Workplace training. You know you need it. It’s part of your career progression. It’s also an essential way to help any business grow, develop and keep up with the rest of the industry. So why is it so often a disappointment?
Plenty of workplace training opportunities are squandered, and it’s for a wide variety of reasons. New skills take practice and repetition to become embedded. If that doesn’t happen, the old habits stay in place. It’s even less likely to happen when training doesn’t come with a schedule to follow up over the next three to six months. And when training is being undertaken reluctantly, by staff who feel they’d be better off getting on with their work, it’s destined to fail.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Make your training sessions interactive, engaging and purposeful and you’ll soon see the results.
View it as a journey
Most workplace training is viewed as an event. But learning isn’t a one-off event: it’s a process.
Instead of viewing the hours of training as the essential, make it the starting point. Build in feedback. After a pre-arranged period of time, evaluate – and revisit the same skills in a new session, or explore a new area based on your evaluation. That makes workplace training an ever-evolving, and ever-relevant part of the work culture.
Ask the right questions
Training often ends up being scheduled into an arbitrary slot. You’re travelling to a venue, so it’s a day. There’s an afternoon session that everyone can attend. The trainer is booked for two sessions, so we’ll get everyone in.
When training is arbitrary – or worse, irrelevant – it’s never going to be successful. Leverage people’s internal motivations, and involve them from the start. Start by asking the potential trainee to identify what challenges their facing. What do you need to learn? What skills do you want to develop? If you’re running a training session, open by asking what they are hoping to get out of the process, and what their expectations are.
Bringing in external trainers isn’t the only way to develop new skills in the workplace.
Draw on the skillset, knowledge and experience of an existing management structure, by making team managers an active part of the process. Training is a skill, one that not every manager will have. But coaching a team allows active participation in team skills development, and means that process of continuous feedback and evaluation can slot into existing behaviours. It doesn’t need to be formal, either. Ad hoc intervention when the opportunity or need arises is just as valuable as bringing in external help, if not more so.
None of us respond well to a bombardment of new information. And we’re not getting better at it, either. Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains suggests our shorter attention spans mean we’re now accustomed to short-form information, accessible online, at any time of day.
Harness that awareness, and reinvent your workplace training process with regular small ‘slices’ of information. Video short sessions, so they can be accessed remotely, at any time, and revisited too. When presenting, use short-form techniques like Pecha Kucha to keep things moving. This approach encourages a much more trainee-focused balance of time, so there’s plenty of space available for discussion of the subjects raised.
Crowdsource your content
There are ways to make presentations engaging and fresh. But a day of Powerpoint isn’t going to get your message across.
Instead of presenting a slideshow, dedicate a session to trainee-led discussion. Source high-quality questions, by framing the topic clearly and carefully. Encourage trainees to describe a particular scenario they’d like to know how to handle, to help narrow the focus. Use live polling to get the audience to upvote the most compelling topics. Then start finding answers, using either a panel or a series of small-group discussions.