1. Introduction: The Systematic Training Cycle
2. Critique and Variations of Systematic Training
2.1 Pre-assessment Considerations
2.2 Needs Analysis
2.4 Plan and Implementation
3. Substantial Critique and Alternative Approaches
3.1 Assumption of Mutuality
3.2 Training versus Learning
3.3 Training versus Development
3.4 The Learning Organisation
3.5 Shared Responsibility for Learning
3.6 Training and Business Strategy
1. Introduction: The Systematic Training Cycle
The definition of training provided by Armstrong (2001: 517) resembles most definitions of training found in reference works. It reflects the basic features and objectives as stated in the mainstream training approach: Training is, accordingly, “the planned and systematic modification of behaviour through learning events, programmes and instruction which enable individuals to achieve the levels of knowledge, skill and competence needed to carry out their work effectively.” Two aspects of this definition could be highlighted as the most characteristic and distinctive elements of training as opposed to other methods in the wider field of learning. First, training is planned and systematic; and secondly, it aims at the improvement of defined abilities related to work.
The systematic training cycle is a model reflecting these characteristics. It emphasises that training is a continuous process, a circle in which the end leads back to the beginning, rather than a single linear and isolated event with a defined start and finish. In its classical form the systematic training cycle consists of four stages (Armstrong 2001: 549; Kenney and Reid 1986: 15; Donelly 1987: 3). In the first stage, the training needs on organisational or job level are identified and specified. This needs analysis tries to establish the training gap, i.e., the difference between the knowledge and skills required for effective performance on a certain job and the actual knowledge and skills of the employees working on this job. The second stage of the systematic training cycle is designing a training programme. Based on the results of the needs analysis, the required sort of training and appropriate training methods are chosen. Additionally, a training plan is developed, in which the more practical aspects of conducting a training event are considered. Some authors, e.g. Armstrong, regard the planning process as a part of the third training cycle stage which mainly consists of the implementation of training. In this stage, the actual training event takes place, i.e., a training course is delivered to the participants. The fourth and last stage of the systematic training cycle is the evaluation of training. Here, the trainer assesses if the training objectives are achieved. Usually, this evaluation occurs on an individual level during or at the end of the training by checking if the trainees have acquired the trained skills and knowledge.
The systematic training cycle is a well-structured and internally logical model serving as a theoretical and practical guide for professionals concerned with training. It became the orthodox method within a few years after its introduction in the late 1960s and has remained popular. Taylor (1991: 258) states, with a touch of irony, that training cycles “must have been created by a superior intelligence, being so neat and logical and all.” He indicates that they tend to be simplistic and ignorant towards the complex reality in organisations, and supports Kenney and Reid (1986: 16), who maintain that “a more sophisticated model is required.”
In the following, a number of critical variations of the systematic training cycle will be presented. These variations address several shortcomings of the traditional model and suggest improvements on different stages, from pre-assessment considerations at the very beginning of the cycle over needs analysis, training design, plan and implementation to new methods of evaluation.
Afterwards, more fundamental criticism of systematic training and more comprehensive alternative approaches will be outlined. Especially newly emerging concepts of individual learning and development reveal some basic limitations of the traditional training, and suggest a broader perspective. Furthermore, a wider perspective on the organisation as a learning system highlights the importance of and pre-conditions for learning in everyday work for individual as well as organisational development. Finally, the question of responsibility for learning and development will be addressed, and the necessity of integrating training and development with business strategies will be outlined.
2. Critique and Variations of Systematic Training
A number of authors (e.g. Kenney and Reid 1986, Donnelly 1987, Harrison 1988, Wills 1998) have refined and partly restructured the systematic training cycle. In the following, some major variations of the classical four-stage model will be sketched.
2.1 Pre-assessment Considerations
In his 10-step training cycle Boydell (1970:4) suggests examining thoroughly the job chosen as a training priority, and to check if training can be obviated by re-organisation. Kenney and Reid (1986: 14) go a step further by proposing that “planned training” should generally start with a pre-assessment check to determine if training is the appropriate and most cost-effective method to resolve the problem at hand, or if there are other more efficient approaches.
