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TOOL Seven Questions to Ask Before Beginning a Training Program

June 3, 1999
Related Topics: HR Services and Administration, Behavioral Training, Basic Skills Training, Tools
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Here are seven real-world questions to ask yourself while planning a training program. Click on each question for an example.

  1. Does anybody really need this training?
  2. Does everybody really need this training?
  3. How much will this cost per person, and what are the economies of scale?
  4. How can I measure the success of this program quantitatively?
  5. How can I measure the success of this program qualitatively?
  6. How quickly will this training become outdated?
  7. How will this training affect retention?
  1. Does anybody really need this training?
    You've just installed the latest version of Microsoft Word for 10 employees. Do they need to be trained for it? Or can they figure it out on their own? Keep in mind, oftentimes employees may be confident they can manage without formal training, but there may be aspects they aren't considering (in this case, there could be word-processing or graphical functions they're not aware of).

  2. Does everybody really need this training?
    You're about to open another unit of your upscale restaurant, and plan to send waitstaff to an all-day workshop on customer service and interpersonal skills. Should your bussers go? You may need to look at the overall goals of your business or organization. If you own a restaurant and your selling point is going to be customer service, you may want to train the whole staff. If turnover among bussers is sky high, and customer service isn't your first priority, you may be able to forgo the training for the bussers (though keep in mind the commitment you show by providing training may reduce turnover in the first place).

  3. How much will this cost per person, and what are the economies of scale?
    As a high school superintendent, you want to keep your staff up to date with the latest in teaching methods. There's a great conference that the 20 teachers in your high school are interested in attending, but it's 500 miles away. Will it pay to send them there? What kind of a discount can you get for 20 people? Sometimes, costs simply make a training program prohibitive for all parties; you may have to train 10 teachers now and 10 at the end of the semester.

  4. How can I measure the success of this program quantitatively?
    As the HR director for a large corporation, you're concerned about the ability of several of your employees to interact with the media and with community groups. You're considering bringing in a media-training specialist to practice skills such as dealing with reporters' tough questions. You may want to think of creative ways to measure the outcome quantitatively. Can you measure the amount of media attention (i.e. in column-inches) your company was receiving before and after the training? Can you measure the ratio of interviews to stories written about your company before and after training? Are there other measures you can use?

  5. How can I measure the success of this program qualitatively?
    Using the example from question four, think of ways to measure your outcome. Rate all newspaper clippings and broadcast reports (positive coverage, negative coverage, neutral coverage) before and after the training to measure the success. Have trainers or other employees evaluate the interviewing ability of your trainees before and after. Look for other measures.

  6. How quickly will this training become outdated?
    The hospital in which you work bills itself as an advanced medical center on the cutting-edge of health technology. You learn of a new medical test that can save time and money for doctors and nurses. What can you do to find out if this is a passing fad or a method with staying power? Will it pay to train every nurse and every doctor in the new procedure if by the time you're done it is out of vogue?

  7. How will this training affect retention?
    Your insurance company has hired lots of new employees straight out of college and has told them throughout the process that it likes to "promote from within." Are you providing managerial training to these employees? Do they know how to conduct interviews and how to draw up budgets? Make sure your company goals and your training mesh, or your employees will go somewhere where they really are being groomed for top spots.

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