picture yourself surrounded by colleagues who are all equally eager to dive into the material, not just because they have to but because they genuinely want to. 

No, this isn’t your average training session with monotonous, boring lectures and endless slideshows.

It’s a vibrant, interactive workshop where everyone participates. Everyone is invested and committed to learning and growing together. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? The best new is you can design and create these experiences for your learners.

Creating learning experiences this way is the future of workplace training, and it’s happening now.

Think about your own experiences

Consider the last training session you attended.

Did you feel truly engaged, or were you just counting down the minutes until it was over?

All too often, training programs fall flat as a pancake because they fail to capture the interest and imagination of their participants.

The instructional designers had no idea how to scaffold the learning elements or how to motivate learners.

But what if training could be different?

What if it could be an engaging journey of discovery, a series of hands-on activities, and real-world applications that make the learning process not only effective but enjoyable?

What is effective training?

In today’s fast-paced work environment, effective training is more important than ever.

Employees need to be equipped with the latest skills and knowledge to keep up with rapid changes in technology and industry practices.

However, traditional training methods often fail to deliver the desired outcomes.

That’s where innovative training design comes into play.

After the needs analysis, you must know how to transform mundane data into training sessions that resonate with the learners long after they leave your training class.

That’s it. That’s the secret sauce.

Welcome to a new era of training, where creativity meets practicality, and learning becomes an adventure.

If I am successful in writing this article, I will guide you through the process of designing training initiatives that impart essential skills and foster a culture of continuous improvement and enthusiasm for learning.

Whether you’re a seasoned trainer or new to the field, these strategies will help you elevate your training programs to new heights.

Why you should know about designing a good training

Transforming Training into an Experience

Knowing how to properly design training is crucial because it directly impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of the learning process.

Designing learning exercises for adult learners to enhance retention involves incorporating practical, real-world applications that relate directly to their experiences and job roles.

I love conceptual training sessions. In fact, it is my specialty.

However, the balance between concepts and real-life scenarios is necessary in your training class.

Too much theory bores the learner.

Excessive activities on content they do not understand frustrate them.

The balance is the key.

Here is a sample training initiative outline that balances concepts and practical application.

If you were designing training for managers on how to discuss policy with their staff, you might approach it this way.

Training Class Outline: Explaining Policy to Employees

I. Introduction

  • A. Welcome and Overview
    • Icebreaker activity: Participants share their experiences with policy communication
    • Introduction of trainer and participants
    • Overview of the training objectives and agenda
  • B. Importance of Policy Communication
    • Group discussion: The impact of clear policy communication on organizational compliance and employee performance

II. Understanding the Policy

  • A. Policy Background
    • Presentation on the specific policy (e.g., its purpose, scope, and relevance)
    • Interactive Q&A session to clarify legal and organizational implications
  • B. Key Components of the Policy
    • Interactive lecture: Detailed breakdown of the policy sections
    • Group activity: Identifying critical points and potential areas of confusion

III. Effective Communication Strategies

  • A. Simplifying Complex Information
    • Workshop: Techniques for breaking down complex policy language
    • Practice session: Using plain language and avoiding jargon
  • B. Engaging Presentation Techniques
    • Demonstration: Using visuals and examples to illustrate policy points
    • Interactive methods: Role-playing and Q&A sessions to engage learners

IV. Practical Application

  • A. Scenario-Based Learning
    • Group exercise: Real-life scenarios for participants to apply policy knowledge
    • Role-playing: Practicing policy explanations in small groups
  • B. Developing Clear Explanations
    • Workshop: Drafting clear and concise policy explanations
    • Peer review: Participants review and provide feedback on each other’s drafts

V. Handling Questions and Concerns

  • A. Active Listening Skills
    • Interactive lecture: Techniques for active listening and empathy
    • Practice session: Role-playing to address employee concerns and misunderstandings
  • B. Providing Clear and Consistent Answers
    • Workshop: Strategies for consistent communication
    • Discussion: How to escalate unresolved issues

VI. Reinforcement and Follow-Up

  • A. Recap of Key Points
    • Group discussion: Summary of the main takeaways from the training
    • Emphasizing the importance of ongoing policy communication
  • B. Resources and Support
    • Providing reference materials and contacts for further questions
    • Encouraging continuous learning and feedback

VII. Evaluation and Feedback

  • A. Training Evaluation
    • Collecting participant feedback through surveys and group discussion
    • Identifying areas for improvement based on feedback
  • B. Certification and Acknowledgment
    • Recognizing participants’ efforts and completion of the training with certificates

VIII. Closing

  • A. Final Thoughts and Encouragement
    • Trainer’s summary and reinforcement of the value of clear policy communication
    • Encouraging participants to apply what they’ve learned in their roles
  • B. Open Floor for Questions
    • Allowing time for any final questions or comments from participants

The above outline is to illustrate the balance between activities, discussion and theory.

Where do you begin when designing training?

