By: Recruiting Training Corner
Whether your goal is employee development or employee training, it’s likely that the situation below is familiar.
An organization decides that a new product launch requires an employee-wide training session, to be conducted via Webex. Because customer service representatives and sales representatives cannot be away from their core jobs for very long, only 1 hour is allocated for the training.
A few weeks later, as customers start to call and ask questions about the new product, most customer service representatives simply do not know how to deal with the issues.
Afterwards, your managers become incensed and demand answers. “Explain to me how you do not know this when you just had training a few weeks ago? Were you not listening?”
The good news is that they probably were listening.
The bad news: your 25-slide walkthrough and closing 5-minute question and answer session was sorely lacking.
Simply said, presenting information does not constitute training. As such, organizations must move beyond this to create meaningful learning for their employees, whether through in-person training, e-leaning tools or mobile learning.
What is Training?
In its simplest form, employee training can best be understood as an organized activity:
- The goal is to convey information and/or instructions that improve knowledge of a topic.
- The outcome provides the learner with a mandatory level of understanding that can be demonstrated.
As simple as it sounds, the process is often easier said than done.
According to Edgar Dale, a turn of the century educationist who explored how learners retain information, people only retain 50% of what they see and hear two weeks after a training.
That being said, retention can go up as high as 70% if employee engagement and participation are part of the discussion. Retention can go as high as 90% if employees are required to present or do something with the material being presented.
While his conclusions have been hotly debated for years now, most trainers will tell you that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support his basic premise that simply presenting information isn’t enough to retain information.
So why do organizations continually settle for this type of “employee training?”
Common Excuses for Poor Employee Training:
Not Our Fault -- Yes, many companies believe that the problem lies with their employees’ lack of attention rather than the presentation format.
If a large segment of your employees fail to retain information, are you confident that the problem lies with them and not you?
Not Enough Time -- The “our employees are too busy to train” is another situation that trainers must constantly deal with in both educational and corporate settings. In these types of presentations, trainers are rushed to get through all of the material, providing little to no interaction, especially for large group training.
If adult learners truly do only retain 50% of what they hear and see, this is a disastrous practice.
Don’t Know How -- While time is certainly a factor, there are indeed things that trainers and instructional designers could be doing to improve employee training.
No Money -- Money, or the lack thereof, is no longer a valid reason for poor training. Elaborate simulations are no longer required for training that goes beyond presenting the information. There are relatively simple and inexpensive things that can be implemented, even in larger employee training sessions.
How to Create More Engaging Training
Creating more engaging and interactive training MUST become a priority for organizations. They are spending the money and the time on these anyways, so why not go that extra mile to understand if it’s having the desired effect, and, if not, remedy the situation.
These recommended strategies can be incorporated into trainings, making them more effective from the standpoint of both cost and retention.
Job Aids/Leave Behinds -- After trainees walk away from your training, do you have anything to offer them to further their understanding of the content? Have you developed any job aids/task aids/leave behinds?
Consider developing tools that can support your employees in real time when they are confronted with specific questions about the new product you just trained on, or a business process that has been altered. Expecting them to remember every bullet point you read is simply not realistic. Provide them with references.
Evaluation -- What happens after you have a training session, whether it be a Webex or face-to-face? Do you have any sort of evaluation? An evaluation is more than simply asking, “How would you rate the trainer?”
A meaningful evaluation asks specific questions about the content they were exposed to and assigns a pass/fail score. If you don’t have a Learning Management System to deploy this, an interim solution could be using something like SurveyMonkey, which is a relatively inexpensive solution.
A follow-up survey makes learners accountable. It should also give you a fairly good indication of how the information was processed and retained.
If survey results show that a majority of your audience did not understand the material satisfactorily, you’ll have time to remedy the situation before it becomes an issue with clients and/or work processes.
Interactivity -- This is arguably the most difficult thing to incorporate into training, especially if the session is virtual and the group is large. But there are strategies that you implement to this end.
- Use the polling functionality/real time question and answer. As you go through the training, insert some polling questions that refer specifically to the content you have just taught. You’ll know immediately if you have low participation/poor understanding, and can attempt to go through the material again.
- Call out participants. Depending on the scenario, it may be possible to call out learners as you go through the training. Saying something like, “Mike, would you mind going over the three features of this product for the group?” will keep everyone on their toes and will give you immediate feedback on the pulse of the group.
It could generate some awkward situations in which the learner refuses to answer (especially if over the phone) but a seasoned trainer should be able to gracefully handle these types of occurrences.
- Weave a game through training. This may seem too complicated for some, but it’s actually quite easy. Why not weave a game of jeopardy throughout your session? Pause at strategic points and engage the audience with a fun question and answer period to create a audience checkpoints that break up “bullet-point reading” and infuse a little fun into the session.
There are a ton of free PPT templates and ideas online that you can download and tweak to your liking.
- Have learners teach to the group. The premise of this is quite simple. If the recall of content is extremely high when learners are required to teach it back to the audience, why not design an exercise with this in mind?
If the training is being done face-to-face, break into smaller groups and have various small nuggets of teaching topics prepared. Have everyone present a topic to their sub-group, and then rotate. Walk around the class, try to listen to what is being said and provide feedback where appropriate.
If the session is happening over the Web, modify the exercise and have one or two volunteers teach one of the topics you just went through.
When considering employee development, it’s always worthwhile to take a closer look at the design of your employee training.