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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
612-978-3050

Do Unto Yourself What You
Do Unto Others

when's the last time you saw training the way your trainees see it?

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

I recently heard an interview with the wonderful Wisconsin novelist Jane Hamilton, talking about her most recent book. This new release is unusual, for her, in that it is something of a comedy, and her works typically deal with weightier themes.

What caught my attention, in this conversation, was the experience that inspired the book in the first place. She was teaching a writing workshop on a cruise ship when she discovered that many, many of the participants did not, in fact, read very much. They wanted to create published works that others would read, but they rarely read books themselves!

It called to mind a trend I see within many organizations, and within the training profession, really. The higher a person is, in his or her training function for a company or institution, the less likely that person is to regularly receive rigorous training, the kind that strengthens skills and engenders new abilities.

Now, you say,"Oh, that doesn't apply here! Our top staff frequently exchange ideas at conferences and at association meetings. We keep up to date on new technologies and best practices through regular communication with our peers." And so on.

I get a little, well, fidgety when people bring up "exchanging ideas" and "sharing best practices," especially if this is all done in some kind of conference, association meeting, or networking gathering. Frankly, a lot of this stuff doesn't meet that notion of "rigorous training" that I mentioned above.

I really am suggesting that as we get higher in an organization, we are less willing to subject ourselves to training that involves clear criteria for successful outcomes.

Consider, if you will, a manufacturing company that wants to reduce the costs of injuries. Do they have their front-line workers go to a conference and swap ideas about safety? When customer satisfaction surveys reveal that you are chasing away potential customers, do you encourage your call-center staff and receptionists to gather over refreshments, in a large room, and informally share best practices?

Of course not. You figure out what they should be doing, you get someone who knows how to communicate that knowledge effectively, and you don't consider someone "trained" in the topic when they report that they have a lot of new ideas they'd like to pursue when they get the time.

Like Ms. Hamilton's non-reading writers, there are a lot of people making high-level training decisions who are not experiencing, personally, anything like the training they prescribe for others in their organization. I hear people mutter about attention spans and communication channels and Gen Y employees, but most of that muttering is based on second-hand opinions, almost urban legends, rather than conclusions based on what they have seen in their own training experiences.

I am not saying that new ideas, conversations with peers, and "soft skills" aren't important, especially for your training department leadership. I'm saying that too many pursue those sources of knowledge to the exclusion of the more mundane, more technical, and, often, more demanding training that is typical of what that leadership is delivering to the rest of the company.

So give up a conference or a networking meeting, and use that time to really cultivate some new skills, in a setting much more like that experienced by 90% of your employees. Get first-hand exposure to the kind of training you offer your organization for more credibility and insight than you'll get from hours and hours of "swapping ideas."

There's no telling what you might learn from the experience, and, more importantly, there's no telling what you might help others in your company learn, more efficiently and more effectively, as a result.

© 2009 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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