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Ask a Trainer: How to Remove Nice-to-Know Information From My Training

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
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Dear Tim,

I work as an instructional designer for a medium-sized manufacturing company on the East Coast. As I’m sure you’ve experienced in your career, I work with a lot of subject matter experts who want me to stuff my training with a ton of nice-to-know information. I get that they think a lot of this information is important, but I am struggling to help them understand why it’s not necessary.

What tips can you share for identifying and removing nice-to-know information from my training content? Also, do you have any tips to help my SMEs understand why everything doesn’t need to be included?



Oh, gosh! What a great question! Not only have I experienced this dilemma in the past, I also would suspect almost every instructional designer has had to deal with this at one point or another. The thing about subject matter experts is that they want everyone to be just as knowledgeable, capable, and passionate as they are about their given area of expertise. And as learning professionals, we know that this is not only unrealistic but totally unnecessary.

The truth is, your learners only need the most minimal amount of information to do their jobs at the expected level of performance. That’s it! Nothing more and nothing less. So, how can you remove nice-to-know information from your training? Well, here are my top three tips.

Ask a Ton of Questions

When it comes to removing nice-to-know information from your training, the first place to start is with your subject matter experts. Yes, your SMEs will always be overly enthusiastic about what content (all of it) should be included; however, that doesn’t mean they can’t help you—it’s just a matter of how you ask your questions.

When working with your subject matter experts, ask questions that reveal the true relevance of the content they are asking you to include. Instead of asking questions like, “Do we need to include this?” or “Is this information important?” ask questions like:

  • How will employees use this information to complete the task?
  • What would happen if they didn’t receive this information?
  • Do employees need to memorize this information, or can it be referenced on the job?

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Conduct a Task Analysis

One of the challenges of separating must-know from nice-to-know information is your personal familiarity with the content. If you’re acting as your own subject matter expert, you can rely on your own knowledge and expertise regarding what information should be included in the training. However, if it’s a topic you’re not familiar with, you might feel like you can only depend on your SMEs. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be the case.

One way to remove nice-to-know information and become more familiar with the topic of your training is by conducting a task analysis. A task analysis is a process of analyzing a specific task to determine how it’s completed, step-by-step. And once you’ve completed a task analysis, you’ll be in a much better position to make informed decisions about what is nice-to-know information.

Use Multiple Training Modalities

As you analyze and sort through your learning content, you’ll sometimes identify information that doesn’t necessarily belong in your training, but still offers some benefit. In these situations, you might be tempted just to keep it in your course; however, you have other options.

One way to remove nice-to-know information, but still make it available to your learners, is to deliver it in a different format. It’s important to remember that when you’re designing any type of training, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to one modality. Instead, you should find ways to create a blended training experience.

You can do this by taking your nice-to-know content and finding other ways to make it available to your learners. Whether it’s a job aid, a reference document, a page on your company’s intranet, or something else, you can still make your nice-to-know information available to your learners by offering it in a different format.

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I certainly hope that helps you identify and remove some of that nice-to-know information. It’s not always easy, but if you can ask the right questions, conduct the right analysis, and consider multiple ways to deliver the content, you should be on the right track.

Best of luck!

Tim



What other tips do you have for removing nice-to-know information? Share them by commenting below.



Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected] Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.



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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

1 Comment
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Great question and suggestions! I am currently working to cut down on the length of our trainings by focusing on the specifics needed for the job task to be done. While the nice to knows are always that, good to know, I agree this is where to cut down...learners can only absorb so much at once. I am planning on using job aids or quick bite videos providing Tips & Tricks (the nice to knows) that users can optionally reference to increase their knowledge.
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