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10 Steps to Successful Product Launch Training

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We often support clients with complex products to bring to market. The product launch training can be even more complex. With so many different customer types and messages, it can be a lot to cover.

So if you want your training to drive results, it must be carefully designed and implemented. Doing one without the other is a sure way to fail.

Careful consideration must be made to identifying the right goals during the design phase, getting necessary buy-in and designing solutions that help the right groups of learners acquire the right knowledge and skills at the right time.

Characteristics of Successful Product Launch Training

Every product launch curriculum design project is different, but certain characteristics remain consistent across most projects. Product launch curriculums that have these characteristics are much more likely to contribute to a successful product launch.

1. Performance focused: A successful product launch curriculum will have a clear, measurable, actionable performance outcome. The outcome typically focuses on a specific metric the organization desires to achieve.

2. Instructional goal(s): In addition to a performance or business outcome, the curriculum should have a clear instructional goal. The goal will guide the creation of learning objectives for the various solutions in the curriculum.

3. Organized into topics: Since most product launches are complex and relate to multiple different job types, the content must be chunked into topics. Branding should be created around each topic that is consistent throughout the curriculum so learners can make easy connections.

4. Organized into phases: We design most product launch curriculums around three main phases: pre-launch, launch, and post-launch. Pre-launch materials present introductory concepts, product knowledge, and competitor information. Launch provides an opportunity for hands-on practice and a time for building some “buzz.” Post-launch focuses on reinforcement and usually includes just-in-time reference tools.

5. Includes multiple learning paths: It’s highly unlikely that all of the employees who will take your product launch training have the exact same role or position. Make sure that product launch training materials are relevant and customized to each target audience: managers, sales, support and sometimes even the end user.

6. Broken into chunks: You likely have multiple topics to cover in your product launch training. Consider breaking the topics into manageable chunks, and spread them out in the different phases. Varying levels of detail should be present in each phase, but the content must all connect.

7. Blended: New product launches, especially when the product is complex, are too important to deliver through a single format. We recommend a blended learning approach that combines eLearning, games, video, apps, instructor-led training, and performance support tools into a cohesive collection of learning solutions.

8. Supported throughout the organization: Your L&D department or an external vendor cannot create effective product launch training materials without buy-in and information from your marketing and product development departments. Sales will also want buy-in on the approaches used to train reps.

9. Helpful to on-site trainers: You will need to include “train the trainer” sessions in your curriculum so that individuals are prepared to lead the on-site activities at your product launch event. These learners will have special needs that differ from those of individual reps.

10. Measured with assessments: It is important that facilitators can accurately determine the progress learners make. You can also show learners the progress they have made throughout the curriculum with an assessment, which helps motivate them to continue. Finally, you can show stakeholders that the product launch curriculum has been effective.

Putting it all together

By executing on these ten characteristics, you can be sure that your product launch will be a success. Sales reps will go out with the confidence and competence they need to succeed.

But some of these tips can be harder to implement than others. It’s important to communicate the value that this training can provide to all stakeholders. Sure it can be hard to drum up the extra resources needed to reinforce the learning, but what’s the alternative? Sales reps forgetting that customer type B has no need for product feature A and blowing a six-figure sale.

So now that we’ve covered the bases, reach out to us if you need any help planning, creating, or implementing your own product launch training.

How to Integrate Product Knowledge Into Your Launch Curriculum

It’s here! The time has come! Your company’s new product is about to launch and it’s time for the launch event. Reps are flown in from all over the country, or the world, to learn about the new product they will be selling. Excitement is high and, ideally, reps will leave enthusiastic and ready to sell. But amidst all the hype, what will they actually take away from the meeting? What will they learn?

Most importantly, will your reps be ready to effectively sell that new product after a day of information sharing? Probably not.

When a new product launches, a huge assortment of new facts and knowledge must be internalized by the reps who will sell and support it. Many product launches consist of a single in-person launch meeting, as described above, or series of regional meetings. Reps receive the new information and are expected to leave the meeting start applying it in customer conversations.

If the organization is highly spread out, the local and country-specific groups will have to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date as well. This is a tall order.

So in the midst all of the excitement that surrounds a product launch, what is the best way to present the new knowledge to sales reps? How will they become familiar with features and benefits, strengths and weaknesses, and ways to position the product against competitors?

