The Training Wand

Several years ago when I was a trainer, I was reporting to a training manager who was a skilled operations manager, but knew little about training adults.  Her number one measurement tool was how many people received training each month.  It was never an issue whether the learning was applicable, or if the participants obtained skills, but the number of people who attended.

She was famous for agreeing to line requests for training on the fly, and those of us that were facilitators would be given days to pull something together for a workshop on any number of different topics.  We all functioned as waiters and cooks ready to serve up anything the client wanted to train.

Although we tried endlessly to explain how instructional design worked, and that learning objectives were a serious part of matching training with needs, she would not give us the time to make sure we got the training right before we delivered it.

During a rather tense staff meeting, one of the bolder trainers (not me back then) had went to the toy store and purchased a two foot long, bright pink princess magic wand.  It had feathers and glitter and to a 6-year-old would have been a perfect gift.  This trainer presented it to our manager with the insight that whenever she preferred to avoid adult learning principles in design and training requests in the future, she need only wave the wand over the trainer and everything would work perfectly.

No one could hold back their laughter, and the manager stepped right into the fun promising to use it in the future.  The activity released some stress, but none of us expected a change in her behavior.  And yet it did.

She put the wand in her office in a pencil cup on her desk.  When people asked her for training after that, she was often heard negotiating the terms and insisting that we had time to design a good workshop.  I once heard her say, “do you think I have a magic wand and I can just make the workshop appear out of thin air?”

Years later when I was a director of training, I found a similar wand at the dollar store and bought it for my office.  It was a reminder that training may look like magic, but it is really a science.  My boss hated it in my office, but I told him it was there to keep me from losing my focus.

Training During Summer Vacation

Like most processes as we enter the Summer Vacation season, training seems to take a break.  Because so many employees take time off during the Summer, we cut back on our program offerings.  While this may be a constructive tactic in your organization, it should never be an excuse to close up shop.  There may not be enough employees to run a classroom training event, but learning still needs to continue.

Inventive training managers will use the Summer time to clean storerooms, evaluate program successes, and send the team out for one-on-one training, brown bag lunch learning events, and to promote 24/7 access to online training.  They often will run more instructor-led online training (webinars) and kick program design into high gear.  In other words engage your training staff to remain productive and keep training going on all year-long for the client.

A friend of mine that runs training for a mid-sized bank works an annual training plan that keeps everyone focused.  Last year she was implementing a customer training program in the Fall, and ran a contest during the Summer for employees to submit their best and worst customer service experiences during their vacations.  The response not only gave her designers and trainers real life examples to include in the training program, she had prompted a large-scale “pre-work” assignment.  Nearly everyone was engaged in what good and bad service looked like!

When it came to running the training program, the enthusiasm and energy was higher than anyone expected.  My friend is quite humble and admitted that she really just thought it would be a good way to collect stories for the program.  She had no idea that she had begun her training months before the first class.

So as Summer approaches, what are you going to do to engage your employees and staff to keep learning?

The Educational Mismatch

There is a great article in the April 2013 edition of Chief Learning Officer Magazine by Josh Bersin called “The Educational Mismatch” which I strongly urge you to read if you are at all concerned about the job skills that are needed in the corporate environment and the lack of these skills being developed in our educational systems.

Josh goes into the research they have developed and the need for corporate training to develop these skills in their new hires, and at the same time partner closely with your local educational institutions.

I still feel that school has been too focused on knowledge and not enough about learning to perform tasks.  Knowing about something is far from being able to apply the knowledge to particular job skills.  And yet I also feel that we are missing out on career counseling and directing our young learners into careers.  Remember when people used to ask us “what do you want to be when you grown up?”

If you ask most high school students this question, too often we get the expected answer of “I’m going to college.”  I always ask why, which gets a really odd look, but what I’m driving at is what is the goal, what is the job they are preparing to accomplish.  I want them to make sure they are learning what they should to perform in their desired role someday.

Honestly it pains me to watch these kids exiting the educational system with a degree in knowledge that does not afford them the ability to perform on the job, let alone get a job.  If they do land a job, the education they got was nice to have, but the corporate training function and their manager is responsible for training them to actually perform.  How is this a win for all those years in school, let alone the cost?

How does your company handle the educational mismatch for new graduates?

Part Time Trainers

I’ve rarely met an individual that I didn’t think had a bit of trainer in them.  We all have knowledge and skills that others could benefit from, so how do we tap the trainer in our employees even if it is only part-time?

In so many companies today, training is being cut back because of a lack of budget.  While that can often be an excuse, today I want to talk about a solution that could work for organizations that really are struggling with budget dollars.

In a lot of companies, trainers are professional full-time employees and no one else gets the honor of training employees.  I like a mix of professional trainers, external consultants and internal employees with the desire to train others.  This latter group is often left only to managers and senior leaders, but I encourage you to really look around your organization and find those with a trainer’s heart.

A person with a trainer’s heart has the desire to help others learn.  They may not fully understand all of the adult learning principles that the professional has learned, but they are willing to learn the art of facilitation.  These folks make some of the best trainers at the end of the day because they want to do what it takes to train well.

If you have senior trainers on staff you can partner them with the line employee and co-train a workshop.  During my days at Bank of America we trained in these pairs frequently for programs that were specific to a division.  The line manager had the subject matter credibility and as the senior trainer I had the credibility and skill to facilitate the activities.  We were successful teams, and once a program had been delivered a few times the line manager had often become a great trainer because they were learning on the job.

Mentoring is still one of the most honored roles a person can play in the development of another employee.  At least it should be considered an honor, and if not, this is not someone with a trainer’s heart.  So the more people you can recruit to become trainers the more training you can provide.

Let me know how you use your employees to train others.