Interviewing to Gather Relevant Content

Posted 5/27/2016

Training content: garbage in, garbage out


As a training development consultant, technical writer, or subject matter expert (SME), your single most important task is to identify relevant content for the resources you are developing. Relevant content contributes to business success by improving your customerís employee, job, and corporate performance. Training and reference resources that contain content that is relevant, useful, and practical help employees work safely, effectively, and efficiently. No matter how impressive the presentation may be, if the content isnít relevant, the training isnít effective.


With effective consulting, instructional design, and development processes, you can develop quality training for a variety of disciplines and technologies. To do so, you must provide leadership when working with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to identify content important for training.


It is always a delight to interview SMEs who are exemplary; these people are usually excellent thinkers who know what is important for the job. It stands to reason that if exemplary workers use generic thinking strategies and ask the right questions to perform exceptionally well, then we should emulate their strategies to identify what is important to improve employee, job, and organizational performance.


The book, 
Interviewing to Gather Relevant Content for Training, identifies many of the thinking strategies used by exemplary workers because the strategies provide the foundation for effective interviewing. Many of these thinking strategies are address in previous posts. Asking the right questions is an essential skill and is part of the thinking strategies. The relationship between instructional design and relevant content is also addressed.

Interviewing to Gather Relevant Content for Training also provides suggestions on how to plan and conduct interviews to gather and structure relevant content so that:

         you can write effective training and reference resources (such as self-instructional modules), knowledge test items, and procedures

         your training and reference resources will help improve peopleís performance

Most of the suggestions in this book are based on many consultantsí collective experiences interviewing to gather relevant training content.


When developing customized training, do you find it difficult at times to determine the content important for the training? Do you think using generic thinking strategies that focus on the selection of content which contributes to employee, job, and corporate performance (i.e., business success) is useful?


Gordon Shand is President of HDC Human Development Consultants Ltd. He has 35 years of experience designing and developing educational and training programs that have excellent practical value and contribute to the customerís business success.