Training, Continuing Education, Mentoring, blah, blah, blah. Companies all talk about it. They talk and talk and talk. They create big programs and roll outs and yada, yada yada. My question is, “Do they effectively train, the people who need to be trained, on the things they need to be trained on, in the manner that allows people to learn?”.
Observe the typical corporate training session. As the trainer drones on, following their power point and hand outs, look at the trainees. One group is completely disengaged, often texting or reading emails on their smart phones (or playing games). Another group stares ahead with glazed eyes, like deer in headlights completely lost in the material. The few remaining members are engaged and following along. Cookie cutter training programs presented to everyone without regard to their current level of knowledge. A waste of time at best. There is a very small opportunity for this type of training program. It can establish a minimum level of common knowledge before training continues. At Ebsco, we launched the Ebsco U series which was just that. A series of four basic presentations, to expose everyone to Ebsco’s history, the processes we offer and an overview of each department and the machinery. Beyond this, overview, this type of training is ineffective.
The first point that should be addressed in training is understanding the people we are training. I first experienced this while I was with Walgreens. I realized that I was using terms such as “sku” (shelf keeping unit), “CRW (Charles R Walgreens, which was a term we used for private label products), “CCR” (Consumer centric Retailing, which was a strategy that covered many marketing aspects). It is a good thing to introduce these “internal” terms to new employees. It is NOT a good thing to use these terms in training, without explaining their meaning. We all like to sound important and use “insider” terms. The problem is we do not take the time to teach their meaning to new employees. If you teach them, then you don’t sound so important, Right? At Ebsco, I used the term “stress relief” for a year before I really understood it. Yes, I knew it was heat treatment, Yes, I knew it was important. No, I didn’t REALLY understand it for the first year. Through our Ebsco U program I learned that the wire we coiled into springs, wanted to gradually return to the straight piece of wire it started. When appropriate heat was applied, the spring then understood this was its new form and did not attempt to return to its former shape. Yes this is WAY over-simplified explanation, BUT when your new, that is the first step in learning. When you were younger, you learned multiplication before you went on to algebra. In grade school they didn’t ask you to solve for “x” yet that is what you did in your multiplication problems. Companies must determine the current level of knowledge of the trainees, then design the language and content of their training to fit the audience. This will require smaller, targeted training groups. It will require individual training. It will require customized training plans for individual team members. If companies are committed to training and really want to see results from their training, individualized training is the answer.
After determining who needs to be trained and their current level of knowledge, then decide what you want to train them on. Companies spend a great deal of time, training employees on information that will never be used in their current or subsequent jobs. It’s nice to know, but what is the purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I am VERY supportive of training team members in other department processes. Better understanding of other’s jobs creates better team work. Understanding other’s jobs allows the opportunity to create better interaction. This has merit when discussing general terms of others jobs. Too often these “cookie cutter” programs provide specific information that is only used by a small group of the recipients. At Ebsco, our initial Ebsco U was designed for just this. Giving everyone a basic knowledge of other departments and jobs. It was not designed to provide specifics. Companies must look at specific topics as they relate to specific processes and individual team members goals to determine appropriate training topics. Training should be relevant in their current role and prepare them for future roles they wish to advance (that includes, safety, environmental, HR issues and anything that impacts their job).
The final step in effective training is to determine the individuals best method of learning. Everyone learns differently. Remember the kid in school that never paid attention and got straight As? they could read the text-book and understand the material. Others never cracked a text-book, were very involved in class discussions and they walked in and Ace the test without every opening the text books. Others learn from doing. “Don’t explain it to me, give me problems to use the knowledge and allow me to work them”. Everyone learns differently and as employers, we must recognize individual learning skills and utilize them in our training. Although this takes time, failure to do this will result in team members not learning the new skills and practices. Another waste of training dollars.
The training methods I am proposing will take time and money. It will require real commitment from employers. Saying this, It will SAVE companies money. Current training methods are a waste of time and money. Training programs not appropriate to current knowledge levels, on non-related topics, in methods not appropriate to the individual are a waste of time and money. The “old school” training methods just don’t achieve the results. World Class companies must create individualized training programs for team members. Creating effective, individualized training programs will create engaged, knowledgeable employees, whose productivity and contributions will pay huge dividends to the dollars invested in their training.
Like the old saying, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later”.