Something that doesn’t change in good or bad economic times is the need for training employees, coupled with the reluctance to spend much money for it. Everyone wants to get the most they can while keeping costs down. The best way to do that is to get training that is designed to be immediately useful and easily retained. Here are three ways to do that.
1. Make it relevant to the workplace and show clearly how it is relevant to the workplace.
Knowing how the training is related to one's work is critical to getting buy-in to the training process. It is especially important for “soft skills” training. It is also an aid to retention and transfer of training. For example, if I were giving a stress management class, I’d include such tidbits as 1) “I’ll demonstrate stress management techniques that increase attention and focus. That helps reduce workplace accidents.” 2) “Here are three ways stress management bolsters the immune system. That will help prevent colds and ‘flu and mean fewer hours lost to illness.”
2. Make it practical, participative and/or experiential.
Even though the lecture method of teaching and training is still the standard, it is well known in the psychology of learning that is the least effective method. And so much training is primarily informational -- albeit with lovely slide shows, videos, printed handouts and humorous presentations. Before planning, purchasing or delivering training, please print on the back of your eyelids, “Training is not an information dump.”
If you want employees to learn, remember and use the training material, tell them and show them and get them involved in the process itself. No! -- Q and A sessions are not enough. Make sure there are relevant demonstrations of and participative exercises in the matter being presented in the training. That’s what makes it a training and not a briefing.
3. Assess employees immediately before the training and immediately after the training. (And perhaps even during the training.)
"There's going to be a test!" Nothing focuses attention as much as knowing you’re going to be tested. Make sure that the employee’s superior will know results of the test and that the employee knows the superior will know.
Furthermore, the trainer will have immediate feedback on what he/she has missed. If the test is given at a time that allows immediate follow-up, the trainer can go back and cover material that the test indicates needs more coverage.
There’s a method called “teaching from the test” that is very helpful in planning the training, assessing the training and making sure the subject matter is effectively covered. You give the test before the training and collect the answers. You then give a blank copy of the test for the trainees for reference during the training. In the training you make sure to cover the answers to the questions on the test. In fact, you design the test and the training around each other. The trainees are free to ask questions and discuss the test as you come to that material in the training. They may take notes to help them better answer the questions. At the end of the training, they may refer to their notes, training materials, the other trainees and the trainer while filling in the answers. The process has proven to increase retention and does not undermine the effectiveness of the testing process.
Whether you hire outside trainers or develop the training in house, make sure the training includes the three methods outlined above and you will get highly effective training.