Great training programs are strategically aligned to business goals. However, even the most strategically developed learning initiatives won’t achieve business results without effective delivery. As Kathryn Connolly, CPTM, director of global talent development at WEX Inc., explains, “Companies invest in learning to achieve [their] goals and [improve] performance,” but if training is not delivered in a way that achieves “positive knowledge transfer,” organizations will be left to retrain employees and/or provide additional coaching hours — wasting time and resources many organizations can’t afford to spare. In other words, she says, “Effective delivery of training is essential to maximize bottom-line results for the business.”
Through over a decade of research, Training Industry has found that training delivery, a term referring to how learning initiatives are presented to learners, is one of the key process capabilities of great training organizations.
Types of Delivery
Just as the training function has evolved over time, so has the ways in which it has delivered learning and development (L&D) initiatives, says Dr. Bill Brantley, CPTM, program manager for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s career coaching program. For example, he began his career as a training professional using “stand-and-deliver,” PowerPoint-based “sage on the stage” delivery before quickly realizing its limitations — including, significantly, disengagement. Now, he delivers training in myriad ways, from short videos to role-play to self-guided delivery.
Although Training Industry research found that instructor-led training (ILT) has long been a popular way to deliver training that resonates with a majority of learners, the coronavirus pandemic has forced organizations to embrace remote learning, with virtual instructor-led training (VILT), eLearning, interactive training videos and other virtual delivery formats taking center stage. In fact, Training Industry’s ongoing pulse survey has found that 73% of learning leaders are now delivering training virtually, compared to 50% before the pandemic.
While remote learning has eliminated the “need and complexity” of travel associated with ILT, Connolly says, “it has also challenged us to maintain the relationships we have [with our learners].” As most learners still benefit from face-to-face interaction, L&D professionals must incorporate “relationship-building” into remote learning. Pairing remote learning with virtual one-on-one coaching sessions, for example, can create a personalized learning experience where learners can focus on their unique goals.
Training videos can also help personalize the remote learning experience. For example, Trent Bartholomew, CPTM, lead instructional designer and course manager at Amtrak, says that creating training videos using the company’s own instructors and employees has been especially impactful because “the trainees recognize many of the people in the videos.”
While creating training videos internally may seem daunting at first, it is easier than one might think. After all, “we’re not creating polished movies here,” Bartholomew says. Even a two-to-five minute instructional video can effectively explain complex processes and concepts.
Selecting a Delivery Method
With so many ways to deliver training, selecting the right one can be a challenge. To determine which delivery method is right for your learning initiative, consider the following factors:
Training must be delivered with your unique learners in mind. Connolly explains that in addition to learners’ preferences, “we need to understand and learn about [the] cultures [where] our company does business so we can adapt.” Localizing courses to audience needs, and partnering with translation vendors when necessary, can extend your training program’s reach.
Effective delivery does not look the same across learning initiatives. For example, Brantley says, while self-guided training and brief videos are effective for knowledge transfer, interactive simulations and role-play are more appropriate when helping learners practice specific skills. Organizations should always deliver training according to the content at hand.
One of the primary challenges with the delivery process is time and resources, Brantley says. For instance, while advanced simulations may prove the best way to deliver a certain training initiative, “We [often] don’t have the time or money to develop these training delivery vehicles … So, we settle for a PowerPoint with a group discussion.” Training professionals should refer to their L&D plans to determine which delivery methods are out of reach and which are accessible.
Of course, training initiatives are not limited to one delivery method. In fact, Bartholomew believes blended learning is “by far” one of the best delivery methods, because it “mirrors how adults learn and maximizes everyone’s time.”
The Future of Training Delivery
COVID-19 has highlighted what many L&D professionals already knew: Remote learning is not going anywhere. Brantley says the rise in remote learning is “one of the most positive outcomes” of the pandemic. Connolly agrees, adding that after the pandemic, “We will see new technologies [and] new ideas for learning, and we will have completely shifted our way of thinking when it comes to development and delivery methodologies.”
In today’s uncertain business environment, effective delivery is more important than ever, because it positions L&D initiatives for success. Through strategic selection and an openness to emerging modalities, learning leaders can master the art of training delivery and take their training courses from good to great.