"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." ~Peter Drucker

"A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle." ~Kahlil Gibran

Anyone who has worked on the HR side of a business, or who has managed for very long knows that training takes an enormous amount of time and resources to develop and implement. Training and retraining of staff is an essential element to any well run organization, but when ensuring its effectiveness, are we reviewing the audience? I think in many organizations, we are doing so either haphazardly or in a “shotgun” approach:

  • “If we spent the time to create it, we should show it to as wide of an audience as possible.”
  • “It can’t hurt to have them go through the class.”
  • “Finance got a lot out of it, so let’s introduce it to Sales and the Warehouse.”

This is especially concerning in organizations with tight training budgets for departments. Not only does training that will go unused by the person waste the time of those who are learning what they don’t need to learn, it impacts all training on a go forward basis. If your staff keeps going through classes that teach things of only marginal use to them they are more likely to tune out when it DOES serve a purpose, they decrease the energy level of everyone else in their class, and they begin questioning other decisions you make. For these reasons it is essential that the intended audience for any training be specific, not general. So what are some of the defining questions you should use to determine your training audience?

What percentage of their job does this impact – As a general rule, those under 10% should probably not attend. There are some tips on getting them the knowledge in the third and fourth point below.

How impactful is it to that percentage – Does it touch every bit of that percentage, or just a small part? Is it the driving force behind the work, or just an add-on? Again, if the percentage starts falling into lower areas, there may be more time-sensitive alternatives.

How easily can training/reference material be created – For those falling in the 10% above, look to training material that they can access on an as needed basis, thus tailoring the “training” to their specific and timely needs.

How easily can the information be passed along – Can the specialists who use it 90% of the time, cover or walk the “10 percenters” through it in a practical setting? Again, this becomes specific and timely.

Want people to take your training seriously? Give them value. However, too many of us inflate the value of a well put together and thought out training course, and don’t focus on the value to the audience we’ve chosen to sit through it. (I could sit through an amazing audio-visual training course on quantum physics, but it isn’t going to do me any good). If they aren’t going to get the full effect of the training, leave them out and focus on the primary audience. You’ll get better retention of material, better attendance, and reduce the financial impact on the company.

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