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Figure 1 reviews where we are in our discussion about the training process. The development of training objectives is very important because they are used for two purposes:
After training objectives are developed, one can develop training plans that provide an overview of the entire program. They are essential to assure that the facility's limited time, financial and other resources are best used to develop and deliver training focused on achieving planned objectives.
Training objectives are statements that specify what trainees should know and be able to do when they successfully complete the training. It makes sense that those who plan training programs must know what training is to be accomplished, and training objectives help planners to consistently do this. Effective training is performance-based. It is organized in a way that helps trainees learn the tasks that are considered essential to correctly do their work. Competent staff members are those who have been trained and are able to contribute to the achievement of desired results.
Training objectives should be performance-based because they are critical to training evaluation, and they describe the expected results of the training rather than the training process itself. Consider the difference between the following objectives:
As a result of satisfactory completion of the training session, the trainee will:
Objective One: Study the process to properly load a steam sterilizer.
Objective Two: Properly load a steam sterilizer.
The first objective is not performance-based because it emphasizes the training process ("study"). The performance expected if the training is successful is described in objective two ("properly load a steam sterilizer"). The skills taught in training can be evaluated because the trainer can compare how the trainee loads a steam sterilizer with the operating procedures that were taught during the training.
Figure 2 illustrates the importance of training objectives.
Figure 2 indicates that the knowledge and skills required for effective work performance drive training objectives. They, in turn, dictate the content of the training program. The content of the training then impacts the training process that is implemented and the tactics used for training evaluation. Figure 2 also suggests that training evaluation can address the extent to which content was mastered and the usefulness of the training process.
To be useful, objectives must be reasonable (attainable), and they must be measurable. Objectives are not reasonable when they are too difficult or too easy to attain. For example, the following objective for a supervisory training program to reduce the turnover rate is not likely to be attained: “As a result of successful training, there will be a zero turnover rate except for natural attrition beginning with staff members employed after 1/1/XX.” By contrast, an objective stating that, “The turnover rate for the Central Service Department will be reduced by 20% within twelve months of training,” may be a reasonable training objective.
Training objectives should incorporate an element of “stretch.” Assume that a Central Service department is currently receiving some customer complaints per month. Reducing the complaint rate to zero immediately after training is likely to be overly-optimistic. By contrast, the objective of reducing the complaint rate by one per month after a six month period required for process revision and implementation may not be appropriate for the opposite reason: no or very little significant change in staff performance may be necessary to attain that objective. A better approach: Managers can assess common reasons for the complaints (Step 1 in the training process in Figure 1). Then revised processes resulting from position analysis (Step 2 in Figure 1) can be developed to drive training content. Training objectives relating to trainees mastering the revised process to reduce complaints can be developed, and the extent of this reduction will be a measure of training effectiveness.
The concern that training objectives be measurable relates directly to their role in training evaluation. How could you evaluate the effectiveness of a training program whose success would be measured by objectives such as:
Contrast the above with objectives pertaining to the same topics that are measurable:
Training objectives typically use an action verb to tell what the trainee must demonstrate or apply after training. Examples of acceptable verbs include: “Operate,” “Calculate,” “Explain” and “Assemble.” By contrast, verbs that are unacceptable because they cannot be measured include “Know,” “Appreciate,” “Believe,” and “Understand.”
Training plans should be developed after training objectives are written because they organize training content, and they provide an overview of the structure and sequence of the training program. They show how individual training lessons should be sequenced to best allow trainees to use their skills and learn the knowledge required for improved performance.
Several factors should be considered when determining the sequence for subject-matter in the training plan:
Training plans allow trainers to (a) plan the dates and times for each training lesson, (b) consider the topic (lesson number and subject), (c) state the location for training (d) indicate the instructor(s) responsible for the training and (e) determine the trainees for whom specific training lessons are applicable.
Assume a trainer is planning a training program for a new Central Service technician who must learn how to correctly perform all tasks in the position. Perhaps several tasks can be taught in one training session. By contrast, several (or more) training sessions may be needed to teach just one other task. The training plan allows planners to think about what must be taught (training lessons), and the sequence and duration of each training lesson.
When a training plan is developed to teach all tasks to a new staff member, training dates and times must only consider the availability of the trainer and the employee. By contrast, if the training addresses a special problem impacting more than one employee, other tactics may be necessary. If a three-part training program is being planned to introduce a new customer service program, each session might be planned for two (or more) alternate dates and times to accommodate all affected personnel.
The entire customer service training program could be sequenced into three parts (for example, introduction/overview/benefits, basic customer service procedures and managing customer service in special situations). The training location could be the same for every session (for example, a small group meeting room in the facility), or it could accommodate group training in a congregate setting and individual training in work stations. The trainees might include all staff members for Session 1 and only selected staff members for special situations in Session 3.
Training objectives help trainers to plan the training and training plans help them to organize it. In the next article in this series, we’ll discuss three steps: developing training lesson, organizing training handbooks and preparing trainees.
This column was written by Jack Ninemeier, Ph.D, CHA of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University. Dr. Ninemeier is the editor of Central Service Technical Manual (5th Edition), Supervision Principles: Leadership Strategies for Healthcare Facilities (2nd Edition), and Material Management and the Healthcare Industry, all published by IAHCSMM.