Successful training programs don’t just happen. They come from knowing exactly what the sessions must accomplish for the business, the department, your sponsor, and the participants. And it all starts with understanding the real requirements.
Go into planning meetings with stakeholders prepared. Create a template of the type of information you need to gather from sponsors and spend 10 to 30 minutes gathering the key information you need.
Before you begin the interview process, determine the critical contacts you need to speak with to fully understand the learning objectives and desired business results.
While numerous people will have an interest in the training, including the sponsor, stakeholders (such as the participants themselves and their managers), and subject matter experts, you may only need to interview a few to gather a complete set of requirements.
Implement questioning techniques
Begin by gathering strategic information while the contact is fresh and alert in the meeting. Ask open-ended questions that require a person to offer an expository response.
End the meeting with tactical, easy-to-answer questions, such as delivery details. You’ll know your questioning technique is working when your head is full of ideas for the design of the program.
Gather business expectations and training requirements
Be sure to gather your sponsor’s and any executive stakeholder’s expectations. Even the best training won’t be praised if it doesn’t meet management expectations and business objectives, so it’s important to ask what they want to accomplish. What do they expect participants to do differently after the program? How will they know? Build their training objectives into your course.
Understand the vision
Understand what the sponsor’s vision is for the training program before getting started. For example, they may have certain expectations (such as who will be involved in the training, the method to use, and duration) that you’re not planning for.
By understanding their vision, you’ll stand a better chance of hitting their target.
Get to the hidden issues
The person you are interviewing won’t hold back information on purpose, but she may not realize there’s important information that can help you build a program that will better address her business objectives.
To get the complete information you need, question fully and listen carefully for answers that will help you prioritize the training content and your program.
Identify the expected behavior change
Different from business expectations, you want to know exactly what change in participants’ on-the-job behavior is expected as a result of the program.
Use this information to determine what activities and reinforcement will be required to ensure behavior change occurs.
Validate your findings
Validate your findings from interviews with the executive sponsor to ensure your strategy and plan are in line with their expectations.
Determine the ROI
Determine the business return the sponsor is expecting from this training – both financial results (productivity increases) and soft benefits (employee morale increases).
If you can identify the ROI the sponsor is looking for, you can craft more effective learning objectives, and ultimately will know the topics to train and design to use.
Consult from experience
Always remember that you, as a trainer, bring a wealth of experience from your training expertise. Speak from the experience you have and offer training recommendations based on your expertise.
Clarify that training is the right solution to address the business need and validate that training the target audience will drive the desired return on investment.