How to Choose the Best Training Planning Tools

training planning tools

Planning and scheduling training courses requires a balance between the big picture that considers corporate objectives and the close-up snapshot that manages the details of who, what, when, where and how. 

Current best practices encourage a funnel approach to planning that starts broad and then narrows as you learn where the skill and knowledge gaps are. The learning and development team that integrates a training planning tool throughout the planning and scheduling phases streamlines these processes and operates with a far greater degree of efficiency.

Answering your questions about training planning best practices

How do you create a training plan?

Any training plan must focus on three key factors: corporate goals and objectives, the training needs and capabilities of the learners and the capacity of the L&D team. So, whether you’re starting at square one or expanding an existing training framework, your training plan will incorporate an understanding of:

  • Business-wide planning needs. Your training plan needs to align with the overall objectives and strategies for your company. And, although they focus on the long view, strategies and objectives must respond to market shifts that sometimes occur quickly. This necessitates a training plan that’s responsive, even though it’s based on mid- to long-term strategy considerations. 
  • The needs of your learners. Where are the skill and knowledge gaps? What learning techniques will inspire your learners and help them to remember and implement what they learn during their training? 
  • Your L&D team’s capabilities and its resources. Your L&D team is both the “thermometer” that gauges the needs of the learners and the “healthcare professional” who dispenses what’s needed and guides your learners along a path that fills the gaps and empowers them to thrive. An L&D team’s role is multi-faceted and dynamic. Together, they must gauge budget, human resources and capacity to create a workable training plan, schedule and perform the training, and then evaluate the plan’s effectiveness.  

What elements should a training plan include?

Generic training plans lay out schedules that contain course titles, descriptions, locations and times. However, effective and tailored training plans encompass a significantly broader scope rooted in an overall L&D strategy that’s tied to your company’s objectives. The strategy will affect L&D resources and drive everything from intake to needs assessment to planning and scheduling training courses. 

How do you plan training for a team?

Planning training for a team–especially a large one–involves more than gathering the team and having all of them participate in the same generic training session. Key aspects of team training include the need to:

  • Focus on team building. A well-trained team that works together rather than just alongside each other can generate great synergy, allowing all team members to perform efficiently and effectively, and achieve more in the group than they could on their own. 
  • Understand each team member’s learning preferences. Tactile, hands-on learners will appreciate activities that link the training concepts to something they can handle or do. Visual learners often view such activities as time wasters. They prefer to work through visual material steadily and then be quizzed over what they have learned. Auditory learners often excel when they can listen and learn. CDs and podcasts may be old-school, but auditory learners like them just fine. So, one of the first planning questions L&D professionals need to ask is, “What learning style best suits each team member?” 
  • Accommodate each team member’s learning preferences. One of the key benefits of utilizing a robust training plan is the ability you have to customize the training so that it fits different learning styles represented by team members. Being willing to accommodate learning preferences is, itself, an exercise in team building. No one feels that the training puts him or her at a disadvantage. Everyone has a real opportunity to excel. 
  • Include informal training. Training that occurs outside of the classroom–even outside the workplace–tends to be low stress, intuitive, and enjoyable.It’s also broad in scope. From workplace mentoring and attending trade shows to completing ropes courses or “busting out” of escape rooms, informal training engages the learner while it fosters camaraderie. 
  • Emphasize the process. Training isn’t a one-and-done activity; all your learners need to understand that.  You’ll need to follow-up and “inspect what you expect” after each training initiative. Techniques such as interviews and observations will provide data about mid to long-term effectiveness of training sessions. 

What is a training planning tool?

According to Indeed.com, “A training plan is a guide that helps you meet your goals.” This definition could be applied to virtually any training plan for any company (or individual) engaged in any business. 

Add the word “sales” or “operations” to your training  plan, and you’ve provided focus and pertinent specifics to the plan. Similarly, a planning tool can be generic or designed to enhance a specific planning aspect. 

Generic planning tools versus training planning tools

Generic planning tools have the advantage of increased utility. You can apply them–and any general templates, scoring tools, or planning techniques they provide–to help you plan activities from budgeting to product distribution. Their great limitation is that generic planning tools can’t provide the level of detail or support that a tool designed specifically for training planning can. 

Conversely, training planning tools provide ideas, templates, and a detailed framework that your L&D team can utilize throughout every phase of training. Training plan templates simplify the details behind assessing needs, budgeting, scheduling training sessions and tracking performance.

Types of planning tools

Common planning tools focus on a particular aspect of planning. Strategy planning tools stress long-term financial and operations plans. They provide the framework for training , budgets and market analysis for several years. 

Project planning links all the details for a specific project. Who is involved in what role? When is the project slated to start and end? What are the budget constraints?  

Capacity planning hones in on the resources required for training. Who will plan, prepare and deliver the training? Collectively, do members of L&D have enough bandwidth to complete all the training being planned? Who will follow-up the training with post-training evaluations and analyze the results?

