Training in the 21st Century

Training and Development Blog Carnival – October

October 14, 2011adminBlog Carnival, Featured7

At Training in the 21st Century™, we believe Social Learning is an important component of our blended learning approach. Exchanges of ideas and information:

  • Catalyze thinking and creativity
  • Provide information and knowledge in cost-effective and time-efficient ways;
  • Build collaboration and commitment.

We also believe in practicing what we teach, so we have established a “Blog Carnival” that connects people who are interested in Learning and Development, enabling people to share ideas, perspectives and information for the reasons state above:

  • Catalyze thinking and creativity,
  • Provide information and knowledge about shared challenges
  • Build a collaborative network of professionals whose shared value is excellence in our work.

We believe everyone, whether a participant or a reader, will benefit from these exchanges of ideas and perspective, and welcome you to our Blog Carnival.

We want to thank this month’s contributors:

Leslie Allan, “Does Learning Need to Be Fun to Be Effective?”

Sandy Adam, “Social Media to Facilitate Social Learning”

Jo Lynn Feinstein, “Cats, Icebergs and Workplace Learning”

Merry Gagg,Try, try and try again – AND Still Not Getting There

Bruce Gross, “Benefits of Incremental Learning”

We will publish a Training and Development Blog Carnival each month. For more information on how you can contribute to this Carnival, please contact Roz@Traininginthe21stCentury.com.

Does Learning Need to Be Fun to Be Effective? – Leslie Allan, Business Performance Pty Ltd

You want your training program to be fun. You want participants to feel at home and comfortable. You want your training to be effective.

A common technique for addressing these requirements is to sprinkle some humor into the training and make it entertaining. This can be a big source of stress among trainers, especially if they’re not natural born entertainers. There is good news: Trainees can socialize, feel at home and have effective training without a laugh a minute.

The underlying goal at the start of every training session should be to establish a comfortable environment in which participants will feel free to join in discussions, share their feelings and ask questions. Once that’s achieved, the room is on its way to becoming an effective learning environment.

But how do you do it? Yes, jokes and other “fun” will alleviate the natural feelings of discomfort when a group gathers for the first time. Games and story-telling are also effective tools. You can break the ice by telling a story, even a self-deprecating one, about yourself. The approach is up to you, but choose a method with which you’re comfortable and one that fits the course objectives.

Go ahead and introduce some levity at appropriate times if you think it will break the ice and get your group working and learning more effectively. Remember, though: “fun” is the path, not the objective, of effective training.

That said, for some training topics the “fun” needs to be very measured. Programs that aim to change interpersonal behavior—such as bullying, dealing with difficult people, and mutual goal-setting, for example—need to stretch participants’ boundaries to succeed. If everyone is guffawing all the way through, they’re not being challenged enough to modify their habits and attitudes.

How are you using levity in your learning events? Do you think it makes a difference? Is it helping your learners develop their new skills and attitudes?

Social Media to Facilitate Social Learning – Sandy Adam – 21C Interactive

Social media is sweeping the world while businesses struggle to understand how they can harness the medium to drive sales. They often look at Twitter and Facebook and scratch their heads. They seem to be a little more accepting of LinkedIn because of the professional connecting that is going on. But, in my opinion, they are missing the real impact that social media can make to their business: Social media isn’t about the tool; it’s about connecting people.

In early 2011, eMarketer released it’s finding about the “Internal Social Strategy Objectives” that would be the focus for multinational companies with 1000+ employees. Over 37% of the respondents indicated internal education and training was at the top of their priority list.

To accomplish this, the place you begin is within your own organization— by implementing social learning best practices and blending it into the culture of the company. With free or low-cost tools such as Chatter (https://www.chatter.com) and Yammer (http://www.yammer.com), companies should train their employees on the value of using collaboration to get their jobs done. Why?

Have you ever been tasked to do something you knew nothing about? You start researching on the Internet, or looking for books and articles on the subject. You find what you need, usually days or even weeks later, but you successfully complete your project. Then one day over lunch you find out that a co-worker happens to be an expert on the very topic you painfully researched.

  • In a collaborative and social culture you could have reached out within the company, discovered that expert, and brought them onto the project immediately, which would have saved valuable time.

Whichever tool you select to implement, the advantages are plentiful. You can create groups and collaborate as a team. Each person can share files, links, and images. With most systems you can tag your content using keywords, thereby making it easier to organize and share. Imagine the knowledge base a company could build! You are actually able to expand upon the “tribal knowledge” model most companies operate within and rely upon.

