Training efficiency is not a new topic. For years, organizations around the globe have struggled to find ways to effectively prepare their teams for success from day one. The ultimate goal is to create experts and thought leaders through continuous learning improvements over the course of a team member’s career.
Your team members want the same thing. No one ever said “I’d like to be mediocre at my job.” We all want to be great at what we do, but too often the opportunity to do so is overlooked in pursuit of fulfilling other demands.
The good news is that there are many outlets to choose from, the bad news is that one size does not fit all. Instead of trying to prescribe a generic solution for every situation we thought we’d try providing a list of options, underlining the pros and cons of each, and give some starting points to aid in your consideration.
Where to Start? Identify the Problem(s)
- Identify the problem – Prior to getting started with any resolution, start by identifying existing problem(s). For example “Our assembly line is constantly making mistakes that is causing hours of rework and costing us $5,000 per day.”
- Identify the cause(s) – Once the problem has been identified, dig deeper to get an understanding of what’s causing the issue. This will require input from those actually performing the tasks that have effect. Some examples could include lack of training, ineffective training, lack of task request clarity, no expectation definition and so on.
- Specify the desired outcome – Define what outcome you expect to see and in what timeframe you expect it. For example, let’s say that we want to see a 20% reduction in rework in a 2 month time period after implementing your strategy. You’ve now set a benchmark. Try to make your expected outcome lofty, but attainable and actionable.
- Enlist experts – Get the input of thought leaders within your organization in regards to the problem at hand. They will be able to help provide insight into improvement and implementation. If you’re dealing with sales team issues, enlist the help of your best sales team member. If you’re looking to improve production, look to your veteran experts for input.
- Decide Upon Method(s) to Implement for Training – Decide how you’re going to train, what information needs to be involved, who needs to be involved and identify distribution methods. Once ready, implement.
- Test, Revise, Repeat – Once your test run is complete, analyze the outcomes. If the desired outcome was met or exceeded look for ways to continue improvement and start planning for other areas of your organization. If the desired outcome wasn’t met, revisit the causes step, and restart.
Discovering the correct strategy for improving the performance of your team is a constantly evolving process. Don’t plan on a “set it and forget it” strategy. Keep continuous improvement a measurable and actionable point of focus.
Classroom Type Training
Classroom type training consists of organizing a group of attendees into a classroom setting to cover information. The type of information will vary by organization and situation but often covers job task details, organizational policies, updates or a combination of the three. The general format includes a designated instructor, or instructors, who are experts in the subject matter who leads the progression of the class.
- Instructors generally have a vast knowledge of the topic that allows for deeper topic exploration and clarification
- Allows for interaction with instructor for clarification
- Teams can learn together vs one individual at a time
- Setting allows for attendee feedback on the subject matter
- Scheduling a time for larger groups can be difficult
- Updating course materials can be costly and time consuming
- Large group setting can create an environment where only a few individuals get input
- Time restrictions can limit progress of instruction
- If no follow up materials are provided, on average, 70% of information covered will be forgotten in a 24 hour period
Best for: Training small to medium size groups on the basics of a subject with the opportunity for feedback and deeper insight. If scheduling isn’t an issue, this is a suitable solution.
On the Job Training
On the job training involves shadowing another worker and/or having someone monitor your activities to make sure that a task or series of tasks are completed correctly.
- Especially effective when performing skilled labor such as working with machinery
- Combines visual, verbal and physical instruction to help provide clarity to the trainee
- Issues and questions can immediately be addressed while performing critical tasks
- Generally incorporates an expert as the “instructor” to help new team members learn
- Commonly a one-on-one setting that allows the “instructor” to focus on the progression of a single “trainee”
- If no company standards are set for training regimens, quality and consistency of training suffers
- Some people naturally don’t perform well with someone watching them
- Lack of follow up materials causes information loss in a short period (see Classroom Training)
- Requirement for expertise from “instructor” takes them away from their operations and causes productivity lag
- One-on-one instruction requires longer training dedication vs classroom training
Best for: One-on-one training of critical specifics of a task operation. Especially effective when delicate or dangerous operations are present (i.e. safety precautions)
Traditional and Digital Reference Materials
Reference material training involves providing instruction to users via traditional mediums such as textbooks, binders, bulletin board posts, etc. This can also include digital mediums that differ from E-Learning (covered below) in that they are less formatted as a class path and more resemble a digital manual (think Word docs, PowerPoint presentations, Google Docs, etc) .
