Trainees as Trainers: In Support of Involving Employees In Their Own Training

I’ve posted several times before on the link between employee engagement and workplace training and development.   I believe there is a direct correlation between job satisfaction and the amount of regular, interactive, and applicable training employees are given.  And, the better and more relevant the training, the better and more engaged the employees.  Well-executed training in the right subject matter is key to retaining key employees.  It’s also essential to attracting and satisfying Gen Y employeesclassroom

I also believe that one of the best ways to encourage and engage the best of your best employees is to let them train themselves.  Or train each other, really.  By getting employees to participate in the selection of the topic and the presentation of the subject matter to their co-workers, a great deal can be gained.  (See my previous post on this very issue, Training as an Employee Perk? Yes, really).

Training Time pointed me to a post by Jim Giuliano at HR Morning, which reaches the same brilliant conclusion.  Here’s the story as summarized by Training Time:

  • During the recruiting process, people are told that the company is dedicated to continual learning and development, using training to reach career goals.
  • Supervisors and HR don’t have enough time to come up with new training ideas relevant to the goals of the employee and company.
  • The company can’t afford to hire a professional training coordinator.

What to do?  HR Training recommends turning employees into their own training coordinators.  I’d add to that: turn employees into trainers, too.  And I’d venture to say that you’ve got a winning workplace.

Is e-Learning the Next Big Thing? You betcha’

E-Learning has been on the rise for years.  And it’s seen a significant push of growth.  The growing trend can be linked to several factors.

For one, technology is getting easier to use.  You don’t have to be tech-savvy to use PowerPoint 2007–the software makes many features incredibly easy to use that, in prior versions, you may not have even know existed.  Also, software such as TechSmith’s Camtasia and Adobe’s Captivate make screencasting (recording the picture on your monitor, which is essential for software demos and a whiz for recording PowerPoint slides), are affordable and accessible–and produce quick results that look great without much of a learning curve at all. keyboard with question mark

Another factor contributing to the rise in the popularity of e-learning is the influx of Generation Y into the workplace.  Gen Y workers demand “real-time” learning.  They want to know just the piece of the puzzle that solves their current riddle–they don’t want to read the whole book, just the chapter that pertains to their particular issue at that particular time. Additionally, Gen Y are a very generous generation.  They love to share.  On Facebook, they share their friends.  On Twitter, they share their play-by-play daily adventures.  On wikis and blogs, they share information, samples, and examples.

Put together these two factors–easier-to-use technology and a generation of learners who love to share and what do you get?  Quickly created, easily accessed technology that is built from learners to be shared with other learners.  E-learning. 

For those interested in learning more about e-learning, you can thank the very generous e-Learning Guild.  You can download for free any of the ten fantastic e-books that are available at the e-Learning Guild’s website.  Start your learning about e-learning now, the digital way!

Employee Training Week: Does Training Lead to Happiness?

This is Employee Training Week, in case you didn’t already know.  I’ve posted several times before on the link between employee engagement and workplace training and development.  I believe there is a direct correlation between job satisfaction and the amount of regular, interactive, and applicable training employees are given.  And, the better and more relevant the training, the better and more engaged the employeesMan sitting at table

This principle is especially true for an organization’s best performers because they are the ones who crave constant growth and regular achievement.  Without a steady path forward and access to new skills, the best employees will quickly grow bored and disillusioned and leave the organization. (The principle also extends to Gen Y employees, in case you were wondering).

Workplace Learning Today, a group blog by Brandon Hall Research, highlights the training-happiness connection.  And, if you’re interested in working towards a better training and development program in your own organization, there’s no time like the present, especially in light of the fact that this week is specially dedicated to Employee Training. If you need some resources to get you started, be sure to check out the Blogroll at Workplace Learning Today–you can’t ask for a more complete listing of resources from the U.S. and around the globe. 

It’s Employee Learning Week–How Is Your Organization Celebrating?

Employee Learning Week (ELW), is December 8 – 12.  Initiated by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), ELW is an awareness campaign highlighting the important connection between learning and achieving organizational results. Employee Learning Week is the perfect opportunity to promote the importance of the WLP profession in closing the skills gap.  If your organization has a great training and development program, give yourself a bit pat on the back!  Congratulations!  If your organization has been meaning to start working on its Training & Development program, now’s as good a time as ever to actually start working on it! 

