Training Smart

Whether you're the trainer or trainee, how the training is dispensed is key.

Posted Sep 14, 2016

Wales, Flickr, CC 2.0
Source: Wales, Flickr, CC 2.0

I've written this article for the manager or trainer. But whether you're in a position to train or get trained, I hope you'll find these ideas helpful.

As a manager or leader, you've done the most important thing: You hired wisely. First, you reached out for referrals from everyone you trust, knowing that applications from strangers too often contain, ahem, creative writing. You vetted applicants mainly by having them do simulations of common difficult tasks they'll encounter on the job. You went the extra mile to find out how finalists really did on their previous jobs.

Now your job is to train your employee(s.) One shot-workshops rarely engender significant enduring change. And employee handbooks are too often skimmed and forgotten. For many jobs, this is optimal:

With your new employee(s), demonstrate and then observe and give feedback on just a few crucial, not-obvious musts. Then manage by walking around--watch them in action. Praise where appropriate, give suggestions in a face-saving way.

Trust your gut. Usually, you very quickly get a sense this person is or isn't going to work out. If a couple doses of feedback don't improve performance, you may be wise to cut your losses and use the above procedure to find a better replacement. The longer you stay with the person, not only the more training time you've spent and the longer you have to put up with poor work, you've given the person more time to gather "evidence" for a wrongful termination suit. The rule of thumb is: Hire slow; fire fast.

For ongoing training of employees, again eschew the workshop, especially those led by outsiders. They don't know your organization, the content, the culture. They're more likely to come in with a canned model. Think back to workplace workshops you've attended, especially those led by an outsider  Have they yielded enduring improvement? Better to have weekly or monthly peer-led brown-bag or catered lunches.

I also recommend pairing-up all workers for co-coaching. Each pair meets at least once a month, perhaps an employer-paid one-on-one lunch. During the first half, one person is the coach: listens, ask questions, tries to lead the protege to come up with his/her own solutions but if not, to possibly tactfully offer a suggestion. During the second half, they reverse roles. That ensures the training's relevance, builds esprit de corps, and confidence---everyone gets to be a mentor. Such one-on-ones provide individualized training, matched to each person's needs and ensures it's conducted with understanding of the organization's culture. To help ensure quality of peer mentoring, you might have them watch a mentoring YouTube video. Here's one.  Here's another, which, while aimed at special educators, is more broadly applicable.

YouTube videos can be used for all sorts of training. Typically, you needn't develop customized training. Often, something already exists that would be of value to your employees. Perhaps once a month, email everyone the link to a video that would be of value and immediately implementable.

Keep training time moderate. Most employees like to keep growing but after a while, many say, "I wish they'd just leave me alone so I can do my work."

The takeaway

If you're a manager or trainer, is there at least one training tactic listed in this article that you'd like to try?

If you're an employee, is there at least one idea you want to share with your boss?

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia. His newest book, his 8th, is The Best of Marty Nemko.