Training needs a defined purpose. This guides the creation of the training content. But, catch this, the purpose is worthless if it isn’t communicated to the learner. Identifying the purpose up front helps people decide to support the training and put their full effort into learning.
A fundamental principle of adult education is that adults must decide to commit to the training. If they don’t make that commitment, the trainer is just pouring water onto carpet – their words seem to be absorbed, but they will just evaporate quickly with no retention. Understanding purpose is a key component in getting adults to accept and engage with training.
In 1984 Malcolm Knowles, the father of all adult learning theory, released his 4 principles on adult learning. One of those states “Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.” Kjell Rubenson basically restated this in his 2011 book Adult Learning and Education when he said adults are “not very inclined to learn something they are not interested in, or in which they cannot see the meaning and importance.” Communicating purpose helps adults see the meaning and importance.
So how do you communicate that purpose? I’ll start by telling you how not to do it: with learning objectives. I know, they help the learner understand what they are going to learn. But come on, they are no better than introductions in a book – no one reads them. Oh, you spent a lot of time crafting perfect Blooms Taxonomy learning objectives? Good for you. People still don’t read them. At best, they are a necessary evil required by regulatory bodies.
My answer? Straight forward, simple English (or insert your required language of choice.)
“Why take this training: This module will help you understand the basics features and benefits of product X so you can help customers recognize them and choose the best options to meet their needs. It will also help you feel more successful on the sales floor.”
See? Plain, and straightforward. Now a person can decide if they need the training or not. Notice I didn’t use language like “so you can better help customers when performing your assigned sales duties.” First, no one talks like that; and second, it’s longer and more corporate sounding than just saying “so you can help customers better.” I know it’s not perfect English, but it just feels more real.
A simple statement of purpose can go a long way. Try it out!