Training is an essential step in anyone’s career and anyone who wants to get ahead will be required to attend some form of training. For the curious, training is an opportunity — for the arrogant, it’s an inconvenience. But for most of us, it’s just a necessary step in learning new skills.
The essential nature of training however does not mean that there is any kind of consensus on how to do this well. Regardless of industry, there are some wacky training methods out there… some of which work (probably) and some that absolutely don’t (probably) and designing your own training is a tricky thing. Here’s why: training needs to be in depth yet concise, entertaining yet informative, universal yet personalised, final yet flexible… and above all else, delivered at the correct time to the correct people.
Now there are nearly a billion (935,000,000 actually) articles and blogs that all claim to help you to create a quality training program and after reading through every single some of them, they pretty much boil down to the points below:
- Assess/establish your training needs
- Create a structure/outline for training
- Test it and assess
- Tailor to your audience
- Tweak/re-evaluate continually
- The End
I joke, of course, but this pretty much summarises any online guides to creating a training plan, and it is solid advice that applies to all industries. You saw the title though and we are interested in how you would tailor this specifically to a market research environment. And thankfully we have some top tips that should help you minimise the stress and effort required to train market researchers creating meaningful research tasks.
Study research needs
Every researcher from every agency will conduct distinct and individual research and should know what areas will be relevant to them. For those that are relatively new to research then a direct line manager should have a good idea of what tasks they will be entrusted with in the near future.
These tasks should be taken into account in setting up their training regimen and it is important to make sure that you cover just what they need. Those that are only interested in compiling and reporting research findings won’t need in-depth training on how to structure tasks for instance, and whilst a cursory knowledge of structure would be helpful, you needn’t waste time going into too much detail. A well held generalisation tells us that only 10–20% of formal training is actually transferred into practice. Whilst we think that this is a bit pessimistic, it is certainly true that a lot of training is not used, so limiting your training so that any extraneous areas is a great way to save everyone’s time.
Start with the basics
In addition to making sure that the training for researchers is paced correctly and caters to their current level, you need to ensure that the training pace doesn’t increase too quickly throughout. Anyone can learn anything, but it is all too easy to put them off or derail them by taking on too much at once.
Thankfully, you will already know their research needs and will be able to pace your training to match this. Never allow your training program to be fixed, if someone is entirely new to the research world then consider splitting your usual sessions across two to ensure that users pick this up. It is far quicker to spend more time over something than to try and rebuild someone’s confidence after rushing them through training.
Don’t over train
This one kind of speaks for itself but it bears repeating that not everyone needs to know everything immediately. In addition to rushing the individual training to fit things in you will also heave pressure on someone to take on knowledge that has likely taken you years to learn, collate and distil.
Intensive training is unavoidable at times but in the market research sphere it is unlikely that anyone will need to know everything all at once. The most likely thing is that a new employee/client’s role will evolve to involve all areas so you can afford to go slowly to ensure retention.
Balance practical exercises
Though there are many ways for people to learn (visual, auditory, vocational etc.), the old adage that practice makes perfect really rings true. The likelihood is that at some point you will want the trainees to use the skills that your training has imparted in a practical way and you will want to ensure that they are prepared to do so.
You obviously don’t want to start them straight onto your most important and time-sensitive research project, but invented practice exercises are usually just too easy to properly replicate a real project. The best exercises to practice on are previous studies that you have run, simply remove any identifying properties and then let them loose on the set up (with guidance, of course).
The flow of step, walk, run
A natural instinct when you have worked hard over a training program is to think of it as complete and get a little defensive about its effectiveness. Try your hardest to not get defensive and if your technique isn’t working for certain users then there is no shame in going back to the drawing board.
“No one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job.”
– Henry Ford
Launch your training program, make changes to improve it, never see it as complete as everything can be improved. As the strategies and the roles within the company evolve, the training will also need to evolve — searching for continual improvements to the training will help you keep your training programs relevant no matter the projection of the company and staff.
Stick with these basics and you can’t go too far wrong and will surely build a quality training program that helps others get to grips with and implement your training vision. This however does only cover the design of your training and the delivery is a whole different set of skills for a different day, but if delivery isn’t your speciality, you are in luck as the internet has you covered. A cursory search of “how to improve my presentation skills” returns 325,000,000 results.
So, there you have it, a concise guide to how you can make sure that your training is the absolute best it can be. The points that I have made, whilst great should hopefully help to emphasis the real key to creating anything useful… stay flexible. Should things change, then change right along with them and never try to make the square peg of the past way of doing things fit the round hole of new requirements.
This article was originally published on the FlexMR Insights Blog and can be accessed here.