Our Product launch framework

In her white paper on learning solutions that support product launches, Nancy Harkness presents the product launch curriculum as a set of learning solutions broken into three parts. We use this framework with most of our clients:

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Product knowledge has a place in each one of these three parts. The key is placing the right amount of detail in each phase of the launch.

Turn Product Knowledge Into Pre-work

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In the curricula we design and develop, we typically teach basic facts and introductory knowledge via a series of prelaunch solutions. These solutions are usually online and consist of eLearning courses, games, videos, and mobile apps. Reps can start learning about the new product in small chunks whenever it is convenient for them to do so. This way, they arrive at the launch meeting with at least some exposure to the new product knowledge and competitive landscape before face-to-face activities begin.

Cover the Highlights During Launch

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While product knowledge is emphasized heavily in the prelaunch online solutions, we also design in-person activities that reinforce key takeaways during the launch. A product launch event should go far beyond a lecture format and include a variety of hands-on activities, breakout sessions, and games to achieve lasting impact. Only key product and competitor information should be discussed in the launch meeting; information that is “nice to know” should be reserved for resources they can find and locate on the job.

Continuous Reinforcement Via Reference Tools

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Most of the product launches we support are for highly complex products. No matter how effective the courses, games, and in-person activities are, reps are bound to forget certain details without proper reinforcement. Some product information might change over time as well, so organizations need a way to push new content to the reps.

To keep product knowledge top of mind, a content management system can be used to make key guides, videos, and job aids easy to find. In most cases, making these resources mobile-friendly is an absolute necessity for on-the-go sales reps.

View our Product Launch Webinar Recording

Leanne Batchelder and myself partnered with Training Magazine to present a webinar on product launch learning solutions. Learn more and view the recording below.

Time for Training? 11 Rules for a Better Product Launch

Launching a product? The following is an excerpt from Nancy’s Harkness’ new white paper: Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: The Secret to Success


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There are as many ways to learn about a new product as there are new products! Consider the following decision points:

Prelaunch Training:

  1. If you are limited on time, specifically analyze what learners have to know, versus what they can look up. Focus your training on the few key items that your learners need to know and recall—incorporate practice and repetition as much as you can in your tight timeframe. On a parallel path, create a robust support system so that they can quickly and easily look up what you did not have time to teach them before launch.
  2. If your new launch is similar to one learners have experienced in the past, do not start from the beginning. Use the knowledge they already have—tell them what is the same, and what is different, from what they already know. Reinforce their current knowledge, and focus your repetition and practice on the new or changed information or skills.
  3. When you have a large volume of information to teach, give them time to learn it. Weave the information together to increase retention: teach a new concept, then harken back to a previous concept, then reinforce the new one and move on to a different idea. Make sure you have time to repeat and use the information. It is tempting to touch on each concept once and move on because you have “so much to cover.” Do not give in to temptation! In most cases, mentioning something once makes the teacher feel better, but it does nothing for the learner. They forget unless they repeat, use, and get feedback.
  4. Use stories, not bullets, to help learners learn. Can you create a metaphor for your key product concept? Do you have customer success stories to share? Can you create a learning agent to guide the learner through the launch? Give learners a story to connect the product to real usage!
  5. Prelaunch training used to be dry—a set of fact sheets or a series of research results. Facts and research results are often critical to product launch success, yes. But putting them in the context of product success, customer problems and needs, and real-world results takes dry fact and ignites it into memorable learning.

Launch Training:

  1. Whether gathering sales reps for a company-wide meeting or conducting smaller training events, remember that one experience rarely creates lasting change. A launch meeting alone is less successful than a series of events that help learners incorporate the learning into their daily sales or support routines.
  2. Make sure the launch event is a learning event as well as an excitement and entertainment event. Hype only lasts until the next hype; learning creates lasting change.

Post-Launch Training:

  1. Post-launch training is better called “using launch information.” If the first use is long after the launch event is over, how do learners practice between the event and real life? What normal events—meetings, training, conversations, newsletters—incorporate the new information and skills? How can reinforcement become part of the way you do business?
  2. If your product launch is delayed after training, what are you doing to keep the information in memory? Do your learners need to retrieve it and use it on a regular basis? Are you expanding their knowledge base and skill level as you learn more in anticipation of your launch? Or, if they do forget, how will you reestablish their learning later?
  3. What are you doing to support the efforts of local leaders? What are their learning priorities, and how are you making them happen?
  4. As you begin launch planning, think about follow-up systems. Is a key skill finding information after launch quickly? If so, build the support system first and incorporate using it into every aspect of the launch… don’t just save it as an afterthought.

