Training is most effective when utilized as a method of supervision and management. Training is much less effective when it is done on a set schedule or only in an attempt to solve a problem or correct a behavior. Training should be a mindset that guides how you approach and interact with staff, customers, and others whose behavior or attitude you want to influence.
For training to be effective on a long-term basis, it must be ongoing and reinforced with follow-up refresher exercises that keep the information easily accessible in the mind of the learner. Training should start before an employee is hired and continue indefinitely with each and every interaction a manger or employer has with the individual.
Why Training is Important
Training has a positive impact on department and business operations in addition to profits, and is the best and only option when it comes to conveying the information and skills that employees need to correctly perform their assigned tasks.
The greatest challenge any business faces today is to find, develop, and keep qualified employees on the job, and nothing accomplishes this better than an effective and ongoing training program. You can only pay so much in wages. Threats and intimidation are destructive. Discipline is negative and should only be used as a last resort. Therefore, training is the best investment management can make to improve work quality, profits, and employee attitudes.
Training removes the questions and gives people the answers they need to perform their assigned tasks correctly. When you provide training to an employee, at least you know their failure to perform isn’t because they didn’t know the what, when, why, and how of the assigned task. They made the decision not to do the work as instructed. At the end of the day, supervisors, leads, managers, salespeople, owners, and customers all need and will benefit from training.
A New Model for Learning
Most people think of training as butts in chairs, probably because most of us spent a good 12 to 15 years learning that way. In fact, the less time employees spend sitting down and listening to someone talk or watching a PowerPoint presentation, the more effective the training will be. In order for on-the-job training to be truly effective with today’s workers, it has to be done differently. Just about everything in the world around us has changed, and how we approach training needs to change, too.
The most effective type of training is interactive because it prevents attendees from mentally leaving the room and participating in other activities, such as texting, checking email, or searching the Internet. When learners have to participate by thinking, talking, reading, writing, or physically completing a task, it is difficult for them to focus on something else. A very high percentage of learners remain mentally engaged when actively participating in a training session.
An instructor’s goal is to facilitate a learning experience for the participant, and when the mind is fully engaged in the process, more learning will take place. Keeping learners engaged is a challenge for every instructor, and it’s not easy to do. In fact, it is much easier for an instructor to lecture, give a PowerPoint presentation, or show a video than it is to plan and execute interactive learning. The problem with talk and presentations is that they bore attendees, and allow or even encourage the mind to wander off; when this happens, learning stops.
Blended learning involves the use of different instructional techniques. This can include hands-on exercises, demonstrations, printed materials, exams, games, presentations, videos, photos, props, handouts, question-and-answer sessions, group and team exercises, and limited lecture or talk. The options of what you can do are basically endless. One constant practice to follow is to break up the learning into 10 to 15 minute sessions and plan for interactions and variety with far less reliance on lectures, PowerPoint presentations, and videos.
When planning this type of training, think less about what you are going to say and place far more emphasis on how you are going to engage the trainees during the session. It’s not about you and your presentation; it’s about how the employees will learn the skills and information they need to perform their job to the best of their ability.
The greatest challenge of conducting blended interactive instruction is that it takes a lot of time and effort on the part of the instructor to plan and execute. However, the extra effort is well worth it, and with a little practice, you will get the hang of it and master the concept.
Successful and effective employee training is not just about the information you convey or even about how it is presented. The real challenge is getting the employee to retain and use the information and skills that have been taught.
An effective instructor helps employees to understand the value and importance of using their newly learned skills and information. The best way to accomplish this is to help them to understand the personal benefits they will receive by using their training. Sometimes this is as easy as telling the employee they will not get hurt, their training could save a life, they will make more money, or this information or skill will provide them with opportunities for growth and advancement. The instructor has to be able to help the employee answer the following question: How can I get what I want by doing what the employer or instructor is asking me to do?
Some employees can easily see the connection and will make the needed personal commitment to use the information or tools from their training; others will need coaching or further encouragement in order to grasp how the training applies to them. And some are simply not willing to make that connection or commitment, and they will not use their training. If an instructor can help the employee to see the connection between the information and the personal benefit, and then make a personal commitment to make it happen, the instructor has succeeded.
Making Training Stick
For employee training to be effective on a long-term basis, it must regularly be refreshed in the minds of the participants. If this is not done, the information and skills that were taught will be filed away deep in the mind as unimportant information; over time, it will be forgotten and less likely to be remembered or used. One way to burn information into the forefront of the mind is to use the two-two-two follow-up process:
Two days after instruction, discuss the key points of what is important to remember and why it’s important for the employee to use the information or skill. You should cover personal benefits, not just benefits to the company.
Two weeks after the instruction, again discuss and ask the employee to tell you some of the important information or key points they learned about the subject, and why the information or skill is important for their job. Again, revisit how the instruction has been useful to them since the initial training.
Two months after the instruction, again discuss and ask the employee to provide examples of how they have used and benefited from the skill or information they learned in the training session.
Sure, these steps take some time on your part, but if you want the training and skills to stick, you have to help the employee understand and recall the importance and value of the information or skills they learned. If you skip this part of the learning process, the information will not stick and you will have wasted all the time, effort, and cost of providing the training.