Without structure, training programs typically yield unpredictable results. While some informal efforts may produce stellar improvements, the more likely conclusion generates confusion and missed expectations. When performance gaps arise, training professionals respond by proposing interventions designed to fix the problem. Following a formal development process, such as promoted by the American Society for Training and Development, course developers produce structured materials that enable students to achieve their learning objectives in an organized manner. Adopting a structured approach to training has become important for many organizations struggling to maintain high levels of service to customers.
Structured training programs, whether live, virtual or self-paced, feature a comprehensive set of learning objectives. Learning professionals design and develop structured training programs to solve business problems based on stakeholder and sponsor input. Extensive research, including comprehensive task analysis, results in lesson content development that meets the learner’s needs. In structured training programs, students must prove they have achieved the skills and knowledge presented in the current lesson before progressing to the next section. Self-evaluation, complemented by formal testing, ensures student mastery.
A structured approach to training design and development typically results in more cohesive results across a company. Particularly when implementation occurs in more than one country and in more than one language, consistency becomes important. By establishing learning objectives that fix performance problems, training designers focus development efforts on content that can have the most business impact for the widest audience. Objectives start with action verbs such as “improve,” “develop” and “complete.” Aligning all content to these learning objectives and writing test questions that find out if students have learned the material, demonstrates program success.
Structured training programs become important for organizations when they need to fulfill critical needs. For example, organizations with low customer service satisfaction ratings need to determine why representatives fail to meet customer’s expectations. Classroom or distance learning solutions using web-based conferencing software provide opportunities to view video vignettes depicting handling difficult customers. In addition to call-handling scripts, practice derived from structure training programs prepares customer service representatives to handle disgruntled people from any culture. As a result, customer satisfaction ratings improve. This validates the need for a structured implementation in contrast with informal guidance to employees.
Mangers typically nominate or endorse the participation of their employees in structured activities. Typically, off-site courses, such as conferences or retreats, provide experiences in developing leadership skills, team building and strategic planning. On-site offerings tend to be focused on technical skills, such as application usage or programming language development. Self-paced alternatives and resource guides tend to focus on developing professional skills such as time management, decision making or written communication. Evaluation for structured training programs usually take the form of formal tests.