Monday, January 31, 2011

Tip #360:How to Get Participants to Recognize the Benefits of Training

Today’s Tip is based on a question that Sarah Schenkat of Badgerland Financial asked after a recent workshop on Taking the Pain out of Task Analysis for SMES. Thank you, Sarah!

"When you make a commitment to a relationship, you invest your attention and energy in it more profoundly because you now experience ownership of that relationship."Barbara De Angelis

A training program will be more successful if the participants are committed to learning because they feel a sense of ownership in the content. The best way to gain this commitment is to give the participants an opportunity to recognize how the training will benefit them. This is a determination that they need to make for themselves. If the trainer simply tells them why it should be important to them, they will be less likely to “buy in.”

The challenge for a trainer is, therefore, to find a learning activity that will help the participants discover and articulate the benefits of the training at the beginning of a training session.

Sometimes the benefits are very obvious. In these cases, all the trainer needs to do is ask the participants to brainstorm answers to the question: “How will this (training/topic/knowledge/skill) benefit you?”

If the participants are not familiar with the specific training content, it makes sense to gain the participants’ “buy in” by asking them: “What will be the consequences if the current (situation/policy/procedure) remains the same?” or "What are the consequences of not making this change? How will it affect (you, the customers, and/or the company)?"

Operating on the assumption that there is a reason why a new version or procedure has been created, the trainer can have participants answer the question: "What are your challenges with the current (system/version/policy/procedure)?" The participants may not know why a change is being made, but they will know what they don't like about the current situation. Hopefully, their concerns will be similar to the reasons that initiated the change.

A trainer may want to take a different tack to get the participants to focus on a supporting principle that underlies the training content. For example, in a training session for supervisors about how to handle difficult employee behavior, the question might be: “How will your job be easier if your employees are successful on the job?” This question can intrigue and engage the participants by redirecting their attention from what their employees are doing wrong to what their employees need from them.

If the training content is so new and unfamiliar to the participants that there is no way they can discuss its benefits at the beginning of the training, the only thing the trainer can do is to wait until the end of the session. Then, asking "now that you have been introduced to the new (system/policy/ procedure), what benefits do you see for (you, the customers, and/or the company)?" will reinforce the participants’ “buy in.”

The more invested the participants are in the training, the greater likelihood that they will learn, retain and effectively apply their new knowledge or skills back on the job. The earlier that “buy in” occurs, the easier the training experience will be for both the participants and the trainer.

May your learning be sweet.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Tip #359: A Recipe for an Effective Trainer

"The fact is that it takes more than ingredients and technique to cook a good meal. A good cook puts something of himself into the preparation -- he cooks with enjoyment, anticipation, spontaneity, and he is willing to experiment." Pearl Bailey

In no particular order, effective trainers:

  • recognize that training programs are about the learner, not the trainer;
  • care about people;
  • are resilient;
  • are flexible to adapt to the specific needs and learning styles of the participants;
  • are able to make decisions before, during, and after the training session that will increase the probability that learning will occur;
  • are continually interested in learning;
  • are open to the challenges, risks and rewards of moving people beyond their comfort zone;
  • are entertaining;
  • are focused;
  • are credible;
  • have a clear lesson plan that incorporates adult learning principles and has specific, observable and measurable learning objectives;
  • have knowledge of and employ a wide variety of learning activities;
  • have a sense of humor about themselves and their abilities, including the ability to acknowledge mistakes and not take themselves too seriously;
  • model what they teach;
  • are effective and engaging presenters;
  • have proficient group facilitation skills;
  • create and maintain a comfortable learning environment for all participants; and
  • build participants’ confidence in their own competence.

All of these qualities, skills and characteristics are intended to accomplish a trainer’s primary mission: to set learners up for success.

What other ingredients would you add to the recipe for an effective trainer?

May your learning be sweet.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Tip #358: Learn From Other Trainers

"Learn from everyone, copy no one." Don Shula

"When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it." Anatole France

Similar to many trainers, I began training others long before I ever had a formal train-the-trainer program. The only way I could improve was by observing and learning from other trainers.

Here is a small sampling of what I have learned:

When I was in high school, my mother, Merle Levine, was a social studies teacher. She was the first “trainer” I ever saw use role plays and simulations to bring history alive for her students. She also put comic strips on handouts to make key points in a humorous way. It was because of her that I always add colorful comic strips to my audiovisuals.

