After the frantic runs through the mall, the overabundance of food, and hectic schedules of the holidays, at last we find time to sit back, reflect, and prepare for the coming year… which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions! We all make them to better our lives, at least that is the goal, right? We usually think to exercise more, eat healthier, find balance, but let’s not forget about our professional lives! In many organizations, employees often undertake this reflective exercise for their professional development under the pretext of annual management by objectives (MBOs). Trainers – whose goal is to manage the intangible and create tangible outputs – often find it difficult to outline their objectives, and therefore go about their day-to-day activities without an overall roadmap of their training activities.
It can be difficult to set training goals for the business cycle. Insufficient time, lack of a clear organizational strategy, and external market drivers all come into play when planning for upcoming training activities. For all those corporate trainers out there, here are the most common training mistakes (and tips on how to avoid them in 2011) to consider in the MBO planning phase:
1. Not Evaluating the Needs of All Stakeholders:
Successful training programs emerge from the overall organizational needs, and tie into real performance challenges. Anticipate the needs of your learners by evaluating where the organization is heading (product launches, corporate restructuring, recruitment); this should serve as foundation of which training components will be covered in the fiscal year. Avoid the “nice to have trainings” or the “I’ve always wanted to try that approach” – these are indications that you are heading for trouble.
Also, involve different members of the target audience in the development phase. Having champions with different levels of experience and knowledge will make sure you respond to the diverse needs of your learners.
2. Choosing the Wrong Medium for the Message
The content should determine which instructional approach to be used. It would be wasteful to create a print-based manual to teach problem solving skills, just as it can be inefficient to create a workshop on standard policies and procedures. Make sure you take time to consider the instructional delivery based on the content and organizational culture.
3. Not Dedicating Time and Attention to the Instructional Message Design
Training materials do not need all the bells and whistles of a marketing pitch, but they certainly need a visually appealing design. Further, you need to ask yourself: what do learners need to know about the topic, which areas are most difficult to master, and how should I deliver the message? Remember the fundamentals of communication: data transmitted becomes information when it’s processed and understood by the receiver (learner).
Make the training fun and engaging. No one appreciates sitting in a 3-hour didactic lecture where the end result is cognitive overload!
4. Rushing the Development, Comprising Quality
Often the reality is that once the budget is committed, the project has to be developed and delivered within the fiscal year. This sometimes puts trainers in a difficult predicament where they are tempted to scale down the development, or favour shorter timelines at the expense of the overall quality. Rather than deliver an unfinished product, it is wiser to phase the delivery of the program, breaking it into smaller individual pieces.
Also, always make sure to dedicate project hours towards pilot testing the course content. Just as software developers conduct beta tests on their systems, instructional designers need to do the same. This allows you to see how a sample of learners interact with the material, and if any final changes need to be made before it goes into production.
We wish you great success in 2011! With proper planning, you can set yourself apart and further reinforce the importance of training in organizational development. In the words of personal time management author Alan Lakein: “planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now”.