Start small.  Get a group of people together and have a lunch and learn–a casual meeting lasting just an hour where the topic is limited and everyone contributes.  You might just be surprised as to how empowering and energizing these lunches can be.  Get started now!

Skills Assessment Without the Assessment? Why Training Must Be Tested

Recently, I was discussing a company’s internal training program with its HR Director.  Administrative professionals are required to earn a certain amount of “credits” per year through the internal program.  Full classes are offered in the Fall and Spring and a partial class schedule during the Summer.  The topics are varied and include general software training, such as how to use styles in Microsoft Word, job-specific applications, such as how to write a certain report in more quickly and efficiently, and soft skills, such as organization and time management.  More than 70% of the training, though, falls into the first category, software-specific. 

As we discussed this in more detail, I learned that some of the problems with the program was the unequal results it seemed to produce.  Some of the attendees felt that the courses were far below their skill set and that it was truly painful to sit through the same Microsoft Excel course year after year without learning anything new.  Yet, the HR Director had come to find out that some employees, who had been with the organization for years, did not possess even the most basic software skills.  

The HR Director wanted to know how this had happened and what could be done to correct it?  After the time and energy the organization had devoted to creating and implementing the program, which had been in place for a number of years, it was fair to say that the return on the company’s investment was zero, at best.  If anything, the program was actually a loss.  They paid for instructors, both high-cost outside trainers and internal IT staff whose time could have been spent on other things.  The employees were taken away from their “real” work for at least 12 hours a year (the minimum number of credits each employee has to earn per year).  And, the lost potential of having an entire workforce who had actually learned the materials and who should have been performing at a much higher level. 

Turning to the first question–how had this happened?  Certainly, there are a lot of ways to point fingers.  The employees didn’t take the classes seriously; they didn’t have the initiative to develop their professional skills; and they didn’t speak up if they were not able to grasp the material or follow along during the instruction.  And what about the trainers?  Shouldn’t they have known that their students had drifted out in space 5 minutes after the class began; shouldn’t they have seen the dazed look in the students’ eyes; shouldn’t they have questioned why the same, advanced-level employees were returning to a class they’d already taken several times; shouldn’t they have pushed for a more advanced curriculum offering?

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.  Yes, all of those things should have happened.  But they didn’t.  There is one other thing, though, that didn’t happen.  And this, in my opinion, was the root cause of the program’s dysfunction. 

There was no assessment.

Students get credit regardless of whether they left with any increased knowledge. Students couldn’t test out of programs that were below their skill level.  Basically, so employees could play Scrabble on the computer during the class, as long as they showed up to 12 hours of classes each year. 

This, in my opinion, was the fatal flaw of the program.  As Stephen Covey said:

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”

There were no checks in place to make employees accountable for the knowledge they’d just been given.  And employees who did take the knowledge were rewarded with a big, fat, nothing.  There was no “A+” or gold star at the end of the tunnel.  They just returned to their desks and hoped that the information they’d just learned would help them in some way.  Wow, what a waste!

So, how can it be fixed?  Easy!  Require attendees to take and pass a skills assessment at the end of the class before they will be awarded credit.  If a large percent of the class fails the assessment, the training and the trainer need to be reevaluated–it’s likely that the lesson was not well communicated.  But if most do pass the assessment test, the ones who do not should not be awarded credit.

But they should be given another chance.  Because, remember, the goal is to get the students to actually understand the material–not to trick them into passing or failing a test.  So, if a student does not pass the assessment test, they (and all students) should be given take-away materials that they can reference and, when ready, try again.  The take-away should be detailed instructions–probably more detailed than the actual class and used as a reference for later.  Or video tutorials can be made available for students to watch.  Videos can be created internally with a product such as Camtasia Studio, or purchased from a commercial site, such as  The videos can be hosted by the company’s SCORM system, an internal server or intranet, or even YouTube.  The point is to get the information to the students for them to study and then to retest–successfully.