One warning: Often, IT departments roll out a tool, but employees don’t know what to do with it. My suggestion would be to pick a tool, and then have your trainers work with employees so they understand not only how to use it, but why they want to use it. Your entire team should understand the benefits of working and learning this way, not just your “Twitter or Facebook experts.”  The more connected employees are, and the more effectively they use these tools to share knowledge, the greater the output will be from the entire team.

Cats, Icebergs and Workplace Learning – Jo Lynn Feinstein – http://blog.jlfeinstein.com

Quick! What do cats and icebergs have in common with training?

Give up? Cats are naturally curious creatures that will dig and explore to get at the good stuff. The majority of an iceberg is hidden, so we have to go below the surface and explore to uncover its true dimensions. Training will not be successful in producing meaningful changes in behavior unless we explore with the avid curiosity of cats and uncover the true scope of the need – which is often unseen at first glance.

Kudos to Steve Pechter of Training Systems Design for providing the visual references and pointing out the connection among these seemingly unrelated things.  I recently attended a meeting of ASTD-LA.I want to share two particular takeaways from that event.

First, become childlike. The success of our training or organizational development efforts will be in direct proportion to our ability to uncover the true underlying business need or pain point. This isn’t news to most of us, but it was well worth revisiting. Whether internal or consulting, we need to keep our detective skills sharp. One of my favorite suggestions was

Ask ‘why’ five times. Think about the last time you were around a young child. First, the child poses a question. As one devoted to the value of learning, you give the question some thought and phrase your answer to suit the child’s developmental level and the current circumstances. Phew! Problem solved.

Not so fast! Before you can take a steadying breath, the next question hits you in the face. “Why?” And when you struggle through formulating an explanation that is once again age and circumstance appropriate, you think you’ve handled the situation. But no! Here it is again, that probing question, “Why?” Children have an insatiable curiosity. They will ask why forever. So, when we are approached with a training request, we could do well to let our inner child free to be curious and ask why.

The second takeaway speaks to the relationship between the manager or other party making the request and the workplace learning and performance professional. We can consider this relationship along two measures, the level of trust the requestor has in the provider and the degree of organization and/or business savvy of the requestor. This produces a traditional four-quadrant model. (Once again, kudos to Steve Pechter for this analysis.)

The probability of our achieving a successful outcome relies upon our ability to recognize these measures and conduct our needs assessment accordingly. A savvy manager who trusts us will not only provide all of the information we need, but he or she will not hesitate to tell us when our ideas are off the mark. A less savvy or less trusting manager may not offer all of the necessary information, may provide unnecessary information, and may hesitate to pull us back in line. Alternatively, s/he may fight us every inch of the way regardless of the quality of our ideas.

In my next post, I will share some thoughts on how we can make the request for services work better for all concerned. Check it out at http://blog.jlfeinstein.com

Try, try and try again – AND Still Not Getting There…. – Merry Gagg - District Manager

As managers responsible for training and development, it’s necessary to grab our moments and make an impact that will change behaviors and drive business—while working on the job. We may find we have limited time to make a huge impact when working with those we manage. Often, as business continues to run, we have to make adjustments to our training in order to respond to the many unexpected things going on in any given day.

As we give direction to managers and employees, many times we hear, “I’ll try,” or “I’ll do my best.” To me, this is forewarning that they are preparing me for their imminent failure at the task presented. Trying is just that–trying. Trying is not doing.

My managers and their staff learned rather quickly this was not a word I would allow in my communications. I explained to them it was a set-up to give them a future excuse for why something didn’t get done. To simply tell them that “try” will not get us where we want to go didn’t work: Words did not carry the punch needed for the message to stick, or to have understanding and follow-through occur. I needed a way to show them what I was trying to say.

To demonstrate the detriment of “trying,” I did this exercise with them:

I asked them to sit on a chair and “TRY” to get up. Most often they would spring up and look at me as if I were crazy. Then I would reiterate my direction – I said, “I didn’t say – GET UP – I said, TRY to get up.” Following these directions, they would sit there, moaning and groaning, but failing to raise their butts off the chairs: It is impossible to succeed in getting off a chair by only “trying” to get off a chair. With this knowledge, they began to understand trying – is not doing. Either you commit to the action of “getting off the chair,” or you don’t.

