It seems that we have the idea we make resolutions only at the start of a New Year. As learning and development professionals, we can make five simple resolutions for rest of this year and pave the way for more efficient and cost-effective training. Not only will you improve learning at your organization, you will continue to justify your worth in a tough economic climate.

First, promise to use needs analysis before saying, “I do” to a training request. This may be difficult in this climate, where some training organizations are hanging by a thread and expected to do whatever comes their way. But your needs analysis can be positioned as a way to get every penny’s worth of cost and time – and that’s important for organizations that are lean in pocketbook and staff.

<!–more–>When you are asked to take on a project, ask questions first. For example, a training request may arise from employee mistakes. In this case, ask what’s wrong. This question leads to a discussion of what the employee group is doing right now and how they are making the mistakes they are making. In cases where there is no apparent mistake, ask the stakeholders what the expected outcome is. Are employees supposed to learn a new process, a new product, a new system, or a combination of all three? From this, you can determine what the change is going to be – and how to focus your development and delivery efforts.

Second, make a promise to know your audience. It’s easy to get caught up in the needs analysis, delivery methods, and instructional design, but don’t forget that your entire purpose is to serve the population you’re developing for. We know that the world has changed in many ways and in a very short period of time. But we should also be aware that the emerging workforce is tech savvy and ready to learn on a need-to-know basis, and some of them may not remember a time without computers or the Internet! But then again, we have people from the “greatest generation” returning to work to supplement dwindling retirement accounts.

With all of this in mind, try to discover the learning and life characteristics of your audience during your needs analysis. If you’ve got fresh-from-college management trainees, gear your training toward their life experiences. If you have mixed groups, throw in elements from all of the groups to keep the training moving along – and to remind every trainee that the workforce is now a broad spectrum of experience and knowledge. Don’t design training based on your own experience. Know your audience and make each program work like a charm.

Third, fill your training with examples and real-life problems. Again, it’s easy to talk about procedures, customer service, and leadership from a knowledge standpoint. But if there is no application for the audience, they are losing out on the learning experience. For example, customer service training can be enhanced with case studies or scenarios in which participants must choose a reaction or outcome to the situation. Processes or regulations can be taught in the same manner: explain the rules, then create a scenario that describes a breach of rules – and have the participants solve the problem.

Fourth, in relation to examples, create the opportunity for training participants to practice at every opportunity, both in the classroom and on the job (OTJ). If you are teaching technical skills, arm participants with a quick reference guide or tutorial and then “set them loose” on a practice system. The customer service scenarios we described above can be followed by role plays, where a “customer” is given a scenario and asked to act it out with a training participant.

In relation to OTJ practice, try a new approach. Send trainees out to their jobs with a list of activities they must complete with their manager’s guidance. Create a checklist or rubric that details the activity and the expected outcome so that the manager can provide feedback and correct any errors. Make the job an extension of the classroom and you’ve just further proven your worth as a learning organization.

Finally, try to organize with your delivery staff in mind. Don’t send them to the classroom unprepared. Create a formal train the trainer program for each new course – and write the train the trainer into the formal development time for the course. Have instructors “teach back” the material in the classroom setting so that the design staff can see if their ideas work in “real life”. Have the instructors take the tests, try out the quick reference guides, and act out the role plays before they go into the classroom. With this method in place, you’ll have top- notch instructors who know every part of their program.

Times may be tough, but your learning organization can continually prove its worth by putting these five resolutions into place today.

Copyright Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.