Donnelly (1987: 6) suggests another step which should precede any training needs analysis. As budget plans and financial restrictions usually exist before any training process starts, the training cycle should be entered with an assessment of resource availability. Only if the resource limitations are known, can a realistic and negotiable training concept be drawn. Other factors like organisational values, policies and responsibilities should be considered in a pre-assessment as well.
2.2 Needs Analysis
In most of the various models of systematic training strong emphasis is put on the analysis of training needs. While in earlier models the focus is on needs analysis on a job or business level (Boydell 1970: 4; Taylor 1991: 262), more recent approaches stress the necessity to consider different analytical levels, from the global organisational frame over departmental and job problems to the single individual (Kenney and Reid 1986: 69; Donnelly 1987: 5). Especially the individual and his/her needs and characteristics have received increasing attention.
Wills (1998: 27) points out that there are often conflicting interests within the organisation. Therefore, “needs identification has to balance corporate demands, policies and strategies as well as individual and organisational requirements.” He suggests a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches: on the one hand, the collection of corporate strategies and identification of business and departmental needs should set the overall frame for training activities; on the other hand, the identification of individual needs and development requirements should take into account the single employee. In reality, organisational needs will usually have priority over individual needs, especially when resources are limited (Wills 1998: 37).
 Kenney and Reid (1986: 7), for instance, identify the job and work-related orientation of training as a main difference to education, which aims at more general and abstract objectives. Harrison (1988: 5) similarly distinguishes between training and development.
 A very detailed list of practical steps to be considered in the planning stage is provided by Wills (1998: 18-19).
 One of the first and most influential models of the systematic training cycle is the “systematic training in ten steps” by Boydell (1970: 4-5). Boydell’s more detailed outline of the four classic cycle stages underlies several subsequent approaches and has, thus, “proved to be remarkably enduring and popular … up to the present day” (Taylor 1991: 260).
 Harrison (1988: 167) lists various sources of information about the individual, among them personnel specifications, performance records, and trainability tests. The increasing tendency of focusing on the individual and his/her needs and characteristics is discussed in the context of learning further in the text.
By Elaine Biech
Anytime you participate in a training program, whether it is in a virtual or a traditional classroom, whether it was off-the-shelf or developed from scratch, whether it was taught by someone inside your organization or an external vendor, whether it was a program teaching management development skills or word processing skills, chances are that the program was designed by following a specific process, or a representative ISD model.
The Training Cycle begins long before the training program is conducted and continues after the program has been completed. The figure is an illustration of the five stages of The Training Cycle.
It is critical for all trainers to be well rounded and understand the training process from start to finish. The Training Cycle provides you with a big picture of the process.
The Training Cycle.
Assess and analyze needs
This stage of The Training Cycle is called analysis in the ADDIE acronym. Generally, you need to conduct an assessment and analyze the data, to identify specific needs. There are two main reasons for completing an assessment and analysis.
First, you want to make sure there is a reason to conduct training. You may discover that after conducting the analysis the relevant issue can be addressed by something other than training. For example, you may be able to do on-the-job coaching, online content may exist that could be delivered either asynchronously or synchronously, or you may feel that an article in the company newsletter alerts employees to the information needed.
Second, if you do determine that training is necessary, the analysis should tell you exactly what (content) should be taught and how (by what methodology) it should be taught in the training session. It will also help determine your training objectives.
There are many ways to conduct assessments. You can use a formal instrument that measures a person’s skill or knowledge, or one that simply measures a person’s preference. You can use written questionnaires or you can use personal interviews with employees or supervisors. If you use interviews, you can meet with individuals one-on-one, or you can conduct small focus groups. Another way to assess a need is to observe an employee working or to take a work sample. You can also use records or reports that already exist, such as performance assessments
Your goal in collecting this data is to determine the gap between a job requirement and an individual’s actual skill or knowledge. Bottom line is to determine what is preventing the desired performance. You use this information in the next stage of The Training Cycle.
