Employee training: a 4-step buyer's guide.

Author:Piccinini, Ned R.
Position:Workforce CENTRAL

When your business becomes aware of the need for a learning solution--typically continued education or advanced employee training--it is important to know exactly what to look for.

Businesses today expect corporate training and learning solutions to enhance employee performance, which in turn should improve quality, reduce costs and increase profitability. The most sophisticated organizations treat training and learning solutions as the means to achieving a strategic business advantage.

To help your business navigate the marketplace more easily and effectively, use this four-step road map.

Step 1: Needs analysis. The training provider should understand the intended audience, key messages and overall business strategy that the training program is to affect. This begins with a full and frank discussion, followed by a needs analysis and practical research, consistent with established educational principles. Research might take many paths, including:

* Study of previously used materials (maybe the wheel need only be updated, not reinvented).

* A look at materials from other fields used in similar circumstances.

* Seeing what the competition is doing.

Within the organization, the learning solutions provider must not just understand the people being trained, but also their organization's culture. Some questions to ask prospective learning solutions providers include:

* What are the reading and visual comprehension and experience levels and educational backgrounds of the intended learners?

* What has worked in the past and what hasn't?

* Is learning--and, change in some cases--an accepted part of the organization?

* Who are the key individuals and groups who have ownership of the training's success?

* Where does senior management stand on training in general, and this project in particular?

Step 2: Training tools. This is where the provider begins to draw from its arsenal of training tools. The possibilities can be bewildering, but the key is selecting the proper instructional format to achieve the organization's and the project's goals.

For example:

* No sense producing an expensive DVD when trainees will not have access to DVD machines and screen output--and an "old-fashioned" paper manual will do the job better, at less cost and with shorter production time.

* For time-sensitive briefing of a national sales force, a real-time, satellite or Web-based broadcast may be the ticket.

* Instruction of isolated repair technicians who need to be able to...

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