Monday, May 7, 2012

All Trainings Are Not Created Equally

In the world of learning, training is usually thought of as a group of people coming together to learn a new practice or concept.  While this scenario is certainly an example of training, it certainly is not the only form by which we learn.  In fact, when I surveyed staff at my branch, I was surprised at the number of people who felt this particular setup was not conducive to learning.  There is a lot to be said about the group training model, but I would like to introduce you to several different training models I've found to be successful.  Try  utilizing some of these in the workplace to help increase knowledge retention rates.

Webinars are utilized quite a bit in the library world as sources for training because they allow multiple people from different locations to access the same content.  The great thing about webinars is that you can learn in the privacy of your own home or workspace.  They can be perfect for both the extrovert and introvert because participation is not mandatory and there is anonymity in your comments.  Because webinars usually teach abstract concepts and ideas, rather than a particular skill, the sharing of knowledge can be a great starting point for learning.  You can check out one of my favorite free webinar sites for libraries.  Because topics vary and they are usually free, webinars can be a great tool.  I recommend keeping track of upcoming offerings and assign staff to take relevant ones.  Those staff members can then share what they've learned.

Recordings(Video and Sound)
Actor Michael Fox of the Dr. Fox Effect
Videos and recordings are often shown in a 'new hire' environment.  I would also classify archived webinars in this category because the archived version does not allow for interaction.  Recordings can be great for an introduction to a concept but, as far as information retention goes, they don't do much.  In fact, because pre-recorded material often is meant to entertain, the audience is overwhelmed by the entertainment value of the training and may not be gaining anything of value from the content.  Take into consideration the Dr. Fox Effect on training evaluations.  In this study, an actor gave a lecture to medical students using double talk and still yielded high evaluation marks for his training.  The students were so entertained that they tricked themselves into thinking they had learned something when, in fact, it was all nonsense.  While recordings have their place, I bring up the Dr. Fox Effect to show that training doesn't have to be flashy or well produced to get results.

If a video, recording, or archived webinar seem to be a good option, I recommend following it up with a discussion among the group.  Why?  Discussing the topic together will ensure that everyone is on the same page and it may bring up questions that trainees would not have otherwise asked.  In settings where a large group watched a training video together, you can break the group into smaller teams to go over pre-planned questions.  Bring the teams back together to share information as a large group.  In an 'on-the-job' training setting where getting staff together is difficult, you can have staff view the recording in their spare time and discuss as a group at a staff meeting or other scheduled program.

If you calculated the amount of time spent on informal training around the branch, you'd be shocked.  I classify informal training as any time a staff member asks another staff member or supervisor a 'how' question throughout the day.  How does that work? How do I do this? These are just a couple of questions that arise on any given work day that requires an impromptu training.  These trainings usually only last a couple of minutes, but are invaluable.  If possible, try tracking the routine questions that come up - it will give you an idea of what your staff need.

Myself and a co-worker participating in Check Out a Librarian
Sometimes a couple of minutes just doesn't cut it.  Every person learns differently and, for some, one-on-one training can be just the training that makes the difference.  It's not feasible to plan a training program and train everyone individually but it is acceptable to make yourself available for those that need additional instruction or practice.  For this reason, I came up with the concept of 'Check-Out a Librarian.'  The idea behind this concept is to always have a professional available to meet the needs of staff members.  Ranging from technology to mentoring, this one-on-one training model is flexible and applicable to everyone because it allows the staff member to choose the topic and the trainer to tailor the training.

Not every training topic will fit into one of these categories and, sometimes, the group training will be necessary.  I encourage you to think outside the box and get a better understanding of how your staff learn in order to better meet their training needs.  Have a training suggestion for me?  I love to hear new ideas and concepts!

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