Better Ways to Train Your Employees for Success
By Meredith Summers Posted December 1, 2017
When an employee is doing well, it's sometimes difficult to tell how much their success is due to hard work and drive and how much is due to the employer's training and leadership. There are a lot of schools of thought about how employees should learn, and they range from traditional classroom structures to extreme role-playing. If you're not seeing improved expertise and competence of your employees after they go through extensive seminars, it may be time to rethink how you look at training methods and their results.
The Value of Hands-On Training
It's not uncommon to hear people say that they learn better by doing a task rather than by hearing it explained to them, and official surveys reflect this attitude as well. Yet, employees are constantly being plunked down in front of a teacher or trainer and letting them do their thing. To really understand a process, people need to experience the true definition of trial and error. Workers should understand not just the concepts being taught but also how those concepts work in the context of the larger operation. The more exposure they have, the more likely it is they'll actually retain the information and learn to use it in real-world applications. This doesn't mean that dangerous or complicated tasks should skip the theory tutorial entirely, but it does mean that hands-on training may be far more valuable than any expensive corporate seminar you have.
The Right Speed
It's unfair to expect all employees to go at the same pace and doing so will only frustrate everyone who isn't in the driver's seat. It's going to inflame either one of two big Rs: either people are going to find the instructions repetitive or they're going to find them to be rushed. While it's not always practical to give employees personalized training seminars, it's just as impractical to waste people's time by providing them with instructions they can't use. Adaptive models encourage giving everyone more choices when it comes to their training, and letting them call more of the shots. Instead of opening the door to confusion and chaos when using this method, employers often find their employees get the innate rewards that stem from mastering the material.
Eliminating Blind Spots
Knowledge has a way of breaking down or getting lost in any organization simply due to the sheer amount of it. Employees often assume they know something when in fact there are major gaps in their understanding. Not only is it problematic for the employee, it's problematic for anyone that employee trains — either in an official capacity or not. Ulrik Juul Christensen recommends that trainers focus not just on questions employees answer incorrectly, but also questions they answered correctly based on guessing. The key is to encourage employees to be the first to identify when they're certain of something and when they should consult another resource to verify what they think they know. The more this happens, the more likely it is to introduce a chain effect for everyone in the company.
Acknowledge Real Life
What's it like to really participate in a training seminar? Are your trainers warm and charismatic? Are they straightforward and no-nonsense? One thing that most training sessions have in common is that those on the other side of the podium aren't usually expected to instantly understand the concepts being presented to them. Yet, when they leave that training seminar, they're usually put under far more pressure to get it right. Ultimately, it's the real world demands of the job that cause people to abandon their training and focus on how they can survive in an often unforgiving job environment. If you're planning to conduct any type of formal, instructional training, it needs to acknowledge the difficult feelings of pressure and inadequacy that employees are likely to feel when confronted with a new task.
Capitalize on Receptiveness
Some employees are simply more receptive to learning than others, and this trait is a huge indicator of the success and loyalty an employee will have in the wider organization. One way that trainers can get more out of their trainees is by refusing to peg them in one role. Nurturing them means letting employees spread their wings and try new things. A receptive employee will be the first to take the ball and run with it, meaning they won't have to be told to train on their own time. Talk to employees about the skills they would need if they wanted to get ahead — regardless of where they start in the company. This helps employees to think more the way their managers think, which can motivate them to stretch themselves to master new skills independently of official training.
Asking employees what they think of the training seminar directly afterward isn't always the best way to understand how effective the lessons were. Only about a third of employees use any of their training after a year has passed, suggesting that their training activities hold far fewer practical applications that decision-makers believe. If a trainer is friendly and charismatic enough, employees are likely to respond favorably to these traits whether they feel like they learned something or not. Real results are measured in everything from employee retention to improvements to productivity, and these results won't make themselves known until long after the training session is done. To really get the most out of training, organizations need to be prepared to let go of methods that aren't working.
Also, consider using a workflow management platform to manage training and certification program participation. Organizations can build custom workflows for tracking, reviewing, and approving trainees work and compliance with the training program. Instilling a standardized, consistent workflow for training program tracking can help ensure training is meaningful and impactful.