Six Questions to Answer when Creating a Training Program

Last week, my co-founder Tim Waxenfelter and I presented to a group of HR and training professionals at the Virginia Banker’s Association VBAConnect Conference on several topics, including how to create a training department from scratch within an organization.

As part of the overall reflection toward the end of the session, we shared a Program Development Mapping Worksheet with the attendees to help them think through some key considerations they’d want to keep in mind when creating a training program from scratch.  

Creating a Training Program From Scratch

Here are some things to consider when answering each of these six questions:

How do you know you’re solving a problem/addressing an area of need?

Prior to designing this session, I went on Twitter and asked others what one piece of advice they’d give to someone creating a training program from scratch. The most common theme was to make sure any training or development initiative addressed a need for the organization.

While it’s difficult to isolate metrics that are solely impacted by training or development initiatives, it’s very important to identify metrics or other evidence that signals that a training initiative is a need for your specific organization.

Coming to the table with industry data or trends you might find in Harvard Business Review or ATD in order to justify a leadership development program won’t be nearly as strong of a case as specific data and evidence from within your organization.

The next two questions are closely related.

How can managers and employees know what successful behaviors and performance look like in their current job?

How can managers and employees know what behaviors and performance are required to advance in their careers?

After you’ve identified specific areas of need to help drive the organization forward, the next step is to figure out how individuals and teams can improve their skills or efficiency in order to meet the organization’s needs.

An essential tool to help managers identify individual skill sets and opportunities for greater team efficiency can be found in competency models or success profiles. Often these are tools created by the Human Resources department to identify specific behaviors and skills that indicate someone is doing their current job well and/or indicate whether someone is ready to be promoted to the next level. Well-developed competency models and success profiles also list behaviors that are “career derailers”, actions that can hinder someone from being successful in their current role and actions that can prevent them from taking the next step.

Identifying gaps between someone’s current performance and where they would like to be (or where the organization needs them to be) according to the competency model/success profile for their role can help identify what training or development opportunity they’ll need access to, and in which subject areas you’ll want to build content.

What can managers do to hold their staff accountable for growth and development?

According to the findings published in their book, Transfer of Training: Action-packed Strategies to Ensure High Payoff from Training Investments, Mary Broad and John Newstrom suggest that the most important factor in whether or not someone transfers their learning on to the job when they return back to work is their supervisor.

Finding ways to get managers to see the value of training and development initiatives is key, and reducing the amount of work that managers need to do to champion your offerings and support their staff is essential.

Communicating with managers about what they see as the learning needs and skills gaps for their teams is a start. Offering checklists and action plans that managers can use with their staff to follow up on your offerings makes it much easier for managers to follow-up and hold their staff accountable to implement what they’ve learned.

How will you know the program or initiative was successful?

This question is a close cousin to the first question – how do you know there’s a need in the first place? Thinking about what baseline data may be available (or what information and data you need to collect) before launching in to a training initiative is very important so that you have some point(s) of comparison when the program is over.

This is too often an after-thought. It needs to be part of the initial planning stage.

How will you gain buy-in across the organization for your training and development offerings?

If you build it, they will come, cannot be the mantra for new offerings. Finding ways to get manager buy-in, executive buy-in and promoting case studies or early results from pilot groups are all ideas for how to get individuals interested in taking time out of their busy schedules in order to complete a training program.

Regardless of the methods you use, the plan to get organizational buy-in is as important as any lesson plan or storyboard you create.

What’s missing? If you have to give someone advice for creating a training program from scratch, what else should they be asking themselves?


Thinking of creating a training program? I’d love to hear what kinds of projects you’re working on and I’d be happy to brainstorm ideas on how to make it as creative and engaging as possible! Need an extra set of hands to push some of your training priorities forward? Drop me a line at brian@endurancelearning and let’s chat!

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