Nine Relevant Content Principles- Part 2

Posted 10/5/2016

Nine relevant content principles—Part 2 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 2, covers the last four principles; the previous post addressed the other five principles.

Training must complement the organization’s structure

Organizations create structures of job positions so that people and other resources are employed effectively to achieve business goals and complement management styles. When gathering content, you may have to consider coordination issues with other job positions and the impact the work can have on other jobs. When developing work procedures, be careful not to change the worker’s roles and responsibilities without your customer’s (internal or external customer) approval.

Sometimes, standards of performance for a specific task may vary between different shifts at one location or between different locations. Different supervisors may have different expectations. One supervisor may expect staff to fix a problem when it develops; another supervisor may want to be consulted first. One supervisor may want to be informed about most events on site; another supervisor may only want to be informed of events that must involve him/her. For training, the standards of performance must apply equally to all shifts and locations. If you find that there are varying expectations in how and how well the work is performed, you may have to ask the customer to resolve the discrepancies.


Training must reflect the way the organization does business

Every company has its own way of doing business. If your mandate is to develop training that reflects the way the customer does business, you must pay special attention to these two issues:

1.     When reviewing information in documents other than those from
      the customer, do not assume the documents reflect the way
      your customer does business. If you use the information
      in the training you develop, you could inadvertently change the
      way your customer does business. Customers do not want to be
      told how to do their business.

2.     Your personal beliefs and values may be different from your
      customer’s. Be aware of your own biases so as not to impose
      them on your customer. You may not agree with the way the
      customer does business but it is most likely not your mandate
      or responsibility to make changes.

Training must be corporate, job, and employee focused

The resources you develop must have value by contributing to business success—the resources must contribute to improving corporate, job, and employee performance. You must apply criteria for relevant content to each stage of the training program design and development. From conception through to implementation, you must ensure the content is relevant, useful, and practical so that it adds value for the customer. Most training has a task application and/or contributes to decision making. The corporate objectives provide additional criteria to ensure the training is relevant. Corporate objectives are explained in a previous post—Constituents of an Organization.

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

Because you are a specialist, your customer expects you to make suggestions and provide leadership to identify relevant content. You provide the leadership by asking quality questions relating to corporate, job, and employee performance. From the planning stage through to delivering products, you should regularly confirm with your customer that the content and products are what the customer wants and is willing to pay for.

There may be occasions, however, when you clearly identify content that will contribute to business performance that the customer may not be willing to pay for. You have a responsibility to discuss the benefits of the content with your customer keeping in mind that your customer has the final say. For example, when developing training resources about equipment, you recommend describing how the equipment works and how to work the equipment. There are important relationships between these two concepts that must be addressed so that workers can perform effectively and make decisions in the best interest of the organization. However, your customer may want the resources to address either how the equipment works or how to work the equipment, but not both. Traditions and budgets may be overriding factors that prevent the customer from following your advice. To have satisfied customers, you need to meet the customer’s expectations.

Making recommendations to the customer can also contribute to positive customer relations—you are demonstrating your concern for their wellbeing.

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 writer can use to identify relevant content. An overview of some of these thinking strategies are addressed in previous posts about The Exemplary Worker.


Do the above relevant content principles apply to training in your organization? What challenges do you have in identifying training content that is relevant, useful, and practical?


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 customer’s business success.