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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Time is Money . . . More or Less

help your budget by spreading out your interaction with employees

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

When it comes to spreading, and especially, to sustaining best practices in organizations of various sizes, most of the work is done, not by a training department or full time facilitators, but by front-line managers who communicate best practices to employees as part of their jobs. People like regional sales managers, product development managers, key players in technology or credit or quality assurance or customer service departments, these are often the staff who have to find ways to enhance productivity, to get better results, out of their colleagues.

By the same token, they usually don't get separate pots of money dedicated just to training, but fund their efforts on a project basis. And when we face rough economic times, those funds are harder to come by.

That's when you want to leverage a little time, because a small application of staff time can often enhance the impact of your training and employee communications more than even a large application of money. And these days, when individuals and families are finding ways to stretch their budgets, you, too, have to stretch your department's budget -- by taking a different approach to spreading best practices, by remembering that time can be more than money, can give you more results for less resources!

The secret to getting a massive Return On Investment from a little extra time is to spread out your contact with the employees being trained, with the staff you are guiding to better practices. Too often, everything is explained in one information dump, whether that's through a meeting, a seminar, or an online course. Breaking that information into smaller chunks and reinforcing it more regularly will maximize the impact of that information on employee performance.

Aim to increase the frequency, rather than the total quantity, of contact, and you can find a lot of simple ways to boost your training ROI on any given practice. For example:

  • Lead up to a training/communication event with messages that help the employee to prepare to learn, to identify situations where the best practice will apply, or to bring key questions to a session.
  • After a training unit is completed, follow up by e-mail or phone with participants -- using pre-written messages -- to point out ways they can apply the practice in their own work. (See below for links to more information about simple, but effective, follow up.)
  • Break that four-hour session into four one-hour sessions, spread over several weeks. You will help your organization by taking employees off the line for smaller chunks of time that are easier to cover. And your participants will be more likely to sustain the new practices, because they can apply what they learn in one module before tackling the next one.
  • As part of the training, assign participants to interview a mentor -- a manager, an experienced employee in the same position, or someone who has completed the same training. That will spread out the work of answering lingering questions and applying what they have learned.
  • Similarly, recruit "graduates" of best practices training for a "telephone tree", through which you can delegate some of the follow up work. They simply e-mail, meet, or call new participants in the training to help them with questions and point out ways to apply training material to their own situations.

I know time is precious, and that you don't have much to spare. But approaches like these not only reap big benefits to the company in terms of strengthening best practices, they take relatively little effort to set up and maintain. In most cases, you figure out the appropriate messages once, and re-use them for subsequent groups of participants. And the actual message delivery can, again, be either delegated or automated. Plus, spreading out contact means less disruption of everyone's day, for trainers and trainees alike.

You can do more to make best practices "stick" without spending more money, by spending just a little more time in contact with employees. And that helps the bottom line.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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