The days of inviting your organization to spend a week at the exclusive resort for a training session on the company dime is becoming a thing of the past. The trend now seems to be a quick jaunt over to the local hotel conference center for a slide presentation accompanied by coffee and doughnuts. Additionally, the subject material of training is becoming more focused on specific needs, often referred to as “training with specific intent.”
As a recent example, outside of the workplace, my wife asked me to go to Grandma’s house and help her “fix” her desktop computer. Evidently it hadn’t been working since our 7 year old used it a few days prior. As it turns out, Grandma had been trained in the ways of launching an internet browser and how to use her favorite social media site, but she had never been shown how to turn the computer off and on. Behold, the 7 year old stumped the 78 year old by shutting the computer down after a few hours of online gaming.
After a few quick demonstrated steps, Grandma was back up and running and empowered to handle the situation on her own for the next time, without the need of going to Computer Basics 101.
As decision makers in the workplace we should recognize the concept that a well trained workforce yields a more flexible workforce. Increased flexibility provides a variety of benefits whether the economy is up, down or anywhere in between.
The following 3-step process is very simple, but very effective. I recently used this to train an employee on how to make an update in Microsoft Excel. The employee had limited training in such software applications, but was knowledgeable in the basics of a computer.
Before you get started, Pick your task and get Specific. Breakdown the larger task at hand into definitive steps. This will help with keeping the attention span of the trainee and with the actual retention of the task. If you find that any of the steps will take more than 5 minutes, there is a good chance it can be broken down into smaller, more incremental steps.
1. Train the trainer. Perform the steps yourself, while the trainee observes and encourage them to write down any notes or questions they may have. The best time to discuss these is after the task is complete to avoid any interruptions. NOTE: It may be helpful to use written reference material that outlines what you are demonstrating. The key is that you are not only vocally explaining the steps, but you are also providing a hands-on demonstration.
2. Trainee performs the tasks while you observe. Let the trainee take control and perform the task while you observe and have them actually explain what they are doing during this process. NOTE: This is where questions will typically arise. Experience shows that it is helpful to stop and answer any questions they have at this point of the process. Simply because they are more than likely necessary in order to actually complete the task at hand. Once the task is complete, have them repeat as necessary to feel comfortable.
3. Pay it forward. Once steps 1 and 2 are complete, have the Trainee take on the role of the trainer and demonstrate the steps to a new trainee. This is a very solidifying step in the learning process and it is important that it happens as soon as possible after step 2 above. There seems to be a significant drop in retention if the newly acquired skills are not applied, essentially, making the training useless.
Some interesting things will happen during step 3 after you have used this process enough times. The newest trainee will ask questions that the previous trainee had not thought to ask. You may have to answer the questions for them, but many times the 1st trainee will know how to answer them without having to consult with you. Success!
Some things to keep in mind:
1. Safety awareness. Training in certain environments can be dangerous. Please review the safety implications of the training you’re performing prior to starting this process.
2. Watch for something called “bad duplication.” A comical example of this can be found in the Michael Keaton movie, called “Multiplicity.” If you start making copies of copies, things can go wrong quickly! Be willing to monitor the process for a while in order to minimize possible misunderstandings that can lead to issues down the road.
3. Documentation. Creating outlines or reference material for the tasks you are training on can significantly reduce the amount of retraining necessary.
4. See it through their eyes. What may seem like a trivial task to you may be very cumbersome to another. When breaking down the task into steps, do your best to see it through the trainee’s eyes based on their experiences.
There are most certainly times when there will be a more thorough training course required depending on your line of work. But for those small needs that arise on a daily basis, these few steps have proven to be a useful and cost effective way to train others, in or out of work.