The scene was a business lunch. Michael, a sales rep for a local company sighed heavy as he spelled out his frustrations. “I’ve been with this company for a year,” he said, “and I still don’t know what I’m supposed to know. And from what it looks like, nobody is ever going to take the time to teach me.”
Michael’s natural sales ability helped him land a job in outside sales, but the industry and the products were new to him. Even though he was scratching out a living, he wasn’t making the kind of money he’d earned elsewhere.
The reason for Michael’s frustration became apparent when he described his training experience, which amounted to two weeks of “shadowing” people in various positions within the company. No formal training. Nothing that outlined what he needed to know in order to sell the product like a pro. “It felt like I was thrown to the wolves and asked to fend for myself,” he said.
Although Michael has good skills and has survived among the wolves, his frustration has led him to consider employment elsewhere. But this need not be. Michael, and hundreds of thousands like him, would stay and be productive members of the team if only they received adequate training.
Similarly, customers will look at training as a factor for loyalty, too. One business owner recently told me that after spending more than $10,000 with one vendor, he’ll never recommend nor do business with the vendor again, even though the product was exactly what he wanted. Why? Because the vendor provided poor training on how to use the product.
“I get frustrated just thinking about it,” said the business owner, who asked not to be identified. “The sales rep came out and gave us a five-hour data dump. We had no training materials, no learning objectives, no manual, no hands-on, no nothing. And they called it training! What a joke!”
As a matter of reality, the ability to talk about a product does not a trainer make. Training is effective only if a learner learns—and that means trainers must know how to convey knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes in ways that people remember what was taught. This, by itself, is an entirely specialized skill set.
For those who are responsible for training, the following five-step primer may help.
The first step, Analysis, should be the first phase of every instructional effort. Typically, analysis begins with clearly identifying the gap between what is and what is wanted.
- What workers/clients currently know vs. what they need to know
- What workers/clients currently do vs. what they need to do
- What workers/clients currently believe vs. what they need to believe
Note that analysis revolves around three areas: Knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
The second step, the Design phase, determines the learning objectives – what knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes need to be taught. For example, if Michael’s boss were creating training for the sales position, one learning objective might be “to explain the paperwork flow from order placement to product delivery.”
Learning objectives should be based on specific duties and tasks related to the job.
Third, the Development step determines how an instructor will present material, accommodate interaction, allow for practice, test for proficiency, and remediate, if necessary. It’s here that knowing the different ways people learn helps to develop effective training. Data dump lecturing interests only a limited few.
The fourth step, Implementation, is the delivery of the training. Those conducting training need to create a safe learning environment and present material in ways that reach learners. The thing to remember is that if the learner doesn’t remember the material, the trainer didn’t do a very good job.
Finally, the fifth step is Evaluation, which is determining the effectiveness of training. Some questions to ask: Are learning objectives being met? Are the materials being used correctly? For best results, evaluation should be an on-going process, with any shortcomings being addressed by making improvements to future training efforts.
These tried and true steps are used in education and training worldwide. If your organization needs help in the training department, the Michaels of the world, perhaps your clients, and yes, your bottom line will benefit from giving this process a closer look. To ignore effective training is to leave the door open for trouble.