- Standardized information for all recipients ensures that all trainees are receiving the same instruction
- Properly distributed reference material can be revisited (vs classroom or one-on-one training)
- Well formatted materials can show the user step-by-step instructions to proper task completion and additional critical information (think safety information, preparation requirements, etc.)
- Difficult and costly to keep materials updated which leads to outdated practices and information
- Accessibility to reference materials isn’t always available during critical operations
- Ability to reference critical information within materials is limited. User generally as to manually sift through large amounts of data in hopes of finding the ideal information
- Lack of clarity leaves users guessing on critical instructional details (limited or no images, videos, reference files, etc.)
- Distribution of initial materials, or updates, is complicated which may leave many users out of the loop
Best for: Follow up information post training or reference material that is rarely, if ever, changed. Keep in mind that due to limitations of traditional (and digital) reference material, this method should be used sparingly.
E-Learning is an online type of learning that can be completed via any device or platform connected to the Internet (traditionally this solely applied to desktop computers). This differentiates from digital reference material in that there is a designated path to completion supported with information that is text and media based.
- Training paths provide users with ability to learn on their own time without the need of instructors
- Most platforms offer the ability to add in text and media options to provide clarity to the users
- Ability to add in knowledge comprehension verification points using quiz or exam functionality
- Easier to update content than standard reference materials (print docs, etc.)
- Most platforms feature some form of quick search allowing users to seek out the information they require
- Standardized training ensures that every team member is trained the same way
- Platforms are generally designed to help with training purposes but aren’t set up to be “reference” material (aren’t helpful past training phase)
- Most platforms don’t allow for user input, diminishing user engagement and control
- Potentially time consuming to create
- Large learning/implementation curve for new system
- Some platforms are not mobile friendly
Best for: Onboarding new hires and training for organizational updates (processes, policies, etc.). This method is good for testing but given its limited ability to be used as a reference document post training, it should be accompanied by some follow up reference materials.
Knowledge Management System
A knowledge management system (KMS) is an online application accessible from any device with an Internet connection. This platform combines the training path capabilities of an Elearning system with the ability to reference information on demand similar to reference material training.
- Users have access to information they need on-demand (anytime, anywhere) that they can consume at their own pace
- Users have the ability to access information using a device they’re familiar with, comfortable using and have with them at all times – their smartphones
- Ability to search for information easily (searchability) vs trying to dig through mountains of information
- Creators can provide clarity to users utilizing text and media such as videos, images and documents
- Information distribution is simplified using assigning functionality
- Information updating is simple, keeping information fresh and engaging
- Opportunities for verifying information comprehension using quiz functionality. Additionally, quiz results are stored in a centralized location
- Users have input into content created improving engagement
- Knowledge paths can be designed for training purposes or use purposes to match the user’s intentions
- Learning curve for platform use – be sure to work with an organization who helps you onboard your team
- If no current training or reference material exists, the initial planning phase may be difficult – choose an organization who will help guide you through this phase
- If your organization has strong intellectual property policies, there may be technical and security issues to overcome
Best for: Training, testing, and as a resource manual. Whether you’re strictly using a KMS as the sole teaching/updating method or in conjunction with other efforts, this platform type is equipped to provide your team with the information they need when they need it. Be sure to facilitate your team for both with the content you create.
Now that you know the plan for getting started and your options, it’s time to get to work! Know that your efforts are paving the way for better operations, improved efficiency, and an organization based around continuous improvement.