By Sharon B. Redfoot

As my company merged technology groups and we began engaging across many functional teams to discuss training employees, partners, and customers, I found myself clarifying several facets of training that were otherwise tossed around during meetings as if everyone understood what they meant. It was refreshing when one of the managers new to me asked, “What is the difference between a boot camp and a roadshow, and why would you choose one format over the other?”

In addition to both being instructor-led training branded to convey something about what participants would be doing, the more we discussed audiences and sales training versus technical training and certification versus non-certification training, the more I realized we needed some guidelines on how we communicate about training needs and training solutions.

Though the categories I used could be debated and, perhaps, are even unique to my experience in this profession and industry, I have created a structure for engagement on training that we called our training framework. The figure shows the breakdown.


Though I have worked in the training field for many years, I had never really put these variables into a format that could be utilized as, more or less, a checklist to facilitate discussion when others brought up their training needs with our team. The more I asked about each of the categories, the more the requestors thought about and sometimes changed their minds about their vision of the desired training outcomes. Using the list also helped me to address aspects of the training requests that the requestors had not considered.

Why does it matter to have these conversations up front? How does uncovering the requestor’s intent improve student or personnel performance? It is simply part of the analysis stage of the training development cycle, primarily the goal analysis. If the analysis is wrong, or if you as the training provider do not address any discrepancies in expectations, the training solution will suffer. If we have not considered at least these variables, at some point during course development each topic will come up–and by then, it could mean having to rework a significant portion of the content, which inevitably throws the schedule off. Painful.

The information to address each aspect of the training checklist could fill a book, and there are many books on these topics. Hopefully, the checklist helps to organize the conversations between training requestors and providers, and to facilitate a positive outcome. In our case, we fleshed out each topic and discussed what the topics meant so that we thought as a team when handling new training requests. We also used the training framework to produce our training strategy for the year. We identified critical audiences and knowledge gaps, and we focused our resources as a larger talent pool to target these to help our company meet its business goals for the year.

About the Author

Sharon B. Redfoot followed her interests in behavioral psychology and human performance, leading to an MEd and a career in the field of training, documentation, and other forms of enablement. Her career in the field began as a special education teacher, during which she published a book, Preparing Students for Mainstreaming, that identified criteria for teachers and diagnosticians to determine  when students with emotional problems are ready to return to mainstream education. She then moved into the business world by joining the American Association of Petroleum Landmen as their education associate. After three years of helping to create the association’s curriculum and first certification-level exams, she started as a technical course developer for Nortel Networks. She left Nortel as acting director of wireless knowledge services after 17 years to join a start-up company, Navini Networks, where she created the training and documentation department for their WiMAX products. Navini was acquired by Cisco Systems Inc., where Sharon currently works as the enterprise networking market strategy training manager. Sharon has been a member of ASTD, NSPI, and now ISPI off and on over the years, always interested in finding better, more efficient ways to help train customers and employees to perform their jobs successfully.