Over the years, I have found myself in a position of teaching and leading others. One of the things that I have learned quickly is that training is not a one size fits all. I would see people leaving these training seasons that we would have to go to with glazed over eyes. After a few of these training events, I began to ask the question – what is the big disconnect?
The major connection that I found about these courses is that they are geared to teach all people one way. The problem with this is that not every person learns the same way. Some learn by visual. Some learn by doing. Some learn by both, Some learn by different methods. I believe that we are doing a disservice in how we train our employees.
After seeing these souls go through the wringer with the way we were trained, I was determined to find a way to help resolve this issue. I was given an opportunity to lead 40+ co-workers into a training program regarding a new software system that our company was launching. This would be no easy feat. Not only do you have the different learning styles, you have the generational gap that we were embracing in our culture. From ages 20 to 80, there had to be a way to connect each of them with this new system in a methodical way.
First, as a team, we would conduct a group training which is standard for these types of events. As I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of glazed over looks. There were comments on how this was counter-productive and a waste of time. There were even comments from those who trained, “Less is Better.” You know the drill, right? I approached our team with a new method to add; the three-step program.
- Team Building. Cliche, right? Listen to this one. Our department was set up with rows that had between 5-9 people in them. I would take each row for 60 minutes at a time and go over the steps to the new system (There were multiple components to this new system which means we took an hour for each of these components). I would break the ice with a joke (I know – not professional but very effective) and proceed with the things that we had to cover. This time was split into half; 30 minutes of talking, 30 minutes of doing.
- Smaller Group Training. We would take groups of 3 people in 30-45 minute increments. I would find out what their learning styles were, write them down, and we would talk over the blockages that they were having. Each group was from the initial Team Building exercises that were still struggling with the concepts before the main launch. They were given time for hands-on for 30 minutes to an hour following our time together.
- One-on-One. These were sessions that were requested by individuals that were still struggling. The team member had to specifically request for this time and they were allotted one hour at a time to ask any question without fear of being made to look stupid. They were allowed to voice their frustration without fear of retaliation. They were able to walk through with me, hands-on, with the issues that they were running into. I was able to give them techniques for remembering how to work through the system and encouraged them through the process.
This all sounds like it takes a lot of time, right? It wasn’t. As a matter of fact, this process took three weeks total before the release. Yes, you read that right. In addition to this three-step program, we split the trainers up to walk each aisle for an hour a day during this training session to give the users time to have hands-on experience in a test environment. This allowed them to make mistakes, find bugs, ask questions, and feel comfortable with the system. If the user felt comfortable, we would require them to attend the smaller group training sessions.
At the end of this training session, we had a high success rate of understanding. Only a hand full of users were lacking confidence and the ability to use the system which was not at the fault of the training but the user’s level of confidence. Did I give up on that hand full group of people? Nope. I gave them additional One-on-One training in a test environment at their desk, made arrangements for them to ask more questions, to be able to vent their concerns and fears, and began to help them grow confidence in themselves that they could do this.
Today, there are still high accolades on this method of training from many of the employees who went through it. What would you add to make it better or change?