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Targeted Crowd Sourcing: How to Create Training Content without a Training Team

Did I just put myself out of a job with this title?  Hopefully not but for some of you out there that are struggling to provide training to your teams and simply don’t have the staff to create and to deliver training I have some ideas to help get you started.

Growing companies and businesses that have years of experience on the bench often find themselves in situations to figure out how to effectively train their staff. Whether it’s a new product, technology training, or the wisdom of senior personnel that never quite made its’ way into training manuals, we all are faced with the challenge of how to keep training current, accessible, and relevant.

Targeted crowd sourcing is something that is newer in the office but not new in concept.  Think of the Red Cross commercials that ask you to text $10 to a number following a natural disaster. The idea is telling people exactly what you need and how to deliver the request. If you want to participate, you don’t have to figure the logistics and the call to action is specific and swift.

Now let’s associate this to crowd sourcing training.  You will have to put some more muscle and thought on the planning stage, but the outcome is well worth it!

Getting Started – WEEK #0

Kick off your process by working with select leaders in the area where training is being requested and ask questions like:

  • What kind of training is available now?
  • How effective is the current training?
  • How do users access training?
  • What are the biggest repeatable issues that may be avoided with training?
  • What kind of support can you offer to this initiative?

Use the items to help create a training matrix.

Why a Matrix? It provides a common plan for training similar topics. Creating a checklist of sorts for training items allows contributors to have a plan for what areas to provide content and allows training consumers to have a common expectation of what is covered regarding training topics, making expectations and results consistent.


Crowd Sourcing- WEEK #1

Setting the right tone and stage for this event is critical and can create fascinating progress is a very short period of time.

Crowd sourcing begins with having a select group of identified Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on your project.

Invite your SMEs to a meeting and provide a high level concept of the targeted end result, then start by giving them one assignment for the week which starts will filling out the matrix with existing targeted content specific for each cell. You can link content, copy and paste, etc, but the idea is to fill in each cell with as much information that currently exists. By the end of the week you will see a rather full matrix without having creating one custom piece of content. Your SMEs will also be motivated by the results that were sourced by their peers in a short period of time.

Refining the Content – WEEK #2

The first week is about shaking the couch cushions, so to speak, to find out what information exists in emails, hard drives, shared sites, etc. This week is about having a review process to assess the quality of the materials that were introduced the previous week.

Divide SMEs into teams and parse out the materials that are relevant only the items the team is to review. Introduce a key to score each piece of content:

GREEN: Great info; can use as is

YELLOW: Good info; needs updating

RED: Has low value

BLUE: Good info but not relevant for this exercise

Again, no new content has been created, only items that currently exist.


The end result gives you a quick visual regarding what information you can use. In this example, only 2 pieces of content have low value.

Filling in the Gaps- WEEKS #3/ 4

At this stage you have collaborated to pool content and provide a filter to keep the best items. This next step is to fill in the gaps of the content that is missing. Most people start with this stage and it’s almost a non-starter because the task that is in front of people is so daunting that getting started never really happens. Making this step 3 shows the teams how much great info is already out there and you’re almost in the home stretch!

Check It! – WEEK #5

Have the teams put together a checklist for the training items. If there is a topic that is not relevant for a checklist, acknowledge it in the list. For instance, if there is no installed application, you can list the item and put “not applicable” for this item. This is helpful for users who are consuming the content to know they aren’t missing a step, rather the step does not exist. Having a common check list provides for better processes and consistent outcomes.

Make it Flow- WEEK #6

This might be a job for your marketing team or someone with a good eye for consistent style.  Put together a template that allows the training content to flow in a logical order (follow the items on your matrix) and is easy to understand. Have a standard style and flow provides you a template for ongoing training and easy to swap out items like new troubleshooting guides, without the need to replace all of the materials.

Package & Deliver- WEEK #7

This is the final item! Whether you are using a Learning Management System, Wiki page or some other means to share information, make sure you package your content into one start to finish piece. This allows new users and legacy advocates to have access the same information without missing out on any content.

Crowd sourcing can be a huge failure or a grand success. Here are 3 items that will help guarantee your success:

  1. 1) Have a committed leader who will drive the project to the finish
  2. 2) Provide weekly, specific goals to participants. This keeps the focus tight and allows for you to make adjustments in the schedule if one task is running long.
  3. 3) Provide weekly updates on progress to leadership and the SMEs. Give credit when it’s due and keep realistic goals for timelines.

Crowd sourcing can be effective; you just have to know how to work the crowd!

Happy learning.

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