I’ve had several conversations recently with someone that is in training for a job doing data entry for billing at a national firm. The program started out well with lots of time to learn and practice skills. Early in the conversations I in fact said that someone who knew what they were doing set up the training plan (I was thinking someone with training development or instructional design experience but didn’t say it out loud). The training for this job was set for two weeks and while the pace picked up some toward the end of the first week, it still wasn’t bad. Starting the second week however the pace increased significantly. By the middle of that week the instructor was covering material faster that his students could highlight in their manuals much less practice the new skills. Three-quarters of the way through the training one person quit and a second is deciding if it is worth staying on. I wish that this was unusual for onboarding training programs – but I have seen and heard the same story several times.
This type of training experiences usually occurs because of one of three reasons:
- The training program wasn’t developed by someone who knows how to construct training.
- The training program was delivered by someone who doesn’t know how to train.
- The training environment wasn’t prepared or equipped to deliver the training.
The training program wasn’t developed by someone who knows how to construct training.
As with many things, watching someone who is expert at their job makes it look easy. What is not always obvious is the pacing of the material, the interaction between instructor and students, the time to practice skills and tying them into their job.
Pacing of the delivery of new material is both art and science.
- The science comes in by looking at the scope of material and compare it to the time allotted for the training and parse it out by doable blocks.
- The art is looking at the content and the beginning skill level of the learners and adjust the schedule by adapting material to their needs.
Pacing delivery of material correctly can dramatically improve the learning and retention of materials. It is one of the subtle development and training skills that can make adequate training become outstanding.
Adult learning theory says that for training to be most effective there should be both interactions and collaboration in the training room. Adults learn better in an active environment than in a passive (read as lecture) situation. Interactions with the instructor include two-way communication such as question and answer or discussion formats rather than just lecturing which is one-way communication. Interaction/ collaboration activities between students allows them be build an understanding of material that directly relate to the learning instead of relying on an instructor to make connections they understand. These types of activities can easily be added to a curriculum with discussion prompts, project based learning if time is allowed for them to take place.
Finally, both adults and children learn far better when they have the opportunity for hands on learning. Training that has an instructor in the front of a room telling how to without letting student try the skills is doomed to poor retention (see Planning for Technology Training). Hands-on activities that come as close as possible to real situation will help learners apply knowledge to what their future job. When I worked as a call center trainer, I ran as many practice calls as possible with as many different scenarios as I could think of to prepare learners for the calls they would receive when training was completed. My learners left the classroom as well prepared as I could make them and performed well when they hit the production floor.
The training program was delivered by someone who doesn’t know how to train.
Too often, management looks at the production floor, finds someone who is good at their job (and if they are personable as well so much the better) and says you are now our trainer. Most people will do their best to deliver material as developed. For better or worse they will probably also present it in a similar manner to how they learned it because that’s the model they have to follow. The problem comes when someone in the training groups needs material adapted or something unexpected happened and the training itself needs to be adjusted. The best choice for a trainer is a person with some experience working with others in a training situation. It doesn’t mean they have to have a teaching certificate because there are many different ways people can learn training skills. Perhaps they acquired those skills from previous employment, military training programs, civic training programs, even some public speaking groups include training skills as part of their program.
The training environment wasn’t prepared or equipped to deliver the training.
Even with the best prepared curriculum and an outstanding trainer, a poor training environment can cancel out the best laid plans. Passwords may not work, materials may not have been printed, or something as simple as there may not be enough chairs in the room for everyone to sit during class. Unfortunately, technology can be one of the areas that problems seem to crop up regularly. Double and triple checking all the training environment requirements can be as important to the success of a training event as a well-developed program and a competent trainer.
To have a successful training program, try to follow these guidelines:
- Have training materials prepared or at least reviewed by someone familiar with adult learning theory.
- Only use trainers that have experience working with adults.
- Personally insure that all of the training requirements are in place prior to the start of any training event.