Understanding training needs is the cornerstone of designing effective training programs.

I wrote about asking the right questions during a needs analysis. You can view it here.

This process involves thoroughly analyzing the skills, knowledge, and behaviors required for learners to perform their roles efficiently and achieve organizational goals.

The next step is to compare actual performance or outcomes with desired goals.

Any discrepancies are indicative of “gaps.”

identifying discrepancies between current and expected results.

This process helps organizations pinpoint areas needing improvement and develop strategies to bridge these gaps effectively.

This process typically begins with a gap analysis.

In this process, you will seek to identify gaps in current competencies compared to desired performance standards.

By identifying these gaps, you help your organization pinpoint specific areas where training is necessary.

If training is necessary, that is.

Sometimes, issues are not related to learning or knowledge gaps.

A problem with the team or department systems might be why employees aren’t performing at their best.

Here is an example:

In a manufacturing company, production output consistently falls short of targets due to frequent equipment breakdowns and inefficient workflow processes. A thorough analysis reveals systemic issues in maintenance scheduling and operational procedures rather than a lack of employee skills or knowledge.

This is where your subject matter experts, or SMEs, are critical.

They know the work and the systemic processes—both the formal and informal ones.

Next, focus on learning objectives.

Start by clearly defining the learning objectives and ensuring the content is relevant and immediately applicable.

I’ve written about learning objectives in my blog post about what instructional designers do. Click here to read it.

As illustrated in the sample above, interactive methods such as group discussions, hands-on activities, and problem-solving scenarios can actively engage learners.

I used the A, B, C, D method.

This is hands down the best method for me. I learned about it during my graduate studies.

Before that, my learning objectives were not measurable or observable. It’s a part of the instructional design process. Read more here about what instructional designers do.

The ABCD process for writing learning objectives is a super handy, structured approach that ensures objectives are clear, specific, and measurable.

Each letter in ABCD represents a key component that should be included in the learning objective. Here’s a detailed description of each component:

  1. A – Audience:
  • Identify who the learners are. This component specifies the target group for whom the learning objective is intended. For example, “students,” “employees,” “managers,” etc.
  • Example: “By the end of the training session, employees…”
  1. B – Behavior:
  • Define the specific behavior or performance that is expected from the learners after the training. This should be an observable and measurable action that demonstrates learning has occurred.
  • Example: “…will be able to create a project plan using project management software…”
  1. C – Condition:
  • Describe the conditions under which the behavior will be performed. This includes any tools, materials, or circumstances that will be available to the learners during the behavior performance.
  • Example: “…given access to the project management software and relevant templates…”
  1. D – Degree:
  • Specify the degree or standard of performance that is expected. This might include accuracy, speed, or quality criteria to indicate successful performance.
  • Example: “…with 90% accuracy and within two hours.”

Putting it all together, an example of a complete ABCD learning objective might be:

“By the end of the training session, employees (Audience) will be able to create (Behavior) a project plan using project management software, given access to the software and relevant templates (Condition), with 90% accuracy and within a two-hour time frame (Degree).”

Using the ABCD method ensures that learning objectives are well-defined and provide clear expectations for both instructors and learners, facilitating more effective and targeted instruction.

For more information, check out this resource I found online.

Feedback is a gift

Regular feedback and opportunities for reflection can also help learners connect new knowledge with existing understanding.

Ideas for the feedback loop include:

  1. Peer Review Sessions: Participants can present their work or role-play scenarios to their peers, who then provide constructive feedback. This method encourages collaboration and allows learners to gain diverse perspectives on their performance.

    Prepare the learners to receive feedback by ensuring they know what feedback truly is. Feedback is the process of providing positive and constructive information to someone about their performance or behavior to guide improvement and reinforce strengths.
  2. Interactive Q&A Sessions: During or after exercises, learners can ask questions and receive immediate, specific feedback from the instructor. This direct interaction helps clarify misunderstandings and reinforces learning in real time. I think this is the best way to receive and provide feedback in a workplace training environment.
  3. Written Assessments with Detailed Comments: After completing a task or exercise, learners receive written evaluations that include both positive feedback and areas for improvement.

    Detailed comments help learners understand their performance and provide clear guidance on how to enhance their skills. Peers can write the assessments in the form of stories, emojis, or some other method.

As you’re designing training, build in processes for feedback from learners, among learners, and from you as well

Structure your curriculum for success!

Another crucial part of designing training is collecting relevant information, materials, and resources that align with the training objectives.

These can include industry standards, best practices, case studies, articles, books, videos, and other instructional materials.

The following are excellent sources of information:

Instructional designers can find information about industry standards for designing training from several reliable sources:

  1. Professional Organizations: Organizations like the Association for Talent Development (ATD), International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), and eLearning Industry Association often publish standards and best practices.

