Monday, December 15, 2014

Why I Attended Training a Second Time (And Glad I Did)

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When several of my co-workers attended training, the first thing I asked was “what did you learn?” The next thing I asked was, “do you have any questions” and “is there any clarifications that I can help with?”  I was prepared to answer their questions having gone through the training myself and having performed the task for the last three years.  You can imagine my surprise when I was asked a question regarding a process I had not done, let alone even knew existed!  Stumped, and a little miffed by the fact that maybe I had been doing it all wrong these past several years, I decided to sit in on the training myself just to see what went wrong.

I was a little nervous about attending the class at first. After all, most everyone would be newer staff learning the content for the first time.  Would I be judged for not knowing? Would the trainers expect me to have all the answers?  As a trainer myself, I knew the answer to these questions were “no” but I still felt self-conscious.  Taking the class a second time I realized that it wasn’t that my previous knowledge was bad but that the information had evolved - the way all information does over time. Processes change and, when trying to distribute mass information to a large organization, there is bound to be gaps somewhere. If I had not asked staff what they learned I would have never discovered key pieces of information that I was missing.

It’s better to admit that you don’t know rather than fake your way through it and possibly confuse someone else in the process.  Even as a manager or supervisor it is important to already have the knowledge that you are sending staff to learn. So, before training occurs, ask yourself if this is a topic for which even you could use a refresher. Remember that information evolves. Even if the tasks that you have been doing for the last five years have not changed, they may be taught differently, and even knowing the teaching method can help you support your staff.  There may be a breakdown in communication if you are unaware of the change in information, causing a possible rift in the workplace.

For me, when I heard about this particular training I thought I was already familiar with the process. As a result,  I declined to take the training as a refresher. But I quickly changed my mind about taking the class when I received questions I didn’t know the answer to.  And boy was I glad I did!

If it’s been a while since you’ve received a training, as a supervisor you should feel empowered to ask questions about the training being given.  After all, you are the one that must make sure staff are putting their training to good use. If time does not permit you take a full training session over again - where most of the core information will be the same - ask the trainers if there has been any new information or what pertinent information you should know to help your staff later on. The manager’s role when it comes to staff training is critical. Not only are you role models of the new process and/or information, but you must also be an instrument in their learning as well.
As much as trainers like to provide an easy going environment where staff may feel comfortable to ask questions, there are many times where questions do not surface until after training is over. This is where managers must be on their A-game.  Asking questions and taking a general interest in what your staff have learned will given them a chance to reflect on the training they have just come from, stimulating recall and organizing the information. This is an additional opportunity for staff to ask questions they may have been too embarrassed to ask or that may not have occurred to them.

Refreshers are good, but sometimes we don’t even know we need them. I encourage everyone, supervisors and staff alike, to evaluate refresher training and, when in doubt, just take it - you’ll be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Letting Go Of Training

Just like many girls across the world, my daughter is enamored with Elsa and the rest of the gang from Frozen. Her rendition of Let It Go is loud, to say the least. I bring this song up because, like Elsa, being a trainer sometimes feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. After all, it’s your responsibility that staff know how to do their jobs. I’ve written before on how trainers tend to be Jack of All Trades and how they must become authorities in areas they have previously known little about but a side effect of training is taking ownership of the product you’ve created and, sometimes, the subject.  But for the benefit of staff, there may be times when you just have to “let it go.”

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Give the Newbie a Chance
Everyone I work with knows that training is “my thing” - it’s what I love to do. But, in spite of my love for training, I can not ignore the bigger picture of what training is all about. Training builds people up and teaches them something new or how to do something better.  Although I love training, it would be contrary of me to not give others the opportunity to teach as well. In the past when staff have approached me about doing a specific training I have responded with “that sounds great, but why don’t you do it instead?”  After all, it was their idea and who am I to take ownership of that? Now, instead of being the trainer, I will be the trainer who trains the trainer. There is something very rewarding in helping others fulfill their goals.

Give the Expert a Chance
One of my favorite things about training is getting the opportunity to learn.  Every time I teach a class on a certain subject, I first have to teach myself.  Essentially, I make myself become an authority on the subject even if I previously had little or no knowledge of it. As fun as it is to learn, there are scenarios where time constraints or limited knowledge come into play.  If a subject is too multifaceted to learn or time limitations will not allow you to learn it well enough to train, it may be best to enlist the help of a Subject Matter Expert. The hardest part of enlisting the help of someone is realizing when you are in over your head. The key to it all, however, is knowing that you still have a role. Subject Matter Experts are that way because they have devoted a lot of time to learning the material.  But you are the Subject Matter Expert when it comes to training!  
Because there is a lot of thought and care that goes into training, when you decide to let it go and allow someone else to take the reigns, here are a few tips to help:
  • Work Together - whether it’s a newbie or an SME, work with each other to put together the training material.
  • Communicate Regularly - In the process of creating the training it is imperative that both of you are on the same page. Communication will also ensure that you are using the same terminology across the board.
  • Vet the Content - SMEs have a tendency to be too technical and Newbies just haven’t had enough practice, so your expertise in identifying learner needs will help focus the training to reach its maximum potential.

Like Elsa, there is no reason to keep everything to yourself, but letting go of it completely is not the answer either.  Find balance in working with a teammate - someone who can share their knowledge and, in return, you can share yours.