Designing a Product Launch Curriculum

This is an excerpt from our white paper, Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: The Secret to Success. Here is a section on designing product launch curriculums:


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Designing the curriculum

Every launch curriculum is different, and has different needs based on what learners currently know, what the product is, etc. For some companies, the launch training begins years before the launch meeting, as the audience needs to learn a variety of foundational information before they even get to the new product information. In other cases, the launch training happens in a compact window right before the product launches in the market.

Many companies define a launch with the internal launch meeting: an event several weeks or months before the external launch that gets sales representatives and others ready for the external launch. Given the “launch meeting” model, we find that there are three phases to the launch training that help ensure success.

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Prelaunch training

Prelaunch training establishes fundamental facts, processes and knowledge. Take learning facts out of the launch meeting itself – it is not the best use of the face-to-face environment. This phase should also focus on facts that learners need to know, not look up – if they can look it up, teach them the skill of looking it up, and give them the right tools to do so quickly. Don’t waste your time having them memorize things that don’t have to be memorized.

Launch meeting

Spend this time on face to face interaction: practice, feedback, talking, doing. If your learners need to assemble equipment, for instance, have them learn about it in prelaunch – and practice as much as possible – but the real assembly often is best performed in person, where real-time coaches can provide feedback. The same is true for many steps in the sales process – learn about features and benefits in the pre-launch training, but practice putting them together and talking with customers about them during the launch meeting itself. Meetings are also a great place to break into groups, plan customer interactions (including managing objections), practice, debrief and practice again.

Post-launch meeting reinforcement

Arguably, this is the most-forgotten and most-critical part of the entire launch process. The learning doesn’t end until the learner is using the knowledge/skills on the job. If you are able to leave the launch meeting and start selling the next day, great! More often, there will be a space of time before the knowledge and skills will be used, and the post-launch reinforcement is critical to making sure they don’t forget. This is a great time to provide further application and practice opportunities—new scenarios or actual customers.

Even after the product is being sold and used, there is often a more advanced level of knowledge or skill needed that couldn’t be taught in the launch meeting because of time, availability, and brain capacity — now is the time for that training, too. And think about just-in-time reference, and training for people who start after the launch meeting.

Tools

Develop reference tools for learners to use to look up the non-critical information quickly and effectively. Ideally, use them in all three phases of training:

  • Prelaunch: have them look up information as part of the prelaunch training; explain them in a staff meeting; ask for feedback on them in preparation for actual field use.
  • Launch meeting: Use them as information sources or proof sources during activities in the meeting; give out “official” versions, whether electronically or in person; practice answering questions quickly using the tools.
  • Postlaunch: send out scenarios for which they have to use the reference materials; gather stories about on-the-job use and share; update and share changes as product and customer information evolve.

Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: The Secret to Success (White Paper)

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Your product might be ready to launch, but what about your sales and support reps? A slick launch meeting is not enough for them to really know your product, and a quick skim of your marketing collateral is not the ideal preparation for talking to customers.

The time, effort, and energy that goes in to a product launch are too valuable to waste. No matter how good your product and its message are, its success or failure will still rest in the hands of your sales and support teams. They must have the skills and knowledge to make the launch successful.

Nancy Harkness, Vice President of Learning Services at Bottom-Line Performance, has authored a new white paper on the use of a curriculum to support a product launch. In Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch, Nancy draws on her work with some of our largest clients to explain what a curriculum is, what it can do, and how an effective curriculum is often the secret to a successful product launch.

What you’ll learn

  • What is a curriculum, and how a blend of learning solutions can work together to reinforce product knowledge, selling skills and proficient usage of a product.
  • What a curriculum can do to help learners build skills and knowledge around what they sell and support. You’ll also see what a curriculum is not meant to do… like change the market environment or fix a bad product.
  • What you need to know to develop a curriculum starting with a broad vision, measurable goals and a realistic picture of the circumstances surrounding your launch.
  • How to design a curriculum using a repeatable three-part framework that drives knowledge and skills retention.
  • How to avoid common mistakes that can derail a curriculum design project, and the steps we have taken with our clients to turn challenge areas into successes.
  • Rules for a better launch that offer specific guidance for your product launch curriculum.

Are you ready to launch yet?

