Guide #019: How to create an internal training program for your product team

Company growth and the development of employees go hand in hand. Properly structured, internal training programs can be your secret sauce.

Conduct a needs assessment

Understand the landscape in which the training program needs to exist. Needs assessment interviews must include the intended target audience. Are there existing training programs? What are their pros and cons? Who is the target audience (i.e., the learner, for the program being created)? What inclusion variables do you need to consider—location, seniority, culture, accessibility, etc? Will the content need to be delivered in different languages, or adjusted for local context and nuance? What are the learning objectives? Is it to level up or teach technical skills? Are there success factors outside of the content, like peer learning, mentorship, or community building?

Align with training sponsor(s)

Analyze the needs assessment and make recommendations to the training sponsor. The training sponsor is your program champion. The guidance from the sponsor will help you create a project plan. Document who your partners and stakeholders are and what their roles will be. Do you have a champion outside the training sponsor that can also speak to the necessity of the program? Is the training program a quick fix or a continuous initiative? Does it need to scale? Is there a desired start date? Do you have funding for the program? Are there budget constraints? Determine what feedback loops will be necessary and how often they should be delivered.

Connect your training program to business needs and objectives to help define metrics of success

Tie your training program to business goals and objectives. This will help you define the metrics of success for your training program. While these goals might mostly be people related, get a clear understanding of how the business will advance if the training program is successful. For example, if the goal is to “decrease the learner’s ramp-up time in a specific role”, gain as much clarity as possible for what this means. What does “ramp-up time” mean for the role and how is it measured?

Involve learners in the program development process

Collaborate with learners during the development process to ensure alignment of the program with their needs. Along with the learners, also talk to the people invested in their success—their managers, leaders of the department, and any corporate learning and development teams. Also gather input from the partners, collaborators, and stakeholders of the learners to understand how the learning objectives are viewed from the receiving/output end.

Determine what modality of learning best fits your program

Depending on the type of content, there might be a preference for how and when it is consumed. Content that shares knowledge (i.e., theories, models, history) might best be shared through self-paced courses. Self-paced courses are a learn-at-your-own-pace, anytime, anywhere offering. Live workshops (whether it’s in person or virtual) are a great way to hold discussions, practice skills, and receive in-the-moment feedback. Consider job aids and workbooks as supplemental material to your programming to give learners something to reference during/post-training. Consider aligning company talent initiatives like end-of-year reviews with specific workshop offerings. This alignment will make your content more relevant as learners will get the information when they need it.

Determine the best people to create and deliver the content

How learners read, see, feel and hear content impacts the retention of the content. Therefore, it is important that content creators have experience creating learning content. Choose trainers that feel comfortable sharing material and engaging with the learners. Considerations include someone that understands the appropriate energy level to bring to the training, understands the company culture, and is familiar with the context the learners need to navigate to apply the material. Subject matter experts are not always good teachers. Consider a co-facilitation structure to balance different strengths and weaknesses so that the content can be delivered successfully. Consider a train-the-trainer workshop so co-facilitators feel confident delivering the material. Always have a backup plan in case facilitators are not able to deliver any part of the program.

Program delivery and feedback

Communication is critical to the launch of your internal training program. Have a communication strategy for the program launch. How will learners know about your program? Do managers of these learners know how to enroll their direct reports? Where can employees find information on the program? Consider sharing a schedule of when the training is occurring. The user experience in the enrollment process is critical; therefore, make it as easy as possible to get enrolled. Consider having the training sponsor be a part of the program launch (i.e., speaking at the first session on the importance of the program). Celebrate wins throughout the program and at the end. Make sure you’re collecting feedback throughout the program. Consider the frequency of sharing feedback with stakeholders. Who gets what feedback? How is the feedback shared? When is the feedback shared?

Keep the content fresh and aligned with business goals

As the company evolves, some parts of your training will need to change. Utilize feedback to drive improvements. Keep an eye on internal and external business factors. For example, if the company hires new employees from countries or cultures previously not considered, you should review your content to ensure it's inclusive. Are there industry shifts that require a new approach or new expertise? Create regular intervals for evaluating and updating your training so that you can remain relevant to the intended audience as well as the business goals and objectives.

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