Training with oomph

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The prospect of training can fill employees with dread, but there are plenty of fresh learning ideas available to enthuse your workforce. Kirstie Redford spells out how to deliver training with oomph.

More oomph…

Most of us have sat through dismal training sessions where we end up clock-watching, letting the information flow in one ear and out the other. Delivering training costs time and money, and it’s important to make each session count. So what can you do to give training that all-important oomph?

First you need to keep in mind what you want to achieve. Training with oomph should be energising, invigorating and memorable. It also makes sense that sessions should be kept short and to the point.

Getting engaged

This is a rule that Andrew Rea, director of Ten Minute Trainer, lives by. He provides a one-day course for line managers and trainers on how to design and deliver training sessions as short as 10 minutes. The idea is to make repetitive regulatory training, such as health and safety or diversity, more engaging. “Trainers need to deliver sharp, timely, training sessions that meet specific needs but are also memorable. The two main ingredients are good design and good delivery,” says Rea.

The most effective design is, he believes, the format template. “This explains why, what, how and what if,” he says. “So at the beginning of each session, you should spend 30 seconds telling people why they are there and what’s in it for them so you get buy-in. When you’ve done this you can then explain what the training will involve so they are clear on what you’ll be covering, which puts it into context.”

This then leads to the ‘how’ part – the actual training. Rea says this may revolve around a game or quiz – the more creative the better. “I believe in being active and letting people have a go for themselves. Some people can take on board information and process it, but the majority need something more – they need to touch, feel and play with it to take on a new concept.”

Two-way communication

Finally the ‘what if’. “This is where you look at what you’ve learned and how you can use it,” says Rea. “It’s good to get some two-way communication here so learners interact and have their say.”

Jane Sunley, managing director of LearnPurple, a training consultancy that works in service industries, believes it pays to take extra time putting thought into the design of training sessions. “It’s important to establish delegates’ feelings on what’s in it for them and why they are there,” she says. “If every delegate feels they are gaining from the experience and that it will generate results, it stands to reason the content will be of interest and be more memorable.”

Other simple tips include making the learning environment pleasant, comfort-able, bright and stimulating, and using stories and case studies to pose challenges and draw out delegates’ experiences to make it real. “Be prepared to go off piste and converse with learners to discuss ideas and comments,” says Sunley.

It’s also a good idea to keep in mind the Chinese proverb: Tell me and I forget show me and I remember involve me and I understand. “Make training interactive by using relevant exercises, challenges, games and group work,” adds Sunley. “Make it fun, although keep it professional. Try something new and wacky – we’ve done everything from geese herding to treasure hunts.”

Add some spirit

There are numerous wacky training methods that claim to motivate teams and build team spirit, from role play to karate and firewalking. Although these activities are memorable, you do not have to incorporate extreme – and what some consider to be scary – activities to get learners’ attention.

Although a certified firewalking instructor, Teresa Garfield, trainer, coach and facilitator, says that she tends not to use this type of extreme activity in corporate training. “I’d rather do an activity such as firewalking with a group of people who want to do it instead of those who have been sent to do it, as they may feel pressure from colleagues and this can result in a negative experience for all,” she says.

However, there are other ways to make training more fun and energetic. “Using music is a good way to get people out of their chairs. I often use a musical chairs technique where, when the music stops, participants have to go up to someone and say something about themselves or that they have learned,” Garfield adds.

Another effective learning technique is to use buddy systems, says Garfield. “If you pair learners into buddies in training it helps them to participate. This can then provide an accountability structure when they return to work, where they can talk to their buddy about whether they have stuck to their action plans and commitments.”

Mary Brooks, director of training provider Leadership and Management Training, says that learning to use simple props such as balloons during training can give sessions more oomph. “You can’t teach adults anything – you can facilitate their brains, but lecturing, especially in chalk-and-talk style, is a turn-off,” she says. “I believe learners need a training experience. I always have a packet of balloons in my bag and use them to get learning points over, even with the most serious subjects.”

If you don’t see yourself as an ideas person and the thought of coming up with exciting and creative ways to deliver training with oomph scares you to death, Rea says there’s only one way to get over it – get stuck in. “Being creative with training is easy once you get into the habit,” he says. “Once you spend time getting creative, you’ll find your own way of doing things and the ideas will flow. We provide some ideas such as word games and puzzles on our train-the-trainer courses, but the more often you deliver this type of training, the more creative you become.”

Oomph on the high seas

Keeping abreast of health and safety issues is important for any organisation, but is often not the most enthralling topic for training.

Martin Horn, health and safety advisor at Fox’s Confectionery in Leicester, wanted something that would keep staff awake as well as contribute to its improving safety record.

Working with external training provider Leadership and Management Training (LMT), a programme was devised in June using the theme of Admiral Nelson and Captain Hardy. Participants were asked how they would have managed the crew of HMS Victory in these health and safety-conscious times.

With their imaginary flagship renamed HMS Appeasement, two managers from Fox’s Confectionery used role play to impart modern health and safety rules and regulations to 21 team leaders and engineers from the company.

Subjects covered by the training included regulations specific to the food industry, duty of care and environmental issues. However, another essential criterion was for the candidates to have fun.

“Many people in business would be aghast at the concept of having fun while embroiled in the issues of health and safety,” says LMT director Mary Brooks.

“But serious subject areas can be well received when using the fun factor to hammer home hard messages about the application of health and safety in the workplace.”

Horn adds: “All of the participants reported that they not only learned a great deal from attending but also enjoyed the experience.”


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