Despite our best efforts, it’s not as easy as it looks to get the training equation right. We train too early, we train too much or we make a host of other errors. While some of us learn from our mistakes, many of us practice a cycle of rinse and repeat as we make the same blunders year after year. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. With some careful planning and follow through, you can avoid problems many people will encounter again and again.
Strategy One: Keep Training Relevant and Immediately Applicable
Countless onboarding programs attempt to teach everything a person would ever want to know or need to know about a job in the first few hours, days or weeks. The information is important, but it has no immediate value. Subsequently, learners become overwhelmed, and then they don’t have opportunities to apply or reinforce what they’ve learned for months or even years.
Good trainers know the value of careful pacing, and they practice just-in-time training when they can. Ask yourself, what does my learner need to be successful in the first day, the first week and the first month? Teach to those needs as much as possible, and save the more in-depth information for a more appropriate time. What do you need to prioritize?
Strategy Two: Connect to Why Again and Again
When people don’t know why they are doing something, they don’t understand the big picture. While they get the process at a surface level, their limited understanding potentially keeps them from following procedures later.
For example, if someone is learning how to use a copier and part of the process is putting the guard up on the paper tray for jobs with more than 100 sheets, without explaining why that’s important to do, that learner might skip that step. Only when papers are scattered all over the floor and have to be re-collated does the learner know the importance of raising the guard.
Great trainers make connections. They repeatedly explain why they’re doing what they’re doing, why procedures are written as they are, and so forth. Are you connecting the dots as well as you should, or could you do a better job?
Strategy Three: Use Multiple Channels to Cement Learning
I showed her how to do it, she did it and now she’s trained. Maybe that’s true for the simple stuff, but for complex processes and procedures, multi-channel encoding reigns supreme.
For example, show learners in real-time how to complete a process. Then do it again, at the same time providing a narration track while the learner takes notes. Next, have the learner read the notes aloud. Finally, have the learner demonstrate the procedure.
The multi-channel approach allows learners to see, hear, write, speak and do whatever process they are learning. Depending on the learner, some senses may be more powerful than others. And in rare cases where there is no preference, repetition wins the day. What can you do differently to engage more senses?
Strategy Four: Teach with Reference Tools
It’s one thing to conquer a task during one-on-one job coaching, but it’s entirely another to reproduce those results on the job.
People who have mastered the training function know to develop and teach reference tools in addition to processes themselves.
Ask yourself what kinds of support you need to develop. Decide where you need to incorporate them in your training plans. Those who learn how to solve problems themselves are worth their weight in gold. In addition to strong productivity, these people are usually happier and more motivated than those who don’t have the tools to stand on their own feet.
Four strategies and none hard: make training relevant, connecting to why, repeating information using different channels and incorporating the tools learners should use to solve problems back on the job. If done deliberately and with routine, you will almost certainly get a good result.
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit businesstrainingworks.com.