The 3 Questions You Absolutely Must Answer Before Your Next Training

conference room:: Long before you polish up your PowerPoint and prepare the training room, there are three essential questions that you must ask to ensure the success of your next staff development training. If you can master these preliminary steps, you’ll find that your in-house sessions will be more effective and have longer lasting results.

1. Why are We Doing This?
It’s a simple question, yet it’s amazing how many different answers you might get when you ask.  It’s also the first question that your staff will have, and therefore requires that you have a clear sense of what the answer is. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is too often, “because we do it every year”.  And while this may be true of some trainings (Health and Safety, Customer Relations are good examples), the routine nature of such repetitive trainings can easily prevent leaders from really examining what more could be gained.

Do you want to increase staff confidence to address emergency situations?  Asking the question will help promote new ideas to enhance the learning experience for participants and add new elements to the training. Training is a dynamic process that meets specific needs, yet too often, not enough time and attention has been spent examining this question.  The unfortunate outcome is that it can results in programs that don’t address anyone’s needs and waste precious resources.

Questions to help you guide this process can include:

  • – Why is this important?
  • – How will this training support our overall strategic goals?
  • – What data and/or observations do we have on this issue?
  • – Why is this important? How is it influencing the company/employees or how could it in the future

2. How Will We Know If We’ve Been Successful?
The second thing you must do in order to provide effective training is to be specific about the outcomes you have set out to achieve.  This works closely with your first question and is equally important to overall success. People say things like, “we want to improve our customer service”, yet they haven’t articulated what this means in specific terms, nor have they thought about how it will be measured.  Because of this, they fail even before they’ve started.

Create Specific Outcomes
Being specific about your outcomes will make it easier to determine if these goals have been met through the training (and post-training strategy) or not, which is why it’s important that you know where you’re starting from before you set your desired outcomes.  If you want to see a 20% decrease in the number of patient complaints that your emergency department receives, you first need to know how many complaints you’re receiving.  And if you want to see a 15% increase in the number of customers that rate your computer technicians as friendly, you need to first know how they are currently being rated.

Resources to support your outcomes
Whatever your outcomes, make sure they’re realistic and reflective of the resources you intend to dedicate towards solving the issue.

This refers not only to the training itself, but also to how you will address the barriers to the training, including any systemic, or cultural barriers.  And don’t be fooled, there will be barriers, but the earlier you can identify them and come up with a plan to mitigate your risk, the more prepared you’ll be to address problems effectively when they arise.

Training resources also include the planned follow-up and supports that will be in place to encourage employees to adopt the new skills.   Don’t expect that a half- day communication training will suddenly result in perfect communication in your office.  Training is a process, not an event and requires an ongoing commitment from leadership in order to sustain positive results.

3. Who’s Invited?
Ensure you have the right training for the right people. While some trainings such as health and safety programs, will apply to everyone in the organization, others, like customer relations training will apply to everyone, but in different contexts. In this respect, the training needs of a front office receptionist will be different than that of a technician.  Similarly, a sales team may benefit from trainings on how to conduct effective presentations, yet this won’t be a necessary skill set for restaurant servers.

No one wants to sit through a training that has little or nothing to do with their job responsibilities, it’s a waste of their and the company’s time; therefore, any successful training program needs to be directly relevant to its participants.

Once you’ve identified the right people, you can think about their learning preferences, and how best to tailor the style of presentation to meet their needs.

Consider the following questions when you think about your participants:

  • – Who is best suited to participate in the training and how will it relate to their job functions?
  • – What will it improve about their effectiveness, efficiency, or ability to meet standards or goals?
  • – What is the best way to engage these participants? What are their learning preferences?

Ask for input
For best results, all three of these questions should involve a degree of input from participants before training takes place.  Doing so will increase buy-in and in turn make the training more relevant to their needs.  This can be done through informal focus groups, questionnaires individual or group meetings.   Participant involvement will lead to greater commitment and a greater likelihood that participants will be motivated to actually implement what they have learned.

What’s in it for you?
Spending the time to explore these three key areas before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keypad), could very well be the difference between an effective, accountable training program and one that falls flat and wastes valuable time and money.  Put the time investment up front and you’re guaranteed to reap a profitable return in the end.


How do you prepare for training in your organization?  Share your preparation tips in the comment section below!

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About Kim Martin

Corporate Trainer and Coach, Kim Martin is founder of B2B Skills Training. She provides staff development programs for the workplace focused on strengthening soft skills, including communication, conflict resolution and leadership skills. She believes that through greater self awareness and support, people and organizations have a tremendous capacity for change and she delights in helping people step into their true potential.

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