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Dollars and Sense: Translating Training to Results
By Mike Phillips on
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
:: 5837 Views ::
hy is it that month after month, year after year, despite dozens of soft-skills and computer training courses, employees don’t seem competent on the job? If this describes you or your company, you are not alone. In the 16 years I have been training, I have heard this complaint many times (usually from the students themselves!), the result being employees who are not able to handle core competencies on the job despite training investments of time and money.
While I normally like to provide statistics in my articles, truth to tell, I had trouble finding any statistics on this subject—searches turned up companies offering training, but not articles on the subject of training efficiency. It seems many are eager to provide the training, but few are willing to back up their results.
Despite this glaring deficiency, we can still glean some valuable concepts from a thoughtful look at the topic. So let’s take a look at what goes wrong with training, why, and how to fix it so you can begin to obtain the results you are paying for.
Training Not Job-Specific
The number one reason employees are not able to translate their training into tangible business results is that the training is not job-specific. Think back to when you were a kid in school, learning math skills that you could never in a million years imagine needing. This is exactly how your employees feel in training courses that are not designed specifically for their job tasks.
While it may be pedagogically correct to teach employees all 93 ways to navigate a program, and to systematically cover each area of computer software or soft-skills competencies, they do not work well for translating training into results. Why? The simple answer is: boredom and job-skills density.
Employees do not have the attention span to wade through several hours of concepts to finally get to the 1 or 2 actually useful ideas from the training session. That is why the number one thing you can do to increase your “dollars and sense ratio” is to tailor the training courses to your employees' job tasks.
I realize this is easier said than done. Because, for starters, it purposefully leaves large holes in the employees’ knowledge sets relating to a software application or soft-skill. But times have changed. Used to be, you could learn all there was to know about a software program in a few weeks, and even become fairly proficient at virtually everything in a few days. Now, it is simply not feasible for employees to master every aspect of a program.
Think about it. A company like Microsoft has spent millions and millions of dollars developing a program like Word. This has also taken hundreds—possibly thousands—of people, from designers to programmers to marketers, almost two decades of growing the program in every conceivable way. Should we really expect an employee to master a program like this in a day or two? Does it make any sense at all?
Think of software as a language. Each program is its own language, although thanks to common operating systems such as Mac and Windows, and shared standards, there are some common words. Because of the overwhelming complexity of a language, it makes more and more sense to learn the specifics of what you need to accomplish, rather than to learn endless trivia and details that ultimately will not matter and, worse, dilute the whole experience to the point of uselessness.
Let me put it this way. Imagine you were in a foreign country, and you wanted to find a bathroom. You certainly wouldn’t enroll in a language course to meet this rather urgent need! Yet this is exactly what many training sessions accomplish for employees: nothing. And the urgent business needs go unmet, or worse, get “looked up in a hurry” and employees often resort to unorthodox and poorly implemented solutions to avoid a crisis.
This translates to hodge-podge solutions that often need to be fixed over and over again, and even redone from scratch the right way. Is this ringing true for you or your organization?
Therefore, always take the time and even extra expense to ensure your training sessions are customized to your employees and their job tasks. Exercises should be similar to actual job requirements, and even use actual or sample company files in the classroom.
Any training company will be willing to offer this for you, but you must ask for it, and often pay extra for such customization. But again, consider the alternative of wasting training dollars and suddenly this “luxury” becomes a necessity.
“Hands-OFF Training Sessions”
I have been called upon to deliver training sessions in which I simply present the software to a group as a presentation, with little to no actual student involvement. I call this a “hands-off” training session, and in my mind this is usually a waste of everyone’s time and money.
Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, is quoted to have said (paraphrased), “People turn on their PCs to turn on their minds; they turn on their TVs to turn off their minds.”
When you have a trainer demonstrating the software for your employees, the employees naturally tend to turn off, like watching a movie or a TV show. It is much harder to concentrate when asked to simply sit and watch a presentation, than when you are expected to actually follow along and replicate what the instructor is doing.
Therefore, from this point on, I would suggest never holding training sessions that are simply demonstrations. Even if it costs more to rent a room and laptops for the employees, again you have to keep in mind why you are holding the training in the first place. If it is simply to placate management that all employees have been through a training session on a software program, and accountability for employees to understand and utilize the information is not necessary, then by all means, hold these types of sessions.
But if you require hard-hitting, powerful, effective training for your employees, steer clear of this type of training session. This, too, will greatly even out your dollars and sense ratio.
Instructors are not “Entertraining”
We all like to be entertained. When we are bored, we turn off our brains; this is a fundamental law of being human. Of course you can scare people into paying attention for a period of time, but other than that, you need to engage their minds and entertain them while you train them. I call this “Entertraining.”
Of course, I’m not suggesting you hire an actual comedian for your next training session (unless you think it’s funny), but you do want an instructor who not only knows the material well, but who can also present it in an entertaining and humorous way. The bottom line is, no one likes to listen to a monotone or a boring presentation; your instructor needs to be dynamic, interesting, engaging, and succinct, or again, your dollars and sense ratio will fall.
Click onto page 2 to discover whether or not it pays to include labs in training sessions…
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@ Thursday, April 2, 2009 12:56 AM
“People turn on their PCs to turn on their minds; they turn on their TVs to turn off their minds.” though said by Steve Jobs but is promoted by you. That's an excellent Phrase.
By Mike Phillips @ Thursday, April 2, 2009 1:18 AM
Thank-you, thank-you! 'Tis true, I think!
@ Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:14 AM
I have read all your post and all of them are useful and amazing. keep on writing such lovely post.
By Mike Phillips @ Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:55 AM
Hi, thanks for the encouragement! After a lot of months writing, and relatively little response, it's easy to feel I'm singing into a the end of a vacuum cleaner. I will continue, and thanks for the feedback!
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