Global eLearning: When One Size Does Not Fit All

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Want life to keep you on your toes? Try deploying eLearning to a global audience. Good ideas have to be great ones, and even the best-laid project work plan can be torn asunder as project teams grow and decision makers multiply. We’ve been deploying global eLearning curriculums with our clients for years, and that experience has taught us that, well, every project is truly unique. One size really does not fit all.

…But would that last sentence have worked in a global course? “One size does not fit all” is a phrase we use a great deal in the US, and its meaning seems universal. But how does that translate into Chinese? I’m not entirely sure, but if I was a learning designer developing eLearning for a global audience, I would need to check on that one.

Before you start a large curriculum design project (or even a single eLearning course) for a global audience, make sure you can answer these questions:

How will we get consensus from decision makers around the globe?

If you are lucky, all of the key stakeholders will be located in the same country. More than likely this is not the case. Your company’s stakeholders all want an opportunity to have buy-in and support each decision… but this can add months in development time. It is important to identify who owns the decision and who makes the final decision. If multiple global groups will meet with the vendor at different times, agree to break decisions into parts where everyone decides on their own piece. Otherwise, your group must try to make key decisions outside of meetings with your vendor.

How Will Content From Disparate Sources Be Collected?

Your organization is huge, and the vendor will likely be hunting around the globe to speak with SMEs, conduct focus groups and gather the necessary information. With so much information to gather, you’ll need to identify the key pieces you can provide to get the projected started, then agree on individual pieces the vendor can deliver while content is still being finalized on your end.

How will we make the solution feel universal?

In an article published in April 2013, we said that eLearning illustrations can make learners feel like a course is “everywhere and nowhere at the same time.” We’ve found that even the most “serious minded” learners respond positively to graphical illustrations instead of photography. It also avoids the problem of images that are too realistic. The laboratory in Iowa may not look the same as the one in Budapest, and illustrations can reduce this problem significantly.

Here is an illustrated example from a course we created for Cummins, Inc:

Illustrations for global eLearning

How will we keep expensive translations to a minimum?

If budget is an issue, try to think carefully about video and audio. How can you use video and audio creatively and add interactivity to the course without creating re-work? Obviously, avoiding audio of people speaking is essential, assuming you do not want to rely on subtitles.

How will the meaning of our courses translate into other languages?

The colloquialisms and vernacular may mean something entirely different in another country. They might even be offensive in another country. Vendors must work carefully with their clients, and do their own research, to determine how various language choices will work.

More tips for global elearning

For more thoughts on how to make your global eLearning project a success, have a look at the graphic below:

Global eLearning Chart

When Remembering Really Matters – New White Paper from Sharon Boller

Sharon Boller, President of Bottom-Line Performance, has authored a new white paper: When Remembering Really Matters: Learning Strategies for Long-Term Retention. It’s full of research, case studies, and advice for learning professionals ready to reduce the amount of information learners forget from all types of training.

Here’s what is covered in the white paper:

What will learners remember?

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The question is not asked often enough in most organizations. Research shows us that most of what we learn is forgotten after a learning event, so what can we as learning professionals do to combat this in our designs?

The Cost of Not Remembering

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Managers, Directors, and VP’s are painfully aware of what happens when critical training concepts are forgotten. ASTD estimates that in 2012, organizations invested $164.2 billion in employee training. How much of your training investment goes to waste?

Remembering is hard; forgetting is easy

You’ve probably heard of Herman Ebbinghaus’ famous “Forgetting Curve,” based on research done in the late 19th century. While the curve can approach 90% in terms of total information forgotten, more recent research shows that the Forgetting Curve is highly variable. Regardless of the exact percentage, What percentage of what we learn do YOU think is okay to forget?

Four Strategies to Foster Long-Term Retention

Sharon introduces four proven strategies that inhibit forgetting and enhance remembering. You’ll learn more about how to apply these strategies, and the research behind them, in the white paper:

  1. Provide frequent, spaced intervals of learning instead of “glops” or “unrepeated waves.”
  2. Provide multiple repetitions.
  3. Provide immediate feedback for mistakes, and make sure learners get it right before moving forward.
  4. Use stories to drive the learning experience.

All of these strategies are explained in detail within the white paper.

Learning comes before remembering

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While the first part of the white paper focuses on remembering, part two is all about the learning. If employees never truly learn new knowledge or skill, they certainly will not remember it. Sharon introduces four strategies for learning that, coupled with the strategies for remembering, will lead to long-term retention.

