Published in May/June 2019
It’s simple to say that understanding a learner’s needs is the key to successfully designing and delivering effective training solutions. As training professionals, we often get caught up in focusing our energy on creating engaging content and losing focus on how to facilitate behavior change. While content can be entertaining and memorable, if it falls short of truly changing behavior based on the needs of the business, then the time spent in training is wasted.
From where I sit, designing great content is not just about understanding the learner, we must also understand the environment in which the learner works and learns. Therefore, I’d like to recommend six keys to understanding a learner’s overall environment, which will allow you to consider the broader learning experience.
- Understand What Learners Do
Designing training for a specific role requires fully understanding the job of each learner. Breaking down a job into elements or tasks is fundamental to truly understanding a job and eventually teaching a learner how to proficiently complete the job. Understanding the tasks and the time it takes to complete each task proficiently is a true deep dive in understanding a job done well.
- Understand Why a Job Should Be Done a Certain Way
Understanding why a job should be done a particular way provides incentive and motivation for employees to do the little things needed to be successful. Communicating the benefits to the organization and the employee is critical to helping learners understand the purpose behind each required task. If the meaning of our job is only to complete mundane tasks, then job satisfaction will be low with little motivation to do more than is necessary.
- Understand the Risks of Doing a Job Incorrectly
Doing a job incorrectly will always have consequences. The risks of failure may be as simple as negative feedback from a client or it could be as serious as risk of life or bodily harm. Regardless of the magnitude, helping the learner understand the consequences of failure will help them to be conscientious about performing each task correctly. Of course, teaching how to respond to a crisis is critical, but preventing it from occurring is what the training is all about.
- Understand What Motivates Learners
Success in a profession, just like success in life, is defined differently for every individual. Every employee has their own motivational triggers. Understanding what motivates our learners can help us more effectively design learning experiences and add elements that may improve employee performance.
- Understand What Hinders Learners from Doing the Job Correctly
Oftentimes, jobs are not properly designed and do not provide the necessary information or tools to successfully perform the job. These hinderances can prevent high-level success on the job. When designing training, training professionals have a responsibility to the business to communicate any of these hinderances to those responsible for the job design to prevent failure, risks or economic impact. We must teach employees to recognize these hinderances and communicate when they need more resources to perform a job.
- Understand the Process of How a Learner Should Master a Job
Every job has a preferred process for a learner to become proficient. The process for learning how to play a piano is different from the process of learning the skills to be a nursing assistant. Therefore, designing a learning system for each job should be specific to the tasks, job motivations, risks and hinderances associated with that role. It takes understanding how to integrate classroom, on-the-job, on-demand, and social learning experiences into one learning system to get the learner to proficiency as quickly as possible.