After you have determined that there is a legitimate training need, your next step is to state exactly what you want the training to accomplish. You do this by writing objectives. There are two kinds of objectives from two perspectives used in training:
The learning/performance objective: This is a statement of the performance (knowledge or skill) that is desired after the training has been conducted. Whether you call them learning or performance objectives doesn’t matter, as long as you realize that the purpose is to demonstrate what your participants have learned and can perform. What behavior changes did they make?
The training objective: This is a statement of what the instructor hopes to accomplish during the training session. This may be an outcome, or it may be a description of what the instructor plans to do in order to accomplish the learning objectives. For example, “This session will create a positive learning climate that encourages participants to get involved and to ask questions.”
Some trainers include both learning and training objectives in their design. Learning objectives are a required step in every good training design. Training objectives help the trainer to focus on designing and delivering a first-class training program by setting targets for the trainer to achieve.
Learners are told what the learning objectives are at the beginning of a training session. And preferably at the same time they are told about the training.
Design and develop the program
After you determine the objectives, you can begin the program design. You decide exactly what you’re going to do to accomplish the objectives you set. There are many things to consider in designing a training program.
If you haven’t already, you will decide the type of delivery that will be the focus to achieve the best results: onsite classroom, virtual classroom, self-paced e-learning, performance support tools, self-study, or a combination of these and others in a blended learning solution. What questions will help determine the location of the training?
How many participants need new knowledge and/or skills?
Where are participants located?
How much time is required?
How much consistency is needed?
When is training required?
How many participants will be in each class?
What level of trainer expertise will be required?
You may also decide whether to design the content at all. Given thousands of products available, you may decide instead to purchase pre-designed off-the-shelf content and customize it. You also build in methods to ensure that the learning is applied back on the job, and a process to evaluate the program’s effectiveness.
If you design it, a big task ahead of you is developing the materials. What participant materials do the learners need? What audiovisual materials and equipment will you use? If it is an online course, what technical support will you require? Will your learners require job aids — either paper or online? While this stage can be exciting, it can also be exhausting.
Implement the design
This is The Training Cycle stage where you actually conduct the program. A trainer completes a huge amount of preparation before the program. Even after an excellent job of preparing, there is no guarantee that the program will go off without a hitch. That’s why some trainers pilot a program with a group of pseudo-learners who provide feedback before the session is ready for prime time.
You use both presentation and facilitation skills in both a traditional and virtual classroom. As a trainer, you’re a presenter and a facilitator:
Presenters provide more information. If much of the information is new or technical, you may need to present. The preferred role, however, is as a facilitator.
Facilitators play more of a catalyst role and ensure learners’ participation. A good trainer is often synonymous with the term “facilitator.”
Excellent delivery skills are required whether you are facilitating a virtual or traditional classroom. While you’re conducting the training, you want to constantly read your learners to see whether you’re meeting their needs. If you see that an approach isn’t working, stop and try another. Don’t be afraid to stray from the agenda if that seems to be the audience’s need. This is the stage where platform experience and good facilitation skills are required.
When it’s over, it’s not over. The evaluation stage is an important part of The Training Cycle for three reasons.
First, the evaluation tells you whether or not the objectives were accomplished.
Second, information from the evaluation stage should be fed into the assess-and-analyze stage. It is used to improve the training program should it be conducted again. This is why this model is circular.
Finally, evaluation information serves as the basis for determining needs for future programs or other changes an organization may need to make.
If you want to achieve a goal, start with the end in mind. In this case it means that you start with the Evaluation stage. What do you want to accomplish? What does your stakeholder expect? How will what is learned enhance the organization’s goals? What will success look like? Your evaluation must be a part of the thought process as you begin the design at the Analysis stage.