When you start to think about designing a new training program, is your first thought something like this? “We have this knowledge about X. Our job is to try to find a way to cram all of it into people’s heads as quickly as possible.”

Without realizing it, many executives conceptualize training that way. If that kind of thinking goes unchallenged during the process of training design, the training that results will overwhelm learners. They will be trying to absorb so much information so quickly that they will feel like they are drinking from a firehose.

Before you start to plan training, slow down and ask these questions:

  • What do you want your training to do?
  • What specifically are you trying to change?
  • What outcomes are you looking for?

If you answer those questions carefully, the result will be effective training that teaches the right skills, is easily absorbed and brings about strategic change. One approach is to apply the DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) method. Let’s look at the important steps that are part of this process, which can set up your training initiative for success in just two days.

1. Begin with the End in Mind.

We all know that effective training can do a great many things for an organization. The question is, what do you want it to do for you? Have you noticed performance differences between employees in the same role and want to close the gap? Is your training just not working like you thought it would? Is there a tool, process or procedure that all employees need to adopt? It’s important for you to determine what you are trying to accomplish. That foundation will drive all your actions going forward.

2. Who Can Move the Needle?

Now that you understand what you are trying to accomplish, look at your workforce. Who has the greatest ability to impact the metric? It’s easy to overlook a scenario in which your frontline is your bottom line. Might it be your cashier or retail salesperson? Is it a manager or team leader? Is it a department? Ultimately, it’s incumbent upon an organization to identify the role or roles that can have an impact on what you’re trying to accomplish and venture through the process with them in mind.

3. Get to the Good Stuff.

While the first two steps can often be covered in a short conversation, they are essential to success. Now let’s get to the good stuff: learner-centered design. It’s not uncommon for a group of managers or executives to decide what the learner needs to know, but quite often, this audience doesn’t really have a good grasp on what the reality is at that level. Bring the experts into the conversation! Choose three to five business matter experts to join you for one or two days, and find out exactly what needs to be taught to move that needle and achieve that business goal.

4. It’s All Important … So, What Goes First?

If your employees are human, they have a natural barrier to learning: The average brain can only absorb seven (plus or minus two) concepts in a single sitting. So, if you’re gathering people in a room for a week of lectures, chances are that 90 percent of the information will be gone the following Monday. You’d experience better results if you focused on the most critical information for the learners to know and cut them loose after a day. Understanding the criticality of information is key to success. What does your learner need to know first to set them up for success or avoid failure?

5. Benchmark and Define Best Practices.

What solutions have other businesses found for the kind of training you are developing? Remember, you don’t always have to re-invent the wheel. An experienced training development company that knows what has worked at other companies can save costly time and resources lost from simple unintended missteps.

6. Design and Develop.

Now you know what, when and how the knowledge should be delivered, you’re ready to design and develop. (By the way, it’s only been about two weeks since you started!) If you’re building a whole curriculum, remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Building good training, like any other discipline, requires talent and time. You will need instructional designers, developers, software, subject matter experts and a dependable project manager to deliver a sustainable training program. Start working on highly critical information, deliver it in “chunks” and build on foundational knowledge to achieve lasting success.

7. It’s Time to Deploy … but the Job is Not Over.

Remember the conversation you had with yourself about the needle you are trying to move? Well, it’s time to get out the speedometer and keep a sharp eye on that needle. How will you measure impact? Are you measuring behavior change? Do you have a system in place to measure the business needle? Once you deploy, watch the needle; did it move in the first 30, 60 or 90 days? Did it move backward or forward? All these data will drive your decisions in future phases of training as your proficiency grows.

8. Bake Your Values, Vision and Leadership Into the Training.

Every organization would agree that its leadership, vision and values are at the heart of success. Infuse your training assets with these characteristics, from the words you use to the scenarios you present as models. Training is a massive opportunity for a group to instill and reinforce these organizational elements with their employees.