  2. Government Agencies: Depending on the industry, regulatory bodies may provide guidelines for training design and compliance standards. Government agencies such as the Department of Education, Department of Labor, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration play crucial roles in setting industry standards and guidelines for adult learning. The Department of Education offers resources and regulations for educational programs, including adult education and vocational training, while the Department of Labor focuses on workforce development and skills training. These agencies contribute to the development of effective adult learning programs that meet regulatory standards and enhance workforce skills across various sectors.

  3. Industry Publications and Journals: Magazines, journals, and websites specific to the industry often feature articles and guidelines on effective training methods and compliance requirements. Instructional designers and trainers seeking to stay abreast of the latest trends in adult learning and workplace learning can find valuable insights in magazines and journals such as Training Magazine, Talent Development (formerly TD Magazine) by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), The Journal of Workplace Learning, Performance Improvement Quarterly, HR Digest, The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Magazine, and Harvard Business Review.

    These publications cover a range of topics including corporate training strategies, e-learning innovations, instructional design methodologies, leadership development, and organizational learning practices.

    By regularly reading these sources, professionals can access research, case studies, and expert perspectives that inform effective training approaches and foster continuous improvement in adult learning initiatives.

  4. Online Resources: Websites of training and development companies, educational institutions offering instructional design programs, and e-learning platforms may also provide valuable insights and resources.

  5. Networking and Conferences: Attending industry conferences, webinars, and workshops allows instructional designers to network with peers and stay updated on current trends and standards in training design.

By leveraging these resources, instructional designers can ensure their training programs meet industry standards and effectively address organizational needs.

Designing a structured curriculum involves a systematic approach to organizing and delivering content in a cohesive and logical manner.

Is it logical?

Everything must make sense in terms of process and instructional design.

What I mean is it is to be sequenced logically. This facilitates progressive learning, starting with foundational concepts and gradually building complexity.

In my experience, part of my editing process when designing training is checking for the flow.

Each module should build upon the next or lay a solid foundation for the next.

In my earlier years, I checked for normal infractions like spelling, grammar, and such. Now, I review logic.

Each module or unit should flow logically into the next, creating a seamless learning path.

In addition to content sequencing, designing a structured curriculum involves selecting proper instructional methods and activities that support different learning styles and effectively engage learners.

I am talking about lectures, discussions, hands-on exercises, case studies, simulations, and assessments.

Each component of the curriculum should be carefully planned to reinforce key concepts. Also, in my experience, this provides opportunities for practice and application.

Designing for assessment

Furthermore, a structured curriculum incorporates assessment strategies to evaluate learner progress and achievement of learning objectives.

I really like formative assessments.

Throughout the curriculum, they help monitor understanding and identify areas needing reinforcement.

In workplace training, formative assessment techniques play a crucial role in gauging employee learning and skill development.

An example could include peer reviews to foster collaboration and improve team dynamics by encouraging constructive feedback among colleagues.

Trust is an issue for this type of assessment technique.

As a result, I think it should be done later in the training process after the learners have built some rapport.

Knowledge checks are great during training sessions to assess comprehension of key concepts, ensuring that employees grasp essential information effectively. Small group “learning assessment” activities work well in workplaces.

After all, who does quizzes in workplace training? I don’t unless I use a virtual tool (like Kahoot!) and make it more like a trivia game.

Simulation exercises provide employees with opportunities to apply newly acquired skills in practical scenarios, allowing trainers to observe performance and provide immediate feedback.

These formative assessment methods monitor progress while also enhancing learning outcomes by reinforcing understanding and encouraging active participation in training activities.

It is a win-win!

The learners think they are having fun with games and activities, but you are strategically assessing their learning retention and ability to reproduce the content.

Summative Assessments

When designing training, you may also include a compilation assessment.

Summative assessments at the end of units or modules measure overall proficiency. Continuous evaluation and feedback allow for ongoing refinement of the curriculum (as a whole) to ensure it remains relevant and effective in meeting educational goals.

Think of a summative assessment in workplace learning as a final evaluation that measures the learners” overall comprehension and application of acquired knowledge and skills at the conclusion of a training program.

My final thought on designing training

Designing training is more than throwing together some data, adding a few learning activities, and baking for twenty minutes. It is a calculated process.

As you create your training experience, make sure you think about what has worked in your own learning experiences. Aim for designing engaging content that is relevant. You’ll know it is relevant because it equps learners and meets their specific needs. After learning about their optimal performance goals, you assess where they currently are and figure out a bridge to getting them where they need to be.

This step requires lots of conversation and strategy meetings. Balance activities with concepts to boost engagement.

Build solid learning objectives to measure learning and incorporate simulated experiences in the training so the learners can test, try out, and practice the training content. The feedback loop will reveal how well they accomplish the tasks and goals at hand.

Find online resources, network, and stay current on what is happening in adult learning.

Finally, build assessment into your process as you design training. Ask yourself every step of the way, “How will I know they learned this?”

Thanks for reading.

About The Author

Teri C.

I'm a Missouri training consultant specializing in teambuilidng and overall personal effectiveness.

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