  1. Balance the use of multimedia.
  2. Limit learner control in the course design.
  3. Personalize the experience as much as possible.
  4. Be ruthless in eliminating content.

Putting it all together

Perhaps most importantly of all, the white paper closes with a summary of five business challenges we solved for our clients using a combination of these strategies for learning and remembering.

Ready to change the way you design and deliver learning? Download the white paper now!

Task Analysis Worksheet for Learning Professionals (Free Download)

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We often talk about learning objectives as the key to success for learning solutions. If goals are clearly defined, then training should be successful. At least, that’s how the thinking goes.

If you are a learning and development professional, or a human being, your previous experience confirms that this is not the case. Even when we establish clear goals, we often fail to reach them Why? Too much emphasis on the end result and too little emphasis on the process.

It’s true: training must have clearly defined goals and objectives to be successful. However, specific steps or processes usually must be followed to achieve those goals. When designing learning solutions, it can be easy to overlook or misidentify the steps involved with meeting a goal. Taking the time to carefully vet each task in a process or system before designing a learning solution is almost as important as defining the overall goal itself!

Interested in learning more about analysis? Watch our recorded webinar: Measure Twice, Cut Once: How Analysis Impacts Business Results.

If you’re releasing a new product or implementing a new system, your learners need to know all of the steps involved in using it. If you have an existing system that learners are currently not using properly, you must observe how they are currently using the system while also identifying the desired process, step by step.

We often identify these processes with our clients by performing a task analysis… and we are making the worksheet we use available as a free download to help you get started on a task analysis of your own.

About the Task Analysis Worksheet

Task analysis is really part of a larger training needs analysis, and should be accompanied by an audience analysis.

  1. A task analysis helps you identify what learners need to do or know to meet the instructional goal and the complexity and importance of each task. A simple list of tasks required to meet the instructional goal simply won’t do.
  2. An audience analysis helps you uncover any information about the learners that might affect the training solution you recommend, such as education level, job experience, current knowledge, language, etc.

A crucial part of the task analysis is your rating/prioritization of the tasks. You’ll notice these three columns in the worksheet:

  • Importance: How important is the task?
  • Frequency: How often must the task be performed?
  • Difficulty: How difficult is the task to complete?

Your task analysis will only be meaningful if you truly capture the importance, frequency, and difficulty of each task. The answers to those questions will inform your decisions about the training solution. For example, if a task is simple and is performed only once a year, it may make more sense to create a job aid for it than to spend much training time on it.

On the other hand, a difficult task that must be performed often and with 100% accuracy may need significant learning and practice time devoted to it to ensure competency.

Using the Task Analysis Worksheet

Follow these steps when using the worksheet:

  1. Think about the tasks each user group will complete.
  2. For each task, indicate how important, frequent, and difficult that task is. Use H (high), M (medium), and L (low) in those columns.
  3. Highlight tasks that are of high importance, high frequency, and high level of difficulty. That will tell you to spend time demo’ing and giving practice opportunities to those learners.
  4. Tasks that are low in importance, hardly ever done, and really easy to do (All “L”s), require just a job aid and you can mark that in the comments or use a different highlight color.

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget to consider the following when entertaining the idea of a task analysis:

  • A task analysis cannot occur in a vacuum. Consulting stakeholders, exemplar performers, SMEs or others is critical to accurately describing each task.
  • This can be a time-consuming process, but necessary for recommending the appropriate training solution. If you don’t fully understand what learners need to do, you can’t recommend the right way to teach them to do it.

DOWNLOAD OUR TASK ANALYSIS WORKSHEET

You can use our task analysis worksheet to identify what learners need to do or know to meet your instructional goal… and the complexity and importance of each of the tasks. Fill out the form below to instantly download the worksheet. We’ll also send a copy to your inbox.

High Impact Blended Learning on a Tight Budget: How We Did It

Getting new employees ramped up quickly is the challenge and goal of every company, but the hiring and onboarding process is a particular strain on smaller companies. Fewer resources exist to support the orientation and training needs of the new team members inside a company.  Large companies may be able to devote resources to a dedicated onboarding program that spans weeks… but small companies don’t have this luxury.