Benefits of using a training planning tool

As markets shift and workforces continue to adapt to pandemic-induced changes, training protocols must also morph, if they are to remain relevant. Training planning tools assist L&D teams by:

  • Saving time: Automated rosters, scoring, and analysis yield significant time savings. Templates for training elements such as budget requirements, resource management, project duration and estimated ROI simplify these processes and allow training experts to focus on providing content that meets the training needs. 
  • Increasing productivity: The L&D team who uses less time to perform record-keeping tasks or relaying vital communication can concentrate on the skill or knowledge gaps of their learners, the unique challenges facing new hires, or the fit between L&D initiatives and corporate objectives. As a result, the same group of people can accomplish more.
  • Using resources efficiently: Many training planning tools provide a way to document available resources, record how and when they were used, and to what purpose. Online planning tools also track the scheduling of available training sessions, their locations, and the learners involved in them. Training budget applications can monitor expenditures and help L&D professionals keep finances on target. 

Features of an effective planning tool

Say that you’re convinced a planning and scheduling tool for training would be a valuable asset for your company. What features do the most effective planning tools provide? Here are six key features of dynamic planning tools that enable L&D teams to work faster and better:

Seamless intake

Managing training requests from each level of the organization can be tedious, time-consuming, and high volumes can make it overwhelming. The best training planning tools save you time by letting you manage every aspect of training intake from a single portal. 

You can prioritize, approve, and process requests from one spot and the entire team can maintain visibility into the status and progress of training requests..

Robust planning

Robust planning tools help you track who is working on which projects and easily identify which projects are meeting time and budget objectives. They also coordinate your assets, schedules, and timelines so that you don’t need a separate organization tool such as Asana. At your fingertips, you have all the planning details you need. 

Codeless integration

Planning tools that force you to utilize their own coding system or work with a very limited number of software programs can actually increase the training workload. 

Today’s best tools are powerful enough to incorporate your existing software ecosystem right into their system, even if it is hodge-podge or outdated–and without you having to recode everything. You’ll have access to everything you need without opening multiple programs and trying to assimilate the information.

Comprehensive capacity tools

Effective capacity planning involves being able to correctly determine the capacity of your training team members and assign them to projects that best suit their capabilities and availability. 

Top-notch planning tools remove the guesswork of a subjective process by providing a framework that incorporates space, time, and priority constraints.

Simplified content design

Talented content designers benefit when a training planning tool allows them to collaborate with SMEs, create interactive storyboards and receive feedback instantly. The most effective planning tools provide these features and also integrate with an existing LMS and eliminate the need to locate individual templates or rely on Microsoft Office or similar applications.

Strategic and tactical insights

As an L&D team member, have you ever been asked to justify the value of your training initiatives? Were you flummoxed because you lacked hard data to answer that question decisively? 

A robust training planning tool helps unlock your data to reveal trends, identify areas that need improvement, and spotlight the successes behind your learning initiatives. You’ll have the tools you need to accurately measure the effectiveness of your training and an answer for someone who questions your effectiveness. You’ll also be able to justify every aspect of your training budget. 

Although they are not aspects of the training planning tool itself, three other areas need your attention. How do the planning tools under consideration compare regarding:

Cost

What’s the annual cost for this service? Is the cost based on the number of users or a flat fee? Is there a minimum contract length? Does the provider offer a free trial? Factoring in everything beforehand helps avoid unwanted surprises. 

Customer service

What support does the provider offer? Will you have a designated liaison to guide you as you transition? How quickly will issues be resolved? Read the reviews and ask lots of questions up front, too. 

Control and data security

How much control will you have over data day-to-day? What about data storage–is it cloud-based? How frequently is it backed up? Are any password systems employed to protect your data from unauthorized use? What’s the protocol if a breach occurs? 

Accidents happen. Before you choose a planning tool, verify that the software has excellent safety protocols in place. 

The shortlist of premium training planning tools

Cognota

As the first and only operations platform for learning teams, Cognota is built to make the planning and management of your training program as smooth as possible. 

From training intake through to design, Cognota enables you to bring the entire learning and development workflow into one place. This includes:

  • A dedicated intake portal from which you can receive, prioritize, and progress all training requests
  • Customizable planning boards where you can maintain oversight into all the ongoing projects and initiatives on your team’s plate
  • Capacity planning so you can assign resources effectively and maintain visibility into your team’s capacity for more work
  • Insights that help you understand the demand for training in your organization and how well your team is currently meeting it 

Check out Cognota’s LearnOps platform for yourself with a free trial or speak with sales to learn more.

CoreAchieve  

Also a cloud-based platform, CoreAchieve provides eLearning course creation and management through its LMS platform as a service. Key features include asynchronous learning, detailed report and analysis capabilities, and SSO authentication. 

As an LMS, CoreAchieve has a slightly narrower focus, but provides an excellent and responsive software platform that provides eLearners with quality courses. The tool’s planning capabilities include easy-to-use templates and tracking functions that monitor student progress and provide performance alerts.  

Easygenerator

“Create, collaborate and share” with this software designed for eLearning and course authoring. Easygenerator provides management services for eCommerce, learning and assignments. Training planning tools include customizable templates, integration with external software and collaboration with SMEs. 

A training planning tool assists, informs and guides your L&D team

An effective training planning tool guides your L&D professionals through the entire training process—from intake to insights—while ensuring that you’re assigning resources to the right place at the right time. With Cognota, you and your corporate training team can be sure you’re working as quickly as possible on the tasks that matter most. See for yourself with a free trial or speak with the sales team to schedule a demo.

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