What makes high quality, valuable training

High quality training can make the difference between a really switched-on team, and one that stumbles.  Although it may seem straightforward there are many elements that come together to create high quality training, and without all of these being in place, it can miss its mark.  The responsibility for creating great training doesn’t just reside with the trainer (although they have a major role to play) it depends on the attitude of participants and even the buy-in from the organization.  In this article, we are going to break down the layers of what makes high quality, successful training for organizations, trainers, and staff/students. 

For the Trainer:

We’ve broken down how to plan successful training into six steps. 

Step 1

Name and write down your main training objectives and work backwards from there. One way to think about this is to start at the finish line (it’s a lot easier to get where you’re going if you know where you are going before you leave!). Be sure to Include others in this process to make sure the objectives are clear and agreed upon across different levels of the organization (more on this to follow). This is an important step to get buy-in from the larger organization, as well as students. 

Step 2

Break it down into pieces or components that are digestible, and work out how to link them together.  Plan out the various lessons in detail and remember that different topics or skills may need different teaching approaches.  

Part of this planning includes allotting time to each activity. It is usually safe to assume that everything will take longer than you expect. 

Step 3

Plan out your logistics and resources; everything that is needed to make the training happen (equipment, people, location, food, etc.). Although it may not be the most glamorous task in the training process, make no mistake, this is not an insignificant step. If this piece is not completed correctly then the training will completely fall apart. 

Step 4 

We like to call this next step pre-training training. This is getting your instructors, as well as the students prepared and knowing what to expect from the upcoming training.  For the training to be successful, your students need to know what type of training they are walking into. Let them know if they are going to be attending a lecture, or if they will be hands-on doing scenarios.  They need to show up with the right mindset.  It is also important for them to understand the main objectives, and the bigger picture of why the training is important, how they fit into the bigger picture, and how they are expected to use the training. If they don’t know this, you are doing them a disservice, as knowing the bigger picture helps them to have focus in their training and allows them to be more adaptable. 

Step 5

Create a back-up plan. Anticipate what could go wrong, and prepare for that.  When training day comes, you need to be prepared to adapt as there are many moving parts and anything can happen on the training day.  Plan on what you would do if: an instructor is sick, fewer people show up to attend than expected, a piece of equipment breaks or isn’t working, there is an issue with your location etc. 

Step 6

Bring the energy.  On the day of training, you need to bring your instructor A-Game. This means being prepared and ready to go and opening with the right vibe, attitude and pace for the day. If participants slowly wander into the training and take a seat by themselves to flip through their phones, it is hard to bring them out of that low-energy space and get them talkative, involved and amped up for the day. 

Training isn’t just about training the skill, it is about training the mind, fueling passion, and feeding a person’s drive. You and your instructors need to kickoff with this mindset, knowing that the training day begins as soon as the first participant enters the room.

Final notes for instructors:

Be a leader

As an instructor/trainer, you need to set the standard of what is expected of your students. Demo as you want it done - be the standard.

  • If you don’t take it seriously, they won’t
  • What you want them to aspire to, you need to represent
  • The image you want them to mimic - they need to see you do it first

Respect participants time 

  • Be prepared
  • Minimize unnecessary downtime

Make it real

    • Make it realistic
    • Make it REAL TO THEM - They need a reason to CARE about this. One of the best ways to do this is through lived experience.  They may not fully grasp how to do something, unless they have had to do it themselves. 

MAKING IT REAL: Example from our Advanced Wilderness Course

Carrying litter in Wilderness setting

 I have been teaching this course for years and have come across hundreds of experienced campers and wilderness enthusiasts.  In conversation, you can discuss what is involved in caring for someone  in a remote setting, and having to carry them to a safe space for evacuation. Most of the time the group will agree that it would be a difficult task, and they can talk through the steps they have learned, but they may not fully appreciate the full extent of what is required.  Near the end of our course, we put these students into a situation where they need to apply their skills and carry someone 1km with the help of a group. After they have successfully done this, time and time again they will say “I thought I knew what it would be like, but I had no idea”.  They can’t fully appreciate it until they have actually done it once. This experience helps to take the training from theory into application and they can see everything they have learned come into action, cementing their learning in a way that otherwise couldn’t have happened.  This reinforces the purpose and the value of the training, builds confidence, and fuels that participant’s drive to continue learning and applying their knowledge. 

For Organizational Leadership: 

  • It is important for there to be buy-in to training from the very top of the organization. If leadership treats the training as insignificant, or just another thing taking an employee away from their job, then there is no reason for the employee to treat it seriously. At this point, why are you bothering to do the training? One of the biggest roadblocks we see in working with organizations is the hesitation to invest the resources (time and money) in training.  Organizations that are truly committed to training and invest the proper resources see the return and the value in the investment they’ve made. 

For Participants:

If you are taking time to attend training, you want to get the most out of it as possible. 

  • Make sure you understand the bigger picture of why you are taking the training, so you can approach it with the right mindset. 
  • Show up: On time (which is before the course is set to begin) and with your mind fully on task. To get the most out of any training you need to put distractions aside, including your cell phone, work emails, etc. 
  • Check your ego. You need to come into training with a learner’s mindset. Whether you are starting from zero, or have advanced knowledge and experience on the topic. If you have an open mind and put your energy towards learning the new content, you will get more from the training than if you are focused on your perceived experience or deficiencies.
  • Check yourself for comprehension/understanding.  During training is the time to ask your questions, so evaluate if you truly understand before you move on with a lesson or topic and before you leave for the day. 
  • Commit your learning to memory with visualization. Imagine how you are going to apply the information you have learned. By visualizing you are imprinting the training into your memory, and will be able to immediately start applying it to future situations.