We recently worked with a regional CPA firm, Umbaugh and Associates, that fit the above description. Umbaugh has more than doubled in size in the past five years. and they expect growth to continue at a healthy pace. However, even with this doubling, the firm remains smaller than 100 people.  There is an HR manager, but training and development is only a part of her significant responsibilities. Like most companies with less than 250 or 300 employees, there is no dedicated L&D function or personnel. The annual ASTD State of the Industry Report consistently notes the challenges of companies with fewer than 500 employees. The annual amount they pay per employee for training is $1,800 – well above the $1195 per employee larger companies (more than 10,000 employees) pay. There are simply fewer efficiencies of scale.

Umbaugh has other constraints common to small firms (10 to 250 employees). They have to be extremely judicious in  selecting technology, deciding how to allocate subject matter experts’ time, and how to develop and deliver training. Since we’re a small firm ourselves – and know the pain and challenge of successfully ramping up new team members, we were eager to support Umbaugh.

Our goal was to design a solution that Umbaugh could reasonably implement given its company size – and to do the analysis and design for a reasonable price that allowed Umbaugh to spend the majority of its budget on development and technology acquisition.  We spent two and a half months doing analysis and design work with the goal of delivering a curriculum that Umbaugh could develop with a minimum level of support from us. The curriculum we designed would cost six figures to develop were we doing 100% of the work ourselves on Umbaugh’s behalf. Umbaugh is going to blend use of its own personnel with strategic coaching from us to produce a solution that is less costly and enables their experts to strongly shape its content.

Aligning the Internal Team

Good design starts with good analysis. Before we could design a curriculum, we needed to get the team to be clear on what outcomes it hoped to produce. Here’s a summary of our analysis process. This process was ONLY possible because we had a strong, committed group of three people within Umbaugh – two Partners and the HR Director – to help with this:

  • Assigned the two Partners the task of generating a list that described what a new associate should be able to DO (not know, believe, or understand) within a year.
  • Interviewed several new and tenured associates. Showed them the list of skills/expectations and had them rate how difficult each one was to learn, the frequency with which they performed the skill, and the importance they felt it had to their jobs.  We also let them add skills as well as identify any existing resources they’ve used to acquire the skills or abilities on the list.
  • Shared the revised list with the senior leaders and winnowed it DOWN. If tasks were done very infrequently (less than 1x/month) or were low-value tasks, we eliminated them. We re-focused on a few key job skills and then did a more detailed task analysis of these project-based skills to find out how many sub-tasks were required to execute them.  Based on this data, we created an overarching goal for what a new employee should be able to do within 1 week, a month, 3 months, 6 months, and a year. The emphasis on “do” is important as it clearly diverges from a focus on “what we want people to know,” a common behavior in any firm.
  • Mapped the agreed-upon knowledge and skill needs across a 12-month continuum. This visual enabled stakeholders to see where their goals were unrealistic and where they needed to make adjustments to avoid overloading the new-hire with too many new things at once.
  • Agreed on what constituted “proficiency” and how many times a new-hire needed to perform a task/job to become proficient at it. (Consensus was that an associate needed to perform a particular project 5-6 times to become proficient.)

Building the Blended Curriculum

Once we had our map and targeted outcomes, we could design the curriculum. We chose to create a blended curriculum that focused heavily on the informal and strategically leveraged formal elements. This focus on the informal minimizes the ongoing resources Umbaugh will need to implement the curriculum once it’s developed. It also empowers the new-hire. Here are the components we identified:

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  • Self-study: Computer-based instruction that enables associates to quickly acquire knowledge and skill at the point of need.
  • Hands-on labs: Face-to-face instruction that complements self-study elements. Hands-on labs use an “explain, demonstrate, practice, and apply” format that has learners DOING rather than simply listening to a lecture.
  • Structured, on-the-job experiences: Includes observation (watching a skilled performer complete a task) initially and later opportunities to perform new tasks with supervision.
  • Coaching: Coaches review associates’ work product, observe performance, and conduct structured, one-on-one discussions to foster continuous improvement (with the assistance of coaching tools). Coaching should occur on a proactive, regular basis.
  • Mentoring: During the first year, mentors act as a guide for new associates, helping them keep track of what they have learned and what they still need to learn to succeed.
  • Resource library: All materials related to the curriculum are housed in the resource library on Sharepoint for associates, coaches, and mentors to access easily when needed.

Next, we created prototypes of EACH component and only allowed ourselves to build in functionality that we felt someone within Umbaugh could finish out. We chose Articulate Storyline as one tool for the self-study, eLearning modules because we felt it was relatively easy to learn and Articulate would provide strong user support for Umbaugh through its learning curve. We chose the Knowledge Guru game engine for the other components because the Game Creation Wizard would make it very easy for Umbaugh to create its own learning games.

