In the modern workplace, training content development has moved beyond writing a thorough facilitator’s guide or crafting a handy job aid. It’s even gone beyond relaying the information workers need to execute tasks on the job. Great training organizations understand that the development of training content is integral to upholding company culture, enhancing the overall performance of the workforce and achieving business objectives.

“In order to motivate, engage and retain our workforce, along with improving efficiencies and increasing the success of the business, high-quality, flexible content is indispensable,” says Julie Kirsch, CPTM, director of training and development at Calibre CPA Group, PLLC. Let’s assess the best practices great training organizations leverage to ensure training content serves the business’ strategic goals as well as the unique needs of the employees.

Reinforce Learning With Experiential and Job-relevant Post-training Activities

Great training organizations understand that they should not focus on one-time training events. “Don’t just assume learning has occurred,” says Dr. Bill Brantley, CPTM, senior human resources specialist at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “It’s the Monday-morning phenomena: I take a great training class, I get back to my desk on Monday and I’ve probably forgotten half of what I learned in that class last week.”

To ensure your training content doesn’t result in scrap learning, engage learners with hands-on post-training materials that contain job-relevant information to keep learning top of mind. This content may come in the form of case studies developed by subject matter experts (SMEs) to offer a practical application of the principles taught in the classroom or post-training assessments to check learner comprehension. “Training organizations can’t have the mindset [that] one training solution fits the company,” says Trent Bartholomew, CPTM, lead instructional designer and course manager for safety, compliance and training at Amtrak.

Offer “robust and experiential learning opportunities that take place over a period of time” by incorporating activities such as pre- and post-classroom reinforcement and social learning, says Kirsch. “It’s important that learning and training leaders help people develop the required competencies in the most effective and efficient way and to support the transfer of learning to the job.”

Don’t Assume the Latest Trends and Technologies Are Suited to Your Learners

It can be tempting to gravitate toward modern authoring tools with the latest and greatest in content development and curation capabilities. However, just because a technology promises a sleek, intuitive user interface and rapid content development capabilities doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your learners or your organization.

More important than implementing all the latest trends is the ability to engage employees in learning at the point of need. “Just because the industry says eLearning [and] social learning are the best formats or the most current doesn’t mean [they’re] right for your learners,” says Kirsch. “Keep an open mind to how they learn, and meet their needs.”

It’s important to remember where your learners are going to use the skills and knowledge your training seeks to instill. In Amtrak’s case, workers are often performing tasks and repairs in warehouses or on train tracks. In this environment, pulling workers off the job to complete an eLearning module takes them away from their work — and not having the hands-on application and guidance necessary for technical procedures creates a high-risk work environment. Bartholomew says, “[Employees are] out putting breaks on a train engine wheel. They’re on the ground — literally on the ground. They’re in a big shop. There’s no computer there.”

To meet the needs of their learners, Amtrak developed a YouTube channel containing “short demonstration videos,” says Bartholomew. Developing these videos enabled Amtrak to both enhance the training and keep employees learning back on the job. You don’t have to have the most modern tool, but you do need one that will enable you to create content that’s memorable, accessible and relevant to your learners.

Listen to the Business and Your Learners

Strategic alignment is the foundation of any great training organization, and strategic alignment between training content and the needs of the business is the first step in identifying and developing the skills your workforce needs to drive business results. In highly effective training organizations, training content reflects the company’s culture, mission and objectives. Bartholomew shares that training content should “[meet] the needs of the learners and the company, because if you just focus on one or the other, you might miss the boat.”

To achieve strategic alignment, learning leaders must listen to their stakeholders, including their learners. Often, training requests come from well-intentioned executives who see a need for training and prescribe a solution without fully understanding the problem at hand. In these instances, Brantley suggests asking, “What is the problem we’re trying to solve, and what impact do you want to have on the person?”

Great training organizations design training content that’s optimized to engage learners, with job-relevant materials that support behavior change. “Effective training content should support informal learning — including coaching and mentoring, on-the-job instruction, apprenticeships, shadowing, [and] action-based learning, with the added component of on-demand access to eLearning,” says Kirsch.

Training content is a powerful resource for training managers to equip employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to drive business outcomes. Great training organizations recognize that content development must be strategically aligned to the company’s goals and the learners’ needs to optimize business performance.