Customising training plans by individual can be done automatically with the help of technology but how to go about getting it set up?
Training plans are essential for all businesses to grow their skills base and improve quality. Technology can give everyone the personal attention they need.
This article is a business management article not a technical specification.
- Getting the team together (30 minutes)
- Working out the materials (3 hours)
- Figuring out the training plan ( A few hours )
- Delivering the plan ( A final few hours )
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Getting the team together (30 minutes)
The first part of the puzzle is very simple. Who needs to be involved?
First up is the project organiser, this is probably you, so for the rest of this article I will aim the conversation at you to help.
- Ops Manager. You need an operations manager who knows the ins and outs of what is being done, someone who knows the products / services that need training on. This is the primary customer as they will sign off on any operational change.
- Trainer. Next up the training manager, the person you trust to deliver your training.
- Students. Two case study students are next, someone tech averse but knows how things work (NoTech) and someone tech savy who doesn’t know all that much (Techie).
This is your perfect group. Close will also do.
Most people know they need training but not specifically be able to quantify why. The answer is quality and training helps to improve quality.
You can get the project started in a day and then refine over a long time. It’s surprisingly quick but you’re not going to be doing the heavy lifting.
As for how long the others spend at it.
- Ops will be 1 to 2 days but it doesn’t have to be consecutive
- Trainer will be 3 to 4 days.
- NoTech will be 1 to 2 days
- Techie will be 1 to 2 days
What you need, resources wise
A room with no distractions is ideal. A computer in the room with a big screen so people can share. If everyone has their own laptops that’s a bonus but not required.
People need to bring their own training materials that they have lying around. Even if it’s scraps of paper just bring it with you cause this is what you use to train with. If people have existing training plans they’re also useful.
A white board with a marker for everyone is a fun way to encourage engagement. If you haven’t got a white board… post it notes and pens also work. See if everyone can have their own colour.
If you have quality control assessments like call sheets, tests or staff appraisal forms they are very handy too.
You’re all set. See how easy this is so far? It remains this easy.
Working out the materials (3 hours)
So you’re all in a room and you have 3 hours. Start at 10am and work till 1pm. Turn the email and mobiles off, this is a sprint.
What roles are you developing training for? Not every role is going to be looked at. Your two experts Techie and NoTech are going to have particular areas of focus.
Now you’re going to ask the people present a very simple question.
“If I was to do this role and you had to ask me questions to check I knew what I was talking about, what questions would you ask me?”
Let the creative juices flow and you’ll be surprised what comes out. When the initial slew of ideas are up some areas to check are:
- How to use the systems
- Product / services details
- Common issues / sticking points in conversations and where to get the answers
- Legal compliance questions
- In your head that isn’t written
- Stuff you learn on the job
- Issues that aren’t taught in Initial training
- Not doing the job properly means someone else has to clean up. What bits should be done that are often missed
- What is in current training plans that is useful / not useful.
Give the team and yourself about 50 minutes. Photograph the whiteboard / post it notes so you can read who put what where.
Coffee and if people smoke now is the time yet be strict in keeping the break to 10 minutes. For me a stretch of the legs is always welcome.
Finding the answers
Have a quick word with the training manager and ask them to get ready to scribble fast. Their input is needed in this exercise too but this is mostly for their benefit.
Working through each question “Where would I go to get the answer to this question?”
The answers will give you the follow
- Training plans
- Online resources
- In people’s heads
For the notes and in people’s heads is great news for the trainer as you’ve just done a complete “gap analysis”. Training is about to get a whole lot more effective.
Again no more than 50 minutes with a strict 10 minute toilet and coffee break I have found works best.
“Like to knows” and “checking the thinking”
The last stage has two parts. The first part is 20 minutes max.
“If a person in this role could benefit from particular skills what skills would they be?”
This stage is to try to understand the soft / support skills that make a difference. What makes the best people the best and where the not so hot people really need to brush. Sometimes this is expressed as a feeling rather than definite skills. Ask the trainer to turn the notes into post it notes / write on the white board in terms of questions where possible.
Using the remaining 30 minutes make the following statement.
“I’m going to read through the questions you put here and I want you to tell me… if I could answer all these questions I would be good at my job and could answer everything that comes up on a day to day basis”
Use this time to sense check the questions. Edit the questions or add / remove questions as needed. You’re just reading back to them what they’ve put but you’ve changed the perspective. You’re asking them to be examiners checking on newbies to get them ready
See if you can finish early and then have lunch. During lunch / casual chats see if anything else comes up in discussion.
