My Story with Uncovering Client Training Needs

Requirements Email

A few days ago I received an email containing the training requirements of a client. The email was forwarded to me by the training company. The requirements were too much to include in a single training session. The training company then negotiated reducing those requirements with the client. Again I was forwarded another email containing a  shorter list of the client’s requirements. They were still too many to jam into one training day but I believed I could still manage.

Analyzing the Written Requirements

I had a deep look at the client requirements, they were written as a set of points in bullet form. I tried to read between the lines and understand the real reasons behind those requirements. The requirements were too specific and set about to decide on how to solve some of the problems the company was facing with regards to its employees. I would have preferred to have them written in the form of problems then I would have had the freedom to decide what specific training solutions would have helped remedy such problems.

Clarification from Training Company

I called the training company to ask for more details on the requirements and which ones were the more important to stress on. I received some answer that satisfied me yet still I wanted to get a feel for the requirements by meeting directly with the client.

Experiencing the Problems Firsthand

As I traveled to the location of the client for my training assignment I observed a few issues that such client could be suffering from. I observed this through my direct interactions with several of the employees there as I had arrived one day prior to the actual day of the training.

Interviewing HR

In the evening of the day prior to the training I met with the key HR person in the company and asked more about their requirements. I pulled out the original longer list of requirements and went through it one by one with the key HR person. The picture became mush clearer for me now as I got to know which points they need the most and have the most difficulty in facing and which points were of lesser importance.

After listening attentively to the key HR person at the company, I then set about to suggest an approach for solving such problems through the training and my thoughts about the followup process. It is important to listen attentively to the client first and take notes while listening then provide your suggestions and view at the end.

Adjusting the Training Program

Although the outline as well as the content of the training session had already been set by the training company based on the written requirements of the client yet I set about to customize the training program so that it would better fit the real needs of the client as I understood them more clearly after my fact to face meeting with the key HR person at the client company.

Best Practice

One of the lessons learnt from this story is that face to face interviewing of the client can be essential and could help in clarifying the true needs of the company. It is best to understand the client needs and requirements in terms of problems the client is facing rather than what training solutions your client believes would be the answer for such problems. This approach of specifying the problems gives you, the trainer, the freedom to decide on the training solutions yourself based on your knowledge and experience as a trainer.

Conclusion

Although there could be more formal approaches for determining the training needs of an organization, such as training needs analysis (TNA), yet a simple even informal meeting with the HR of such organization could tell you a great deal about employee related problems they are facing which helps you determine their training needs and thus be able to design an effective training program that caters for their real needs.

Have you ever attended a training program only to find that it does not cater for your real needs and is thus not of real practical use for you? Tell us about it.

Gathering Trainee Expectations

It is essential to gather trainee expectations about the training at the beginning of the first session of a training program. This can be done after the trainer has introduced himself or herself, explained the training style and thrown an icebreaker.

Trainee expectations can be gathered using the think and listen technique. Expectations can also be gathered using various other means.

Documenting Expectations

It is important at the end of an expectation gathering activity to write down such trainee expectations on the flip chart in front of everyone. You may ask one of the trainees to do the flip chart writing while the rest of the trainees mention their expectations. Remember to give such a trainee who volunteers to write a chance to write his own expectations about the training as well. If a trainee repeats the same point already mentioned by another trainee a check mark can just be added next to such point on the flip chart. At the end of writing all trainee expectations down on the flip chart the points with the highest number of check marks next to them would be the ones expected most and desired most by the trainees.

The flip chart sheet that has the trainee expectations listed on it can be kept till the final training session and revealed once again at the end of such session in order to check which points in it have actually been covered during the training program and which have not.

Benefits

Allowing participants to search for and express their expectations and hopes from the training program makes them feel more comfortable that the trainer is fully aware of their actual needs. It also provides the trainer with insight into the desires and hopes of the current group of participants which may lead to him making some adjustments to the training program to suit the current group of trainees.

Furthermore, a trainer may clearly state that one or more of the points expected by trainees are outside the scope of the current training and will not be covered during such a training program while explaining why they are not going to be covered. This helps set trainee expectations right and makes them more accepting when such a point is not covered during the training because they are aware of the reasons for it not being covered.

Gathering trainee expectations is an essential activity that a competent trainer should be carrying out at the beginning of the first training session in a training program in order to provide a great learning experience for all trainees.

When do you think it is not essential to for a trainer or facilitator gather participant expectations?