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Developing an Effective Training and Development Program, Part 2: Implementing KSAs

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In Part 1 of this series, we examined the role organizational structure plays in developing an effective training and development program. In this second and final installment, we’ll discuss implementing knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs) in your training objectives.

Learning objectives must be established and adhered to when developing a training program – otherwise, training activities may bear few results. Regardless of the training subject matter, training objectives should always address each component of the acronym KSA, which stands for knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Each KSA element is an important part of learning and development. Training (regardless of the subject) should result in improved knowledge, improved skills and an improved attitude toward the subject matter and training process. Utilizing these elements as the framework of objective development will result in tangible, measurable outcomes.

“K” is for Knowledge

As the body of information – found in the form of facts, procedures and protocols – developed as a result of the learning, knowledge is clearly essential.

This first learning objective is broken out into three sub-divisions: declarative knowledge, which consists of information that is placed into one’s memory; procedural knowledge, which consists of information added to current knowledge and intended for immediate use; and strategic knowledge, which has to do with one’s understanding of how, when and why information is used.

Your training program should always aim to increase the knowledge base of the training audience. Training that fails in this objective is often considered by the training audience to be a waste of time, for obvious reasons.

“S” is for Skills

Knowledge alone isn’t enough: training should include proactive instruction to carry out the knowledge learned. This leads to the second component of KSA – skills.

A skill involves the application of knowledge in order to accomplish something. Two levels of skills include compilation, defined as a lower or remedial level of skill; and automaticity, a higher/advanced level of skill where one has mastered the process of doing something and it becomes automatic (hence the name).

I have participated in many training programs that have told me what to do but have left me wondering how to do it. Students must not only be provided with what to do, but should also be trained and practiced in how to do it. Skills cannot be developed without practice.

“A” is for Attitudes

The third desired outcome of learning encompasses one’s beliefs and/or opinions, which are manifested in behavior. These factors will determine a student’s motivation to learn and will subsequently affect one’s ability to gain both knowledge and skills.

Attitudes are affected by feelings towards the subject matter and the overall learning process. Most people who have led a training class or seminar experienced the effects of a participant’s negative attitude toward the training. This is often the result of a bad experience related to a prior training or the subject matter. It should be the goal of every training program to improve attitudes and behaviors toward both the training process and the subject matter. This must be considered and addressed in the development phase. Failure to do this will result it low retention levels and a failed training program.

The old saying, “fail to plan, plan to fail,” holds very true when establishing objectives, as programs that lack tangible and planned learning objectives often fail. Ensure learning objectives are your primary focus as you plan and develop a safety training program. Without a solid foundation of learning objectives, your training program has no more than a chance at success; with learning objectives, you’re on your way to successful program development.

Source: Blanchard, N.P., & Thacker, J. (2010). Effective training, systems, strategies and practices. (Custom 4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

The postings on this site represent the author's personal opinions and do not represent or reflect the opinions, positions or strategies of AECOM Technology Corp. or its subsidiaries or affiliated entities.

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