Let’s say we are talking about something more substantial than getting out of a chair. Let’s talk about making our budgeted numbers for the week. When asked, “Are you on track for making your plan numbers this week?” you may hear, “Going to give it my best.” You may as well be prepared for them to fail. They just told you that is what is going to happen.

Now’s the time to follow up  and get them back on track, by asking appropriate questions, such as, “What is your concern with making your numbers?” or “Is there a reason you see an issue this week?” Have them tell you their concerns. That brings you to a point where you can begin to work through the issues. Once the problems are addressed and the commitment reaffirmed, you can hold them accountable for doing what they said they would do.

As a rule, people learn when they are engaged—emotionally, physically or intellectually. The more experiential your training, the more people tend to not only learn what you’re teaching, but the more they are able to train others on what they’ve learned.

My staff now not only understands why “trying” is not a word we use, they train their own staffs to understand: Either do or do not – there is no try. Hmmm, didn’t someone famous say that? Oh yes – I think it was Yoda himself. Smart puppet, he was.

Benefits of Incremental Learning – Bruce Gross – VP of Membership, ASTD Golden Gate Chapter

I conduct face-to-face trainings several times a year for non-exempt employees who are looking to grow into leadership positions in our company. Although I prize the advantages face-to-face training offers, there are also some disadvantages: In a one-week class so much information is presented, people walk away feeling they’ve learned a lot, but they don’t get an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. In the rush and pressure of work, within a couple of weeks many have reverted back to their old ways.

This year, I implemented a new, incremental learning component to the training, using Webinars to facilitate six, one-hour monthly follow-up discussions.  Each discussion focuses on a different topic based on those covered in the face-to-face training. We explore ways they’ve used the concepts taught, action steps they’ve taken, what worked, what didn’t work, and how they might respond the next time a similar situation arises. Using this format, employees are reminded and encouraged to go out and practice what they’ve learned.

I have found this incremental learning process—using a combination of face-to-face training along with monthly followups that reinforce use and expand learning—to be an excellent blend of training tools. I’ve also received feedback from the trainees and from their managers. As one manager wrote,

I wanted to let you know how well I think the classes are going. I have seen a noticeable positive change in the way both of our teammates handle issues in our warehouse. I think a lot of this can be attributed to the training and also to the fact it is reinforced monthly in the meetings. I think this is an excellent format and training tool…With this format it is on-going training and practice in real situations in the warehouse every day. I think this format is where the long-lasting benefits will come for our company and for the teammates involved.

As a trainer, it is very satisfying for me to know that this format of once-a-month, on-going training and practice in real situations has had lasting benefits for our employees involved in the program and for the company as a whole.

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7 Comments

  1. Kris SchaefferOctober 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I loved Bruce’s post on “incremental learning.” Actually, he has given us another way to complete the 5-step instructional model.
    Too often, trainers get time only for Know How and Show How. Class dismissed. Bruce’s post-workshop webinars are a way to ensure that practice, feedback and application take place.
    Remember, we’re evaluated on what participants actually do with what they learn. No wonder the participant’s manager was impressed.
    Lesson Learned: Design a controlled way to check that participants apply what they learn.

  2. TanishaOctober 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Hi-

    I am currently enrolled in a Training and Development Masters Degree Program at Roosevelt University. their official blog is located at rutraining.wordpress.com

    Leslie’s perspective on does learning need to be fun to be effective was very interesting and gives the reader something to think about. I just wanted to comment or rather elaborate a little on his statement that:

    “The underlying goal at the start of every training session should be to establish a comfortable environment in which participants will feel free to join in discussions, share their feelings and ask questions. Once that’s achieved, the room is on its way to becoming an effective learning environment.”

    I think this would be especially important when it comes down to evaluating reaction and measuring feedback. If the participants are comfortable from the beginning they may be more receptive to what you have to say and feel comfortable with expressing themselves which will in turn make the training program more effective. Thanks for posting!

    Tanisha Lawler

  3. IzkarMarch 10, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Great post, social media offers so many ways of improving learning – just having more opportunities to share and discuss new information is a really powerful thing. Within our business, an internal micro-blog (we use Yammer) has proved really useful for sharing learning on a pick-and-choose basis: people can quickly and easily post short updates on what they’re doing and how it’s going, and others can then decide who and how to follow up. We also combine yammer, google docs and wikis, to put the right info in the right places – which is really powerful. Wikis for the documenting process and learnings; google docs for ongoing, collaborative stuff; and Yammer for the I-just-found-this-out nuggets of information.

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