Essential Guide to Training Materials (+ 17 Writing Tips!)
If done right, your training materials can be the vehicle that communicates expectations, establishes roles and duties, and engages your employees.
So how do you go about crafting effective training materials that nurture your staff and motivate employees to excel in their role?
Glad you asked.
Let’s dive in and discover what it takes to craft savvy training content that delivers.
The Importance of Training Materials
Hiring and retaining employees requires training materials.
Training materials align your goals with the day-to-day expectations of the workplace.
And training materials for every job and every role create a fulfilling and nurturing environment for both the employee and employer by implementing the following guidelines:
1. Initiate Best Practices
Establishing best practices allows you to create standardization of roles across your organization. In addition, consistency in training streamlines the management process.
2. Clarify Roles and Responsibilities
Having clear defined roles circumvents the response, “it’s not my job.”
When employees know where they begin and end in their jobs, they lose any confusion that could interfere with their work performance.
3. Improve Employee Performance
Having a clear understanding of expectations and skill proficiency needed to grow in their roles allows them to feel secure about their future.
And empowered employees are often willing to go above and beyond.
4. Compliance Training
In addition to in-house rules for an organization, you may find external governmental rules, regulations, and laws.
Compliance training helps employees adhere to laws that govern their company and keep their future safe.
Types of Training Materials
Matching training materials to the needs and preferences of your potential trainee utilizing surveys to gain feedback will fine-tune your training content.
The following list helps you pick different types of instructional materials that may be suitable for your trainee:
- Activities/Exercises: hands-on training
- Checklists: offering milestones to gauge training
- Course Outline: online or hardcopy
- Handouts: hardcopies of summarized training
- Presentations: use of presentation software to streamline training
- Self-Assessments: allowing the learner to measure their progress
- Workbooks: creating manuals a learner can take with them
Some Things to Keep In Mind
Launching successful training courses require knowledge of multiple training variables.
Let’s explore essential variables to keep in mind.
1. Budget for Training Materials
An outstanding training manual planned out in your head without the budget to support it can leave you frustrated.
You also need to think about how you’re going to deliver your training. For example, are you considering using a learning management system to facilitate online training or an eLearning course?
Do you have existing material you can repurpose for training? For example, you could break down a dense training manual into a series of different formats like webinars.
Getting in touch with the resources allotted for your training program before you create it will save you a lot of time and heartache.
2. Learning Styles and Preferences of Your Learners
Developing your training to accommodate different learning styles will set your training materials up for success.
A learning styles inventory can summarize your audiences preferred learning style in the following four ways:
- Visual: learning by watching
- Verbal: learning by reading or writing
- Aural: learning by listening and speaking
- Kinesthetic: learning by engaging in hands-on activities
3. Clear Learning Objectives
You can get off track quickly when you lose focus on a clear learning objective.
Creating an outline of the training content ahead of time will serve as a great reference to ensure you stay on point.
You may also want to think about conducting a training needs analysis to ensure you find skill gaps.
4. Accessibility of the Training Materials
Building training activities into a trainee’s current job allows for proficiencies that a distance learning experience can’t offer.
Conversely, building training course material into activities that are accessible via virtual training can reinforce the online training session.
5. Field-Test the Training Materials
It’s essential to take a small sample of your targeted training group and have them test your training materials to flush out any kinks.
Your trainees’ are your best source of feedback when testing your training materials in the field.
6. Choosing the Right Trainer
Today’s learners are looking for the kinds of trainers that can match their learning style, are excited to present material, create involvement, respect their students, and listen intently to their feedback.
The following outlines four types of trainers that you can consider:
- Trainers well suited to your trainee’s learning style
- Trainers with similar programs across your organization
- Trainers who are former employees
- Trainers as subject matter experts (SME’s)
Tips for Writing Training Materials
The following writing tips can elevate your training material, whether you do a presentation, craft a training manual, write a reflective essay, or create an online course.
1. Be Conscious of Your Target Audience
You must take the time to know how your audience grasps new information.
Considering your trainees’ language style, reading levels, existing skill set, interests, culture, and education level will allow you to design training resources that deliver.
If you're going to take the time to develop training materials, be sure to speak in a language your trainees know.
2. Avoid Using Formal Language
Writing to your audience as if they already know the necessary jargon of what you will be teaching is a mistake.
It’s easy to fall into this trap, especially if you are an expert on the training material.
Instead, keep the tone of the content conversational as if you were casually talking with someone who has no idea what you do.
Write to your trainees with a beginner’s mindset.
3. Write to Your Target Audience
When you’ve gathered the information about your target audience, you will be ready to write materials that encompass their unique perspective.
And one of the best ways to write to your audience is to address them like you, which personalizes the training content.
It can be tempting to talk only about the necessary processes you want to teach; however, you will lose your audience when your writing does not personally involve them.
4. Keep It Short and Simple
Writing too many words to describe a process or point will lose your audience’s attention.
Saying what’s necessary and tossing the rest will allow you to convey your point a lot quicker and enhance learner engagement.
A great way around having to say too much is using visuals. Visuals can convey much more than words. In essence, visuals put words into action, offering a more meaningful learning experience.
5. Write at The Proper Reading Level
According to “The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC),” the average American reads at the 7th or 8th-grade level.
