Nine Relevant Content Principles- Part 1

Posted 8/16/2016

Nine relevant content principles—Part 1 of 2 parts

When you are developing learning resources, the most important concern for customers is that the content is relevant, useful, and practical and contribute to their business success. If the content you gather is incomplete or inaccurate, you may need to interview the subject matter expert (SME) again which can be costly for the customer. Additional interview time also creates scheduling difficulties.

To ensure you gather complete and accurate content when interviewing the SME, apply following principles of relevant content. These principles reinforce the criteria for identifying relevant content described in previous blogs and in the book Interviewing to Gather Relevant Content for Training.

Training is driven by, focuses on, and reinforces corporate

All training begins and ends in a job application.

Training must be targeted to the right audience and tasks.

Training begins and ends with the worker’s frame of reference.

Training must fit the job. 

Training must complement the organization’s structure. 

Training must reflect the way the organization does business. 

Training must be corporate, job, and employee focused. 

Training must be what the customer wants and is willing to
       pay for. 

This post, Part 1 of 2, covers the first five of the above principles; the next post addresses the other four principles.

Training is driven by, focuses on, and reinforces corporate objectives/goals

Corporate objectives are explained in a previous post—Constituents of an Organization.

Driven by—The reason for developing the training in the first place is to contribute to the customer’s corporate objectives/goals (i.e., business success).

Focuses on—Corporate objectives/goals identify the types of content that are relevant for the training resources. To be cost-effective and efficient, training is limited to and addresses tasks and support knowledge that directly impact achieving the corporate objectives.

Reinforces—The training content explains the purpose and importance of doing the tasks, taking action, making decisions, maximizing the use of resources, and minimizing losses.

All training begins and ends in a job application

Organizations invest in training so that employees can do work more effectively, efficiently and safely and in a way that contributes to business success. At the training program design stage, competencies (tasks and knowledge) important to employee, job, and corporate performance are identified.

Training is then developed and delivered to ensure that the workers can perform the work or do their jobs to the organization’s expectations. Worker performance is assessed to confirm that they are competent in doing the work.

The content of knowledge competencies, especially generic competencies, often applies to more than one task. When interviewing the SME to develop knowledge-based training, first identify the tasks that the worker performs where the knowledge is applied. When gathering the content, make sure the knowledge relates to these tasks. An important question to ask the SME is, Does the worker need to know this to do the work safely, effectively, and efficiently?

Provide examples in the training of applying the knowledge to the worker’s job. Identifying job applications gives meaning to the knowledge. Identifying how the knowledge affects the worker and the work can provide motivation to learn the content.

Training must be targeted to the right audience and tasks

When determining the focus and scope of the training, identify either the audience or the task first. If you know the audience (experienced employees, trainees), their roles and responsibilities help you to identify the critical tasks and support knowledge. They also help define the task applications—what the audience can and cannot do and what types of decision the audience can and cannot make.

After you have identified the audience and associated task, identify work conditions, technology, and resources to further defines the task and its application. Use the worker’s limits of authority to further define the task application, performance expectations, and the decisions that are to be made. Lines and limits of authority, management style, and corporate objectives/goals all provide criteria for worker decision making.

Training begins and ends with the trainee’s frame of reference

Structured training begins with the trainee’s frame of reference. After you have identified the audience and the task, identify the audience’s qualifications, including experience, skills, and knowledge. For training to be effective and efficient, the training must begin at the trainee’s level of ability. You may have an understanding of the trainee’s qualifications before interviewing the SME. During the interview, you can gain further understanding by asking the SME about the trainee’s qualifications so that you can determine the trainee’s frame of reference:

 Hiring and placement qualifications 

 Work experience 

 Formal education 

 Training received through the training program you are  

 Other training previously received from the organization and 
 outside agencies 

 Cultural and personal attributes (e.g., English as a second
 language, attitude) that may affect training success 

Training must fit the job

For training to be practical and useful, the training must not only address work and business issues, but also be designed to match the job context. The procedures you develop must begin and end the same way as the work. Tasks, or parts of a task, that are sequential must be formatted to complement the work sequence and have breaks that logically fit the job. When tasks are sequential, the first action step of the current task logically follows the last action step of the previous task. There are no overlaps or missing steps between sequential tasks or parts of a task. The tasks and training records must be structured to facilitate the assigning of work, training, and practice opportunities.

One valuable strategy for breaking tasks into useful parts that fit the job is to list the tasks or parts of a complex task on a training record. An important question to ask yourself is, Does the training record help the supervisor assign work, training, and practice opportunities?

The book, Interviewing to Gather Relevant Content for Training, explains these principles in more detail. This book also addresses many other thinking strategies training consultants and technical writers can use to identify relevant content. An overview of some of these thinking strategies are addressed in previous posts.

For training in your organization, do these five relevant content principles apply?

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