U.S. manufacturing businesses are generally lean organizations as a matter of efficiency — they don’t pay for things that don’t contribute to profitability — but for this to work the individuals working in the organization must remain alert to changes, adept at decisionmaking, and focused on strategic goals. It also elevates the importance of “training” in manufacturing, because effective training not only keeps individuals alert, adept, and focused, but it ensures they remain informed about the steady wave of technological and regulatory changes that (along with profitability) guide organizational strategy.
But what is “effective training”? Imagine two professional trainers—let’s call them Joan and Jack. Both of them are energetic trainers who get their audiences laughing quickly. They will both do whatever it takes—using props or asking trainees to do silly things—to illustrate a concept or get their trainees excited and engaged. And when trainees leave at the end of the day, they feel energized and happy.
But there are significant differences between these two. A few weeks after training is over, the performance of the people who trained with Joan has improved notably; the performance of the people who trained with Jack has not. They quickly reverted to “business as usual.”
In other words, Jack’s training is edutainment. Joan’s is not, because it gets results, and that is true even though someone who peeked into either of their training rooms wouldn’t notice much difference.
The first step is to understand that although good training is often entertaining, it is not entertainment. In other words, training is supposed to achieve demonstrable results, not just make people laugh or enjoy themselves. The wrong kind of training can be called edutainment. It's entertaining, and it does well on the “smile sheet,” but doesn't actually have long impactful results.
Here are some steps that manufacturers can take to help ensure that trainers and training program reach that goal:
Think of training as a strong combination of education, engagement, and use. Training must educate by teaching skills, transferring knowledge, cultivating attitudes and hitting other specific targets. But training that is purely educational doesn’t get results. That is why training must present information in ways that are engaging, interactive and require the learner to think and use the information learned.
Apply the VAK Attack model to increase learning. VAK is an acronym describing the three ways that people learn, and your live training should make use of all three. Visual learning happens when people watch materials that can include videos, PowerPoints, charts and other visual elements. Auditory learning happens when people learn by listening to people who might be other trainees, compelling trainers, visitors and others. And Kinesthetic learning happens when people get out of their seats and move around as they take part in work simulations, games, and other meaningful exercises.
If you’re hiring an outside trainer, speak with other organizations where he or she has worked. When you do, ask for specifics about what the training accomplished. Did average sales orders increase by a certain percentage? Did customers report measurably higher levels of satisfaction when they were polled? Did thefts and losses decrease by a certain significant percentage when training was completed? Remember to look for hard data about results. Statements like “We loved Paul’s training!” might be nice, but they don’t tell you much about whether Paul’s training was worth the money it cost.
Define outcomes and make sure your trainer can reach them. Do you want your salespeople to contact 25% more new prospects? Do you want your customer service representatives to give true “white glove” treatment to customers? Or do you want your front office staff to delight visitors with exceptional service? Your trainer should explain his or her plans to break those processes down into individual steps and address them directly through training.
Help your trainer know who your trainees are. A good trainer will want to know about their trainees’ ages, prior experience, educational level, current jobs, and all other factors that can be leveraged to engage them more fully in training. A concerned trainer will also want to be aware of any factors that might cause them not to engage.
Work with your trainer to develop meaningful metrics. If you work together to define what you will measure after training is completed, chances are good that your training will accomplish much more, because its goals are well defined.
Monitor sessions and make sure that training stays on track.If you are a company training director or a member of senior management, you might not want to attend sessions, because your presence could put a damper on trainees’ ability to relax and learn. If that is the case, ask a few trainees to check in with you at lunchtime or other breakpoints to tell you whether the trainer is hitting the benchmarks you created. If not, a quick check-in with the trainer can often get things back on track and avoid wasting time and money.
If you are a training director who wants to record serious results from serious training, it’s important to work closely with professional trainers who don’t only entertain, but educate. That’s the difference between training that’s frivolous and training that offers a good ROI on your investment.
Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. He created the concept of “ingaged leadership” and is principal and founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm. To learn more, visit Ingage.net.