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

Where Does Effective
Training Start?

a nice case study of putting what works before what's trendy

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

According to a recent article in Workforce Management magazine -- "Counter Intuition at FedEx Kinko’s" -- Kinko's, the copy service chain, is delivering customer service training to tens of thousands of employees, dispersed across more than 1,600 outlets. And you probably know that many of their workers are younger, often college kids.

So you might assume that delivering training on-line would be most efficient -- and maybe it would. But Kinko's decided that classroom training delivered by live instructors would be most effective. Sherry Vidal-Brown, vice president of learning and development, is quoted as saying:

"Delivering good service means looking customers in the eye. That’s why we want service training to be face to face."

Why is this newsworthy? They thought about their people, their subject matter, and the best ways to influence employee behavior, and then they chose their delivery format.

Isn't That What Everybody Does?

Frankly, basic as that seems, that process is all too rare in corporate training.

Many times, the delivery method for a major training effort is already determined, at the very first project committee meeting, by:

  • Cost. "Train people on-line, because delivery costs are low." Or, "Incorporate training into the annual employee meeting, since we already have them there."
  • Habit. "We've always done training on X this way . . ." Or, "Most people I've talked to say they handle this by doing . . ."

Heeding cost and efficiency concerns is legitimate. Starting with those constraints rather than the desired outcomes is a shortcut to mediocrity. Learning from your own and others' experience is one thing. Blindly copying it is another.

What things cost, and what you're used to (and perhaps skilled at) doing are important factors in deciding a delivery approach. But they aren't where you start, if you want the best possible outcomes.

Aim High, and Back Off

Instructional design and training development are much like strategic planning for your company, where you:

  1. determine the results you want to achieve;
  2. identify the best methods to reach your goals;
  3. consider the constraints -- resources, conditions, etc. -- you face; and
  4. adapt your methods to get the best results you can within those constraints.

Companies that plan their core business strategies this way are much more successful than those that start with constraints, or those that just extend past practices. Even when companies can't afford the best methods or tools to reach some of their goals, goal-oriented (rather than cost- or habit-based) planning helps them make better compromises between ideal implementation and real world limitations.

The same process applies to training projects. Determine the change you seek in your employees and identify the the best options for producing that change. Then apply considerations of cost and efficiency.

You may not be able to use the most effective method every time, but you will use more effective methods more of the time.

Kinko's took the bold step of investing in methods they believed would be most likely to change their employees, bringing a level of customer service to their retail outlets that would give them a significant competitive advantage over the copy and print services of big office supply stores like Staples and OfficeMax. And they decided to include support staff and management in the training as well, so that everyone would share a common vision of a vital component of their strategic plan, what they believe will help them win in the marketplace.

Good strategic plans are challenging to create, and lots of companies take the easy way out. Good training design takes courage and thought, and it is easy to opt out of those, too.

But goal-oriented training design is worth the effort if you want to be at the top of your industry.

© 2007 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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