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

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everyone benefits when you spread things out a little

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

As I have explained elsewhere, I believe that communication is the most important part of your job, and everyone's job. And when it comes to spreading, and sustaining, the best business practices that give you a competitive advantage in your market, effective training and employee communications can make a huge difference to the bottom line.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a innate tendency to think of "training" or "employee communications" or a "best practices initiative" as a monolithic block of time, money, and effort. Just say the word "training" and your colleagues and management will envision something of a certain size -- a half-day seminar, a day long meeting, a two-day regional conference, or a significant online course, for example.

Overcoming that tendency, resisting that habit, can pay off for everyone. Imagine that you take a morning seminar and break it into four one-hour modules, delivered once a week. Here are just a few of the benefits, and beneficiaries:

  • Less Need to Cover Participants' Regular Work. If someone is away from a desk or workstation for four or five hours, their department may need to arrange to cover that person. But most people can be away for an hour without much impact. Smaller units mean less extra work for the participant's colleagues, fewer headaches for the supervisor, and much less impact on co-workers and customers.
  • More Sustainable Best Practices. When you dump the entire "story" of the best business practice in one shot, you place an all-or-nothing bet on employees' learning. Either they will instantly get it and start using the new practice, or they will struggle to incorporate the new methods into their daily work and will relapse to their old habits. You know, as well as I do, which one happens most of the time. Spreading the information out gives them a week, or two, to master one small step in implementing the practice, and then build the next step. It will take you longer, in calendar time, to deliver the training -- but it will actually work!
  • Easier, and Cheaper, to Keep Up To Date. With modular units, you can tweak the content of one session or another without having to rework the entire course. That means you can respond more quickly, and invest less time (and energy and money) into the update.
  • Enhanced Visibility, Credibility, and Importance to Participants. What is more likely to make you change the way you work, something I tell you once, or something I discuss with you week after week?

(I used a classroom seminar above, but rest assured the same ideas apply to an online course.)

Now, you may hear some objections to spreading things out, to modularizing your content:

  • "Too Many Interruptions." Some supervisors may complain that you are interrupting their work flow week after week. Look behind this "objection" when you get it -- this may be more a matter of resistance to the training in general, than a true, specific objection to your schedule. If the concern is sincere, thoroughly explain how frequent, shorter "bites" of the material require less "coverage" from co-workers while producing better results.
  • Travel. One situation where lumping things together might make some sense is when it must be done at a central location, and travel expense is involved. Even here, however, in most situations the content can be cut into smaller units, and many of those units can be taught remotely, leaving only the most essential elements to be shared in a specific place.

The real obstacle to building best practices in smaller steps, for better, more sustainable results, is habit, the "way we've always done it," and the habit of thinking of training in larger blocks. Start looking for ways to break things down into easier-to-chew, more digestible units, and everyone can come out ahead.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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