Invite people to email you with any thoughts or ideas that come to them over the next few hours / days.
“Thank you for your time this has been really helpful. I’ll have an update for you in a week.”
Figuring out the training plan ( A few hours )
Putting it all together
With the training manager you need some time. It varies from project to project but a couple of hours will get through most of it. Start a spreadsheet with three columns
- Question: These are in the form you did in section 3 above.
- Answer: This is where the training materials from section 2 are important.
- Importance: Leave this blank for the moment.
Anything that’s in people’s heads, personal notes or not written down anywhere is work for the Training Manager to work on. Get it into Word documents, notepad, anything. You can even use new staff, interns or people with available time to help. It just has to be written down.
When the answer is written down put it all in one big Word document and update the Answer in the spreadsheet with where to find it. I personally like using Words section numbering but anything that works for you. Effective you’ve just shored up all your training plans as you now have training material for everything.
Send the spreadsheet to the operations manager. Ask them to fill out the column by putting a score from 1 to 10 beside each question in column C.
With this material back is where we turn to technology to help us out. We need two things.
- Somewhere to store the training material so that everyone can access it.
A learning management system (LMS) if you have one, if not get one.
- Something to build a survey or quality control (QC) / quality assurance (QA) form on.
There are a number of software options available. I built bxp software to do this and have also used ScoreBuddy.
You can use Excel but it can complicated and messy and the reporting ain’t great. bxp also has an email facility called SMARTER plans which can email the person a list of the items they need to study.
Refining the model
You now have a survey and training plans.
Invite your knowledgeable NoTech volunteer to work through the questions grading a piece of their work. Time how long it takes to get through the questions once.
Any where the NoTech get’s less than full marks you know they need training. The NoTech should score very highly.
Where they get less than full marks you know exactly where to point them for training. A personalised training plan based on the individual’s real world needs.
Let them study the training for the amount of time that’s fair to study it. Then reapply the survey.
Repeat until the NoTech gets a very good high mark. 95% plus.
When done you actually have a working model now.
Now apply the model to Techie. They should start with a very low score and quickly repeat to get a very high score.
Delivering the plan ( A final few hours )
Delivering the results to the team
A week later get the Operations manager and the Trainer back in a room, this will only take an hour.
From your two test cases you can say to the Operations manager,
“An experienced employee took X goes to get a good score and inexperienced improved by Y% over Z attempts. Each survey takes A minutes to complete. Every person who gets a score less than optimal has their training plan already built for them as the answers link to where the training is. Are you happy to have this model put into action?”
“We have followed the PDCA, Plan Do Check Act model of quality assurance, a proven quality methodology. All training material is available to staff. When would you like to start?”
Before you deliver training plans en mass
Communication is key here.
Training plans can be seen as insulting to experienced people and something to be feared by less skilled employees. Are they looking for a way to get rid of me?
People don’t like change as a result there is an exercise in preparing people for an operational change. Do people really know what training plans are for?
If you are surveying calls you can do this in house or outsource it to an objective company can reduce internal friction or bias.
You can actually run the entire setup process without even telling the staff and just keep their scores from them. This allows you to refine your questions, answers, training material and scoring without offending anyone.
When you’re ready let people know what change is coming by supplying an empty questionnaire to them and explain the process. Allow them review all training materials before you perform even one survey.
Where you have unions or groups sensitive to “isolation / ostracization” providing group sessions to review the survey before it is mass implemented can be beneficial. I’ve seen solutions to quality systems where no one person’s name is used and only demographic information is captured.
People need to understand the benefits of quality improvements and business optimisation processes. These articles might help you to clarify with your team.
Quality is a continuous virtuous circle but it does take time and commitment. It is not a solo effort and can work brilliantly by getting multiple people to buy in.
- Your trainer now has definite material to focus on. Good reporting can focus on where training materials need to be refined. The personalised training plans are writing themselves.
- Operations manager can get reports on how the operation is doing in all the key areas they identified. The LMS and QC systems should allow them explore the key performance indicators as they require.
- Staff have a much clearer understanding of what is needed of them and have training material to answer any questions without fear or shame of their peers.
- Staff also only have to review material they didn’t get perfect instead of having to work through training en mass saving hundreds of hours in wasted training time.
- Localised managers have concrete feedback to work on their teams with.
You have delivered a successful quality program… congratulations… now to refine it.