It's Not Just Training - Three Ways to Improve Learning and Motivation
By James A. DeSena, CSP, MBA
Jul 2, 2002, 13:42 PST

Every time you have an employee training session, you send a message. You want that message to be one that reinforces the importance of the employee's job to your company.

When people conduct training sessions, they generally do it to help people learn new knowledge or skills. Clearly, that is a primary goal of the session. But, when you bring
people together at a training session, you have a much greater opportunity.

1. I suggest my clients have a top-level executive kick off the training session. Just the presence of an executive lets people know that you place a great deal of importance on the training. You realize how much of a commitment of time it is for the individual and the company and you want people to give it the undivided attention it deserves. Following are suggested points that an executive could cover in his or her introductory remarks.

Suggested points for introductory remarks for the ________ training session.

Thank them for coming.

Let them know you have been through the session and highly recommend it. (If you have.) (A common question is always, "Has management been through this?")

Let them know why you think this training will be helpful.

Tell them why this training is important to them now.

Encourage them to be open to any feedback they may receive.

Let them know we will be looking for examples of improved skills back on the job.

2. You ultimately want to let people know how their job fits into the bigger picture, how it benefits your company and your customers.

With one client I worked with, a transit system, the session was on customer service. It
was intended to give people an improved set of skills for handling difficult customer situations. In the introduction, to set the tone, I discussed how this transit system transported 250,000 people each day, a quarter of a million people. That is more than the population of many
cities. These employees didn't just provide a ride; they allowed people to get to work and earn a living. The thousands of businesses that depended on them know that their employees can get to work reliably, conveniently and inexpensively. The system allows students to get
an education.

When participants realized just how important their jobs were, they were much more open to thinking about what they could do differently. Too many times at training sessions, there is a tremendous amount of resistance because people are sent to it, the implication being that something is wrong with what they are doing. We wanted to make sure it was clear that the reason they were there wasn't because something was wrong. It was because we wanted them to look for small ways to improve the already high level of service they were providing to customers. (This company had won two awards for outstanding customer service.)

As a result, even when there was high resistance by some of the participants, we were able to win over many of them. By the way, the reason there was resistance was not because of some inherent problem with the training. It was usually because of how the individual was treated by his or her supervisor. If the person felt valued, they contributed. If they weren't treated the way they felt they were supposed to treat the customers, they weren't happy. This is a situation that management can correct through training or the reward system.

3. Take care with the logistics.

If you can, hold the session off site. If you can't, try to arrange it so there will be as few distractions and interruptions as possible.

Use an adequately sized room. I still remember a session where the client had under-estimated the number of people who would be in the session, so the room was packed and
the air conditioning didn't hold up to the size of the crowd. Everyone was uncomfortable. It wasn't a conducive learning environment.

Small creature comforts can make a big difference. People love food. If your budget permits, have coffee, soda, fruit or pastries.

Make sure the room isn't disorganized: old presentation materials lying about, extra chairs, left over papers taped to the wall, etc.

Proactively ask for everyone's cooperation with cell phones, being back from breaks on time and for participation.

Jim DeSena is a speaker and consultant to industry. Jim specializes in working with sales leaders, providing seminars, speeches and planning retreats. For additional free information, call 800-4321-WIN.


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