Learning on the Fly

As a long-time training provider, I know that sometimes sending students to a multi-day seminar in an effort to raise their skill level is not only infeasible but it can also be fairly brutal. Students may be tied up for long hours and trying to keep tabs on crises back at the organization. They may have had to travel, eat hotel food, and be uncomfortable for hours in overzealous air conditioning while memorizing the patterns in the carpet and examining the lighting fixtures.  Much of what they are learning ends up not being used back in the organization due to the deluge of information.

So this newsletter is dedicated to the many other ways in which learning can happen, on the cheap and easy side, with a focus on effectiveness. Let’s begin.

Step 1. Imagine identifying with an employee a particular skill or base of knowledge they lack which could improve their performance and positively affect a business issue. Here are some examples:

Example 1: An employee is a financial analyst who needs to gain skills in data mining so they can analyze reviews of competitors and synthesize the data into actionable reports for decision makers. They are approached about the opportunity and agree to take on the assignment.

Example 2: In an organization is in high competition for high-paying clients, and occasionally a client writes a poor review about their organization online. The company would like to prevent these reviews with excellent customer service and an effective “intervention” when something goes wrong. A pleasant, people-oriented employee is asked to develop a plan to establish an effective, customer-focused culture.

Example 3: An organization is trying to cut the cost of using outside vendors for maintenance. A maintenance tech is approached to pick up new skills so they can conduct all crane and hoist maintenance and internal training.

Step 2: What are our training options? A 3 day class in sunny San Diego at a cost of thousands? Let’s try some other options:

Example 1: Data Mining skills- Basics can be found in online courses, YouTube, webinars and live courses. There is a Data Mining for Dummies Book on Amazon for starters. There may be a conference in a nearby large city as well.

Example 2: Books and reflection may be a great starting point for the Customer Service issue. Again, there are many free online sources for great points and examples for training programs on YouTube. One of the best tools is observation of customers service instances and feedback. Your chosen person may also need some instruction in project management, also available in several ways, online, in- person, even through mentoring/peer coaching.

Example 3: For the new Crane and Hoist expert: you can get this one involved in the research and purchase of new equipment and ask the vendor to help with training cost or to provide it directly. If that ship has sailed, given that cranes and hoists are regulated under OSHA, a certification will be required which can be done in most major cities. This will likely be classroom style, and with OSHA regulations, there really is no getting around that.

Step 3: After (or during) the training period, remind students of the expectation that they use the new skills, and check in often to offer support, remove obstacles and to offer mentoring. Leaders may need to modify work schedules to get this work completed, but it is imperative it is not put off. If students do not use new skills and knowledge directly after training it starts to fade away.

Step 4: After the learning period, evaluate the change to the business. Has the problem gone away or has it been reduced? Are skills permanent? Praise the employee in some way to highlight the accomplishment, through a team announcement, their formal Performance Review, or some other form of recognition.

Don’t forget to let your upper management know what has changed for the better through training, these are the sorts of case studies that convince leaders to invest more in training. If you have a hand in the Human Resources or Learning and Development tasks, help leaders to see they need to partner with you to follow these four steps. If you are a leader, then ask for help/ideas and guidance from HR/Training professionals.

For more help and ideas as to how to make training effective, read the book Building Giants: A Proven Way to Transform Your Workforce Through Effective Training. (Available on Amazon).

Based on the book, published in 2016 by Building Giants Press