That is the grade level you should be writing for unless you are writing for attorneys, doctors, or engineers with a high reading competency.
And, most word processors like Microsoft Word have tools built in to assess the reading level of your content.
6. Use Storytelling
How often do you recall stories in your day-to-day conversations?
Most if not all conversations contain some form of storytelling.
When a piece of training content comes to life via a story, you can bet that your trainees will retain more of your content because it now becomes more relatable.
(Pro Tip: Want to make your storytelling even more engaging? Think about adding employee gamification to your arsenal.)
7. Use Scenario-Based Training
Nothing beats scenario-based training because it creates a hands-on experience.
Putting your training into real-life scenarios tests competencies in a way that rote learning cannot.
When a learning segment contains interactive content, your trainees can put what they’ve learned to the test.
And learning scenarios are one of the best ways of knowing if your trainee grasps the information and can apply it in a real-world way.
8. Utilize Microlearning
Learning retention is somewhat short for the average person.
Specifically, people can only retain 4 to 7 chunks of information at a time into their short-term memory.
You can respect your trainees’ short-term memory by chunking down your material into more bite-sized chunks making the training content less overwhelming and visually more appealing.
To implement this learning strategy, get into the habit of utilizing short and simple sentence structures that are easier to retain and appear less busy.
(Pro Tip: Microlearning is especially suited for mobile learning, so don't miss our list of excellent microlearning platforms.)
9. Keep Your Training Materials Focused on the Task at Hand
Filling up your training with needless information that your trainee may already know can feel insulting, boring, and be a big turn-off.
For example, say you explain an attachment your company makes to connect to your computer to increase its sound output. Most people would assume the extension to the computer is a speaker.
Is it necessary to explain what a speaker does? Typically not because speakers are a universal product that most learners have prior knowledge of.
10. Try Not to Use Jargon
The specialized language of a trade or profession known as jargon allows experts to communicate in shorthand code.
You will rarely find it used in a non-expert context. As a result, jargon has no business being in your training content.
If you have to use jargon, be sure to spell out what it does without taking shortcuts or assuming that your trainees know what it means.
11. Use an Active Voice
When the subject comes before the verb, you are using an active voice. In addition, the subject acts as the performer of the sentence’s action.
For example, Samuel plays guitar. Samuel is the subject and plays guitar, the action of the sentence. Non-active voice or passive voice sounds like this: Samuel played guitar last Tuesday.
You will find that utilizing active voice comes across clearer and typically lives in shorter sentences, creating easier comprehensive training.
12. Avoid Using Weak Verbs
Staying away from verbs like is, are, were, and have and packing your sentences with more memorable verbs will affect your trainees more dynamically.
These weak verbs have their place; however, packing more punch into your training changes dull to intriguing in a flash.
To learn more about this topic and gain access to 249 strong verbs, check out Jerry Jenkins’ following post.
13. Yes, You Can Be Humorous
Everyone deserves a humor break, whether a funny video, a crazy meme, or a well-intentioned screw-up.
Keep in mind humor works for the learning experience best when you follow these three rules:
- Do not resort to being offensive to elicit a laugh
- Make sure the jokes are universally understood, so your audience gets the humor
- Stay away from comedy that distracts the trainee away from the main message
14. Don’t Avoid Contractions
Formal writing suggests that we steer clear of contractions and spell them out instead.
On the other hand, you’re trying to sound conversational, which means using contractions. In addition, it shortens sentences and creates a better flow to your training activity.
- Cannot = can’t
- Has not = hasn’t
- You have = you’ve
- I would = I’d
15. Be Aware of Using Pronouns
When you shorten the proper noun in a sentence to something less descriptive, you use a pronoun. Examples are it, she, he, or they.
You have to be clear when you use them so that your audience isn’t guessing what they describe.
For example, she is playing the saxophone. If there is no sentence before this one explaining who “she” is, you can leave your audience uncertain.
16. Your SME is Great and All But...
Subject matter experts (SME) know their stuff. However, that doesn’t mean they know how to teach.
Most training materials get created by consulting with a subject matter expert.
However, if you task them with content creation, you will find them violating many writing tips because they typically write for someone in their field versus a newbie.
You must stick to consulting with your SME and write the training materials yourself or enlist an instructional designer.
17. Proofread Then Proofread Again
Fancy spelling and grammar checkers can do a lot to clean up your writing. Unfortunately, they are a poor substitute for reading and re-reading your content.
How your writing sounds to you should never be overlooked.
In addition, read your content out loud to hear how it sounds. You will be surprised how this level of proofreading can sharpen your writing.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to grab a colleague or even a member of your target audience and read it out loud to them. Their perspective can be invaluable to polish your materials.
Write Training Materials That Rock!
Your training materials will be great if they deliver the training requirements in a way that does not lull your audience to sleep.
We’ve given you the tools that can redefine how you present and write your training content.
Take these guidelines to heart and craft training materials that rock!
A certified content marketer with Smart Blogger, Kris Freeman, knows how to please the ‘Google Gods’ so that your content gets noticed, is cool to read, and starts to rank in Google. As a business owner, Kris has seen firsthand how mediocre businesses become unstoppable pursuits when Google starts to consider you relevant. You can find more of Kris's work at kriscfreeman.com or at her personal blog.