I don’t recall his name, but his generosity imprinted on my trainer’s soul. Back in 1988, I attended a consultant’s workshop at the International Conference of the American Society for Training and Development. As we walked in the door, we were each handed a small Hawaiian orchid! I was completely awed by the speaker’s thoughtfulness and kindness. To this day, in homage to this wonderful man, I always bring candy and gifts and do my best to treat my participants as my guests.

Jeffrey Anthony taught me two wonderful techniques. First, to create an agenda process wall map to keep me and the participants on track in a visually interesting and colorful way. Second, to take digital photos of all flip charted work during a session rather than carting all of the flip charts back to the office and transcribing them. When I send copies of the photos to the participants, there is the additional benefit that the handwriting and marker colors evoke the original workshop experience for them.

Sharon Bowman taught me many things about meeting the needs of kinesthetic learners and getting everyone on their feet with pair shares, pop ups and gallery walks. She was also the first trainer I remember observing who created colorful borders on flip charts to make them more visually appealing.

Elaine Biech also taught me many creative ways to engage participants. Two of my favorite activities are a relay race between participant teams to check their comprehension and a “Yes, And..” oral relay that allows participants to vent both sides of an issue. Both activities meet the needs of aural, visual and kinesthetic learners and are a lot of fun for everyone.

As trainers, why not learn from the best and use what works?

Janis Taylor, Technical Training Director for Patient Care and Clinical Informatics at Philips Healthcare, responded to this Tip:

"Play music. If you want to get people’s attention have something lively, like George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” playing as people arrive. Good fodder for lighthearted jokes too. I learned this from you Deborah!"

Janis, thank you!

What have you learned from other trainers that helped you become better at your craft

May your learning be sweet.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Tip #357: Make Training Preparation Easy

In diagnosis think of the easy first. Martin H. Fischer

In response to last week’s Tip, “Make Learning Sweet,Joyce Doakes Smith, CPM,
Quality Oklahoma and Productivity Enhancement Programs Coordinator, Office of Personnel Management had this wonderful idea to add:

I do much of what you have listed (no kites on the wall, but I have seen yours). Additionally, I have created two long slide shows (over 200 slides each) that run before class, during breaks, and over the lunch period. One is trivia information (strange laws and interesting facts) and the other is all pictures (from optical illusions to sand and ice sculptures). Other than being careful of the copyrights and credits it’s easy to do and the participants love it. It helps makes learning sweet!”

Thank you so much, Joyce!

There are lots of ways to make training preparation easier on ourselves. Here are three I've learned:

1. I have a checklist of materials I typically bring for training programs: fragrant markers, pipe cleaners, Koosh balls, kites, post-it notes, index cards, bowls and candy, prizes, agenda map, masking or gaffer’s tape, poster putty, straight pins, bell chime, annotated table of contents, printout of PowerPoint slides, clean copy of participant masters, digital camera, etc. I just check off what I need. It doesn’t matter how often I train, if I don’t have an item written down, I can easily overlook it.

2. When making flip charts ahead of time, Danny Papakalos showed me that it is very easy to create a colorful border on the page by holding two different colored markers in the same hand.

3. When creating PowerPoint slides, Caroline Chen showed me how to easily copy text and formatting rather than starting from scratch each time.

What are your tricks for making your training preparation easier?

May your learning be sweet.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Tip #356: Make Learning Sweet

“Give people a fact or an idea and you enlighten their minds; tell them a story and you touch their souls.” Hasidic proverb

Welcome to 2011!

There is an old Talmudic (Jewish) custom. When a boy goes to study the Torah (which is a religious text) they have him touch a page of the Torah and then dip his finger in honey to learn that learning is sweet.

There are many ways to make learning sweet. Taken literally, I bring bowls of candy. I create a comfortable learning environment with seating arranged in pods, kinesthetic objects on the participants’ tables (Koosh balls, pipe cleaners, glitter wands, etc.), and colorful kites on the walls.

I sweeten learning by treating the participants with respect, drawing them in to obtain their buy-in to the content, showing colorful comics that capture key concepts on the PowerPoint, and using learning activities that are intended to build their confidence in their own competence.

What are your favorite ways to make learning sweet?

May your learning be sweet.