Excuse me waiter, but there is a Schnitzel in my soup

Cookbooks are amazing! We can dive into one and find so many tasty recipes. Cookbooks can be general or they can be specific to a particular cuisine. Training, in many respects, is like cookbooks. We can create general training that is intended to educate many people of different ages, reading levels, base knowledge, etc. Or we can develop specialized learning curriculums based on our specific audience.

And that is where we want to focus today, writing the specialized cookbook (the specific audience).

Why is it important to always keep the learning audience in mind? Well, they are the ones that have to “get it”, pass “it”, be certified in “it”, etc. If you choose to ignore this one simple, key factor you may have just spent quite a bit of money to fail.

If you picked up a cookbook on Traditional Mexican you would not anticipate seeing a recipe for Pad Thai beside your Pico de Gallo now would you? Much like a brand new pharmaceutical sales representative (rep) would not anticipate reading the science of the stomach at the level of a physician to sell an acid-reflux medicine.

Even a tenured pharmaceutical sales rep will not read at the physician level, they may read at a higher level than the new rep because they have had the base knowledge and years of experience to comprehend the science, but we would still not write the training as if they were doctors.

Keep in mind that writing to your audience is vital, but so is designing the learning to fit the audience. You wouldn’t give a cookbook written in Spanish to a person who can only read German. Be sure that your team has considered the method in which the training is delivered. Will instructor-led be more effective than an online version? Do we need an instructor or would this training suffice as a self-paced workbook? Do my learners know how to use a computer?

Q: How can one get to know our audience better?
A: Assessments, evaluations, and general surveying. Of course all of these take time and who has the time to stop and ask questions when the training needs to be done by the end of the quarter?!

But, you can select one of the choices above and probably get a general idea if you are on target. Try one of the following the next time you are in doubt:

  • Sit-in on a few training sessions and absorb how the learners are behaving and reacting.
  • Poll the intended audience on their previous experiences with training types and what forms of training appeal to them.
  • Look at similar training and review its success rate by looking at scores in the LMS. (This is a dicey one, but we are speaking in terms of “are they technically savvy enough to take this interactive training?” If a high % of learners passed the training we may hedge that the training delivery method did not impact their grade, which in turn tells us the majority are comfortable with the technology component.)

It should go without saying that whichever one you pick just make sure that the information will translate as apples to apples. For example, evaluate training for advanced learners if you are creating training for advanced learners. Again, make sure you are targeting the right learning audience.

There is a lot more that could be said about this topic (and all topics we discuss on this blog), but this post is to provide a basic awareness on the importance of keeping the focus of your development and design on the learner.

Do you have a Schnitzel in your soup story (good, bad, lessons learned)?