Do's and Don'ts of Business Training - published in Business.com
Education is the cornerstone to the success of many projects in the business world, and yet it is often not done – either totally not done, or done so poorly that it might as well have not been done. Meanwhile, we have some very frightening statistics of project failure – 60+% of IT projects are said to have failed and in the CRM space, that number climbs to 85%.
There are many reasons for these failures, and training or even broader education is only part of the solution. However, here I want to focus on how we can change our approach to training to get better results.
We know that people learn in different ways:
- Visual people like to see something to understand it best
- Auditory people like to hear something to understand it best
- Kinaesthetic people like to do something to understand it best
We can also read about how millennials, who now form a large and increasing proportion of the workforce, are completely familiar with technology as they have grown up with it and like to solve problems themselves.
However, as training buyers or providers, we have to ride all of this to provide training that delivers the right results – the results that enable our team members to use the software solutions that our organisations have provided – at significant cost – to get the outcomes that they planned for all of these people, without costing the earth.
This is a huge ask. To achieve this means walking through a minefield of potential traps. So how can we provide training that fosters the ability to follow processes without just creating robots who repeat ad nauseum what they have seen demonstrated? To achieve this, our trainees need to leave the training understanding “why” the processes being taught are important as well as when to use each process and how to follow the process. We need to create independent practitioners.
If we are to create independent practitioners, people who can apply processes when relevant and make changes to them as required there are some common training approaches that we need to avoid. These include:
- Chalk and Talk / Spray and Pray
- Monkey See, Monkey Do
- Sitting with Nellie
Chalk and Talk / Spray and Pray
A trainer working through - worse still, just reading - a huge deck of slides, or an extended software demonstration, will, at best, leave the delegates with a feeling of “I wish I knew all of that”. They are highly unlikely to be able to take the lessons back to their work. This sort of training also creates the impression that training is a waste of time.
Novices understand little of what you say and, therefore, remember less. If no attempt is made to embed training, many delegates will forget 70%. Even though ‘the forgetting curve’ - an actual mathematical representation of the exponential rate at which we lose a memory “if no attempt is made to retain it” - has been known for over a century, many training providers do little to ensure that their material is reinforced and hence retained. So, training should include a lot of hands-on and the trainer should be there to show students how to correct their mistakes.
Chalk and Talk training often packs in so many topics that delegates can’t remember and learn them. Covering less and giving students time to absorb the material works far better for process-based training. Chalk and Talk is the Fool’s Gold of training practical skills, because it can look good to a buyer, but delivers little if any real value.
Within the material, there should be plenty of opportunities for the delegates to apply their learning. This means that topics and skills need to be revisited with less help. In my training material, I provide detailed steps the first time a skill is introduced, but far less detail in subsequent revisits of the skill. This also creates some problem solving without running the risk of each person finding their own solution to a process – which can easily lead to inconsistencies in process, which in turn lead to data issues leading to reports and dashboards being seen as inaccurate or not trustworthy.
We should also provide follow up sessions sometime after the original training so that participants can get their questions answered.
Sitting with Nellie
Sitting with Nellie is where a person new to a team, or to a process is asked to work with a more experienced person to learn the ropes of the job. When the nominated trainer is both an experienced do-er of the process in question and an excellent communicator, this can work. However, it is rare that either of these is true. Remember the ex-spurt – a has-been mixed with a drip under pressure. In reality, the learner gets to see the trainer demonstrate the process and is then left to apply it themselves. They rarely get any explanation of why steps are followed and even less rarely get an opportunity to try the process for themselves in an environment where they can make mistakes and understand why the mistakes are mistakes and then learn how to correct those mistakes.
Teaching people how to correct mistakes is as important, often more important, than teaching them how to do something correctly. So, in my training, I provide exercises and the participants do the work. I provide short explanations of the material, to provide background and the reasons for whatever I am teaching, then let them do it. However, the material guides in the process – it does not just leave them to figure it out. This heavily hands-on approach meets the needs of visual learners because they see the process and are guided by the materials. It also meets the needs of kinaesthetic learners, because they are doing it. Auditory learners can have their needs met by a trainer asking questions, so stimulating the auditory response.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Monkey See Monkey Do is probably the worst sort of training for software skills. Monkey See Monkey Do is where a demonstration is done while the participant(s) copy the steps. Typically, the participants are so wrapped up in where to click or what they type that there is no retaining of either the detail of the task or the reasons for doing any steps.
However, Monkey See Monkey Do gives some short term feel-good factor, because participants have worked through to the end of a process.
Getting software process training right
If your aim is just to tick a box to say that training was provided, your approach probably does not matter. However, if you want your team to leave the training able to apply the training to their roles confidently you should ensure that your training program includes:
- The ‘why’ of the training should be explained before the training session
- The training itself should include ‘why’ for each concept
- Training should be heavily practical – to deliver the ‘how’ - without being copycats
- Delegates should be encouraged to take their own notes
- The trainer should be skilled in
- The topic to be covered
- More advanced topics related to the topic being covered
- Communication including how adults learn
- Sessions should be short enough without being too short so the material is rushed
- Practicals must not be too easy and so not useful in the real world
- Sessions should include review questions
- A week or so after the training there should be a review session
Providing training that meets the above points can be challenging, especially if the budget is limited. There will be many naysayers, who try to persuade you that this is not necessary, perhaps that training is not necessary, or that they can cover all the required material in a much shorter or cheaper way. However, before you think that quality training is too expensive, what is the cost of not providing training, given that this is a big contributor to project failure?
Published by Gill Walker