Archive for July, 2010

Good facilitator guides are the corner stone for building great instructor led training. In this 45 minute webinar you will Learn how to build facilitator guides that are easy to use, easy to build and easy to maintain. In addition, you will learn how to create a template for your facilitator guides that will create consistency from program to program while cutting development time and cost. Register at: http://learningpathsinternational.com/trainer.html – Date: July 27th, Time: 12pm Central.

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Every new employee has several key questions when they start work for a new company. Perhaps the most important is, “Do I really Want to Do this Job?” The longer it takes for this employee to answer this question, the more likely it is they will quit or worse, quit and stay. Here are two examples of what I’m talking about. We did a lot of work in collections call centers. At some point in their initial training, the lights went on and they’d say, “So what you’re saying is, you want me to call people at home during diner and ask them for money, is that right?” A predictable percentage would say, “I’m not going to do that and quit.” The realization didn’t really hit them until you put a phone in their hand and tell them to call. If you put someone through six weeks of training before this epiphany, you wasted a lot of time and effort.

Here’s another example, a lot of people go into customer service thinking it’s a job to help customers. After taking a call or two, you often hear, “All these customers do is call and complain, I don’t want to do this.” In the old days, customer service used to be the complaint department and attracted a little different type of person.

The bottom line is, the sooner employees do real work with real customers, the sooner they can answer the question, “Do I really want to do this job?” The longer you wait the more expensive it gets.

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I wanted to share with everyone one of my favorite cynics, H.L. Mencken.  Since he died in 1956 most people haven’t heard much about him.  But for his time, he was a noted cynic and satirist.  He was the one who actually coined the phrase “monkey trial” from his coverage of the Scopes trial.  He did one of the first books talking about the difference between American and British English.  I know him best from his quotes.  Here are some of my favorites;

  • For every complex problem there is a solution, clear, simple and wrong.
  • A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin
  • A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.
  • An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
  • Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
  • Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient.
  • It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.
  • It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
  • It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world, as pastors teach, but idealism. Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously.
  • Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99 % of them are wrong.
  • Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
  • Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
  • The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.

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Classroom training is still the predominant method for formal corporate training. Seminars and workshops are still very popular especially for smaller companies that aren’t ready or able to do a lot of elearning or web collaboration. I’d say that classroom training definitely has it’s strengths and limitations. To be an effective learning leader, I always recommend clearly articulating when and how to use classroom training. I’m going to start out with a few ideas or principles and maybe others will fill in the rest.

1. Interaction with Peers
I’ve seen literally thousands of comments written about workshops and seminars. The number one things that participants say they value is the interaction and networking with peers. Almost no one lists this as a primary objective but maybe it should be number 1.
2. Content Delivery
Retention levels are so low with lectures and expert delivery of information that it’s almost not work doing. I would guess that if you took an SAT today you wouldn’t remember most of it.

3. Feedback
Many things require that you get direct feedback from an expert in order to learn how to do something. Starting this feedback in the classroom is effective if it carries to the job.
4. Demonstrations
Some things you just have to see up close in order to really appreciate all the complexities. This is especially true if learning requires more than sight and sound.

Okay, that’s four…it’s your turn.

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I’ve taught hundreds of instructional designers how to build better facilitator guides. A facilitator guide is the cornerstone for consistent and high quality instructor led training. Here are some basics I’d recommend for making your facilitator guides better:

Incorporate participant materials and PowerPoints in a way that you don’t need cross referencing or icons. Cross referencing and icons create a nightmare for editing and keeping things straight.

  1. Don’t duplicate information that’s in the participant materials, PowerPoints or job aides. Use the facilitator guide for directions only.
  2. Use a software program that is commonly used so that anyone can easily create an update the document. You can always protect the document after it’s created with a PDF.
  3. Add a running time and an elapsed time on each page so the facilitator can easily keep the workshop or seminar on track.
  4. Leave a lot of white space so that facilitator has a place to write notes about examples and stories.
  5. Limit what you put in headers and footers but make sure to put in copyright notices and page numbers.

These are just come of the basic tips.  I’ve got a PowerPoint presentation that shows the format that I actually use.  You can download it from this site.

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Mike Tyson said, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get hit.” This is a very important concept for training and explains why a lot of training doesn’t stick or transfer to the job. Consider what happens to customer service training when an employee fresh out of training picks up the phone and gets an irate customer. Everything they learn tends to go out the window. They will tend to question their training and say it doesn’t work and go back to the old ways. Usually training isn’t intensive enough to really master a skill in all the critical situations. One or two role plays in a sales class isn’t enough to do more than just get a feel for how to use a new sales process. It may take 50 to 100 real calls with real customers. So I’d look at any training program and ask the question, “Is there enough real practice (getting hit in the face), to make training stick.

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I think one of the starting points for leading a learning organization is to write down a set of learning principles. I define a Learning Principle as something that you believe is absolutely true about how people learn. For example, you might have a principle that states that everyone has a different learning style or people learn by doing.

The list should be about 5 to 10 items and what you believe and not me. This now let’s you communicate to others in the organization and vendors what good training is all about and that anything that doesn’t fit these principles isn’t acceptable. I’d make these formal so you can communicate them easily. This is part of becoming viewed as the learning expert in your organization.

So the question is, Do you have a written set of learning principles? What would you put on the list?

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