Finally we created a training schedule that covered the first 12 months. This training schedule identified benchmarks an associate needed to be able to achieve by specific time points in the year. Training and skill development activities that supported achievement of the benchmarks were listed as well. The employee’s assigned mentor would be responsible for using scheduled mentor/mentee discussions to stay on top of the training schedule and verify that benchmarks were being achieved.

Ready for Development

The task now is to develop out what’s been designed. However, the entire curriculum design was predicated on these things:

      • No 100% dedicated training and development resource.
      • Technology choices needed to be pinpoint accurate. Umbaugh was willing to invest in technology  (and, in fact, made a eLearning software choice based on functionality and not price) but they wanted to buy what maximized their investment.  Web-based tools needed to be simple but also expand to allow for eventual use of tablets in the workplace.
      • Use of structured on-the-job experiences as much as possible with formal training experiences carefully timed to support these on-the-job experiences. Key to this structure was creation of an official “coaching model” that Umbaugh associates can learn and use:
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      • A structure for any face-to-face training that enabled Umbaugh’s associates to deliver these sessions with minimal skill in facilitation/training delivery. Their primary role is client-facing work. Our goal was not to turn every Umbaugh person into a professional trainer but to empower them via the right process and tools.

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Training Needs Analysis Worksheet (Free Download)

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A soundly conducted Needs Analysis should always be the first step when you need to improve performance or change behaviors. Regardless of the type of learning solution you plan to create, taking the time to properly assess the situation and gather appropriate information will go a long way towards assuring the success of a new project.

Below, you will find a five step process for conducting a Training Needs Analysis. When we help organizations with their analysis, we recommend they follow these steps, or a similar variation. To help you through these five steps, we have created a 10-question Needs Analysis Worksheet you can fill out and use as a starting point for new project. You may fill out the form below and download it for free.

Interested in learning more about analysis? Watch our recorded webinar: Measure Twice, Cut Once: How Analysis Impacts Business Results.

And now, the five steps of a standard Training Needs Analysis.

1. Receive Training Request

Whether you receive a formal request for training or a more vague indication that there is a problem you are expected to solve, now is the time to start gathering some basic information. In this step, you will formulate an initial instructional goal (which can be revised later) and clarify your target audience… including their characteristics, background, and current skills. You will also decide if the training can be developed internally, or if you will need an external vendor.

2. Formulate a plan

Chances are you will have quite a bit of content to gather and organize. You’ll also need a plan for refining your instructional goal to make sure it aligns with business objectives. Step 2 is all about figuring out what information to gather, who to get it from, and how to get it. Zero in on your instructional goal, profile your learners, and carefully identify the skills or behaviors you want to impact.

3. Gather the data

In Step 3, it’s time to collect data and refine your plan based on data that emerges. You’ll be collecting data using methods such as stakeholder interviews, locating source content, focus groups, and task analysis.

Interviews, focus groups, and locating source content are all fairly straightforward tasks, but you may or not already be familiar with the task analysis technique. This involves isolating an individual task and identifying the current results, the desired standard, level of importance, frequency of the task, and more. Quite honestly, we could give a full workshop on just the task analysis step alone. For a more in-depth explanation, get in touch with us.

4. Analyze data and conclude the process

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary data, it’s time to analyze the information gathered and formulate findings and recommendations. You should revise your instructional goal based on the data you’ve gathered. You should now have new insights on your learners that will affect the content of the solution, the delivery format, and other constraints.

By the end of this step, you should clearly know what the optimal training solution is… and why. You’ll also know whether you can complete the training internally, or if you need to bring in an outside vendor.

5. Plan next steps

Your final step in the Needs Analysis will be a comprehensive report, which will serve as the road map for your solution design. This report will include the final instructional goal, profile of the target audience, learning objectives, and a summary of the tasks or ideas being taught. You’ll also lay out the constraints to consider in your design… and the potential delivery method. With all five steps of the Needs Analysis process completed, you should be well on your way to developing an effective learning solution.

DOWNLOAD OUR NEEDS ANALYSIS WORKSHEET

We have a created a simple, 10-question worksheet to help you kickstart your Training Needs Analysis. Use it to ask the right questions, zero in on the “need to have” information, and make a sound plan for identifying the right learning solution.