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The secret L&D manager: What makes training effective?

This month’s secret training manager is Italian and has worked in a variety of fields including public research organizations and service companies. Here she talks with Scott Levey about the basic elements that make training and trainers effective.

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What makes training effective?

To me an effective training is a training that uses most of the senses. Meaning: seeing, hearing, touching. The learners need to experience things and be actively engaged. Of course, the training needs to cover the thinking side, but adult learners need to learn by doing things. A good training event also has to be designed to have different activities and moments. For example, it needs moments to listen and get input and ideas, moments to pause and ponder on the theory that was just presented to you, moments to experiment, and moments to recap. I want the trainer to also plan in multiple moments where they cover again the main and salient points of the training.  For me this is essential.  I would also say that effective training sessions need to have a certain pace and this pace changes depending on the moment.  After lunch the trainer will increase the pace to get people moving again. Alternatively, the pace may slow down if the trainer sees that the participants aren’t following what the trainer is trying to do or trying to say.  So that’s what I think makes an effective training.

What makes the trainer effective? I mean you yourself have worked with many trainers and you have also trained yourself, haven’t you?

Well the most obvious answer would be that the trainer is the subject matter expert. She is an expert in her field and has real experience … but that isn’t enough. I’m going to give you a trivial example but I think everyone can relate to it. It’s about my daughter. She’s in high school right now and her math teacher is brilliant. He has a very brilliant mind … but he is not a pedagogue, so he is a teacher by definition but he is not a teacher through experience, and he is not patient with them. He knows his stuff, and is really smart, but he doesn’t know how to convey the salient points to my daughter or his class.  When I think back to the many companies I have worked in, I have also seen similar experiences with internal training sessions ran in various topics. It could be IT related, quality management, HR or technical skills.  Being a subject matter expert is the start but not the end.

Being an expert is not enough; you also need to be an expert in pedagogy, you need to be patient and you need to be attentive to the participants and allow them to ask questions. You need also to be able to shut down any conversation that strays from the topic because it can become difficult and you can waste time and not reach your training goals. This is not good because as we know training has an agenda and you need to stay on track.

Somehow a trainer also needs to be very confident and have some leadership behaviors, because she’s the leader of the group for the time of the training. Finally, I think an effective trainer has to have those storytelling skills where you put theory and experience into a nice little story that illustrates the point. And is easy to understand and remember

So, what I’m saying is an effective trainer is somebody who

  1. Is a subject matter expert
  2. Is a good communicator
  3. Is people-oriented
  4. Can lead a group
  5. Has the skills needed to design training so there are the right moments at the right times
  6. Has the skills to deliver the training in an engaging way and manage the pace
  7. Is focused and reaches the objective set for the training

Train-the-trainer courses can really help for both new and confident trainers … but it is my opinion that nothing really beats experience. So that’s what I think makes a trainer a good trainer.


Who is the secret L&D manager?

The “secret L&D manager” is actually a group of L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with their peers.

You can meet more of our secret L&D managers here …

 

Organizing management and leadership training programs – the secret L&D manager

This month’s Secret L&D manager is German, based in Germany and works for a global automotive supply company.  He/She has worked in training and development for over 7 years.

New Call-to-actionWhat is important to you when designing and rolling out a leadership program?

For me a successful leadership or senior manager program in our company can never be a “one size fits all” solution.  Leadership and people management is not like a manual. We don’t want a “that’s how you have to do it” approach and we are serious about offering an individualized approach. The programs we build with companies like Target give people a chance to identify whatever they need and benefit from support in applying this in their day-to-day tasks – or in their life as a whole. Individuals take different things from the program.

Who do you target when you set up management and leadership programs?

When I set up a leadership program we are typically involving managers and leaders from a broad range of different functions – from HR to finance, logistics to manufacturing etc.  This means I have to exclude functional topics from the training design because they won’t be relevant to the whole group.

What kind or development areas are you targeting when you set up management and leadership programs?

We’re working in a very fast-paced environment and there are always a lot of changes going on.  A lot of our managers and leaders are firefighting, and really involved in operational work. We want to focus on soft skills like strategic thinking, so that they can step out of the operational and build a broader view of everything.

It is really important for me that our managers have the chance to step back and have a look at the broader picture – this means looking especially at strategy and finance. The leadership program needs to tackle what finance means for our company and to ensure the leaders have a big picture of company decisions that are made based on our financial performance. This extends to them having a broader view on strategy.  Our programs support them in building a strategic view of the company, their area and their immediate objectives.

We also want them to develop a stronger understanding of the consequences their own behaviours have, for example, on an individual, team or another department. If they are stressed out and don’t recognise that somebody in their team is drifting away, that’s not good.  The programs develop them to focus on their people –  their team is what makes their life easier in the end. They need to see not only themselves, their own workload, their own fires that are burning but also to focus more on their people and our overall strategy and values.

Do to summarize, strategy, finance, self-awareness, leading teams, and managing and developing the people they are leading. We want them to just take a step back and have a look at this and to have also the chance to experiment with tools, models and ideas. Not every tool is suitable for every person so they should decide on their own what they want to apply in the day to day what’s useful for them.

What is important to you when designing the training interventions which make up such a program?

I want them to work in groups and have personal time with the trainer. We have a mixture of formats including 1-to-1 intakes, using a tool such as DISC or MBTI, face-to-face seminars, virtual workshops and individual coaching. As the participants in the program are coming from all over Europe we also look to reduce travel costs and time using webinars, e-learning, virtual training sessions. The intakes, accountability calls and transfer coaching are all normally done via phone calls or using Webex. Then there are 3 to 4 onsite events with the groups coming together and meeting each other. These could be at the headquarters, a nice seminar hotel or near a plant (so we can organize a plant visit). Cost- and time- wise it is just not possible that they are travelling every few weeks.

What are you looking for from the trainers?

The trainers, of course are a very important element. When we look for trainers it is important to us that they are flexible. Our audience is usually, during the day, under pressure and there can be last minute things coming up so they are not able to attend a the whole session or training. So we need the trainer to be timewise as flexible as possible so if somebody missed some content they don’t get lost in the program. The trainer needs to help them and give an insight into what has been done. They need to be supportive with the people through the whole process – that is really important. Then of course that they have to be able to handle different personalities, functions, nationalities and cultures.

You mentioned culture – what role does this play in delivering the training?

This is a huge challenge, I can tell you. It depends a little bit on which positions the people are coming from. If they are coming from central positions and travelling a lot, meeting a lot of people etc. then usually they are open to everything and it’s easier to work with them. People coming from the production sites somewhere far away in the middle of nowhere – then it’s sometimes hard for them to connect with the other leaders and the softer stuff. It’s also hard for the trainers to manage them in the right way because they are really stuck in their culture. They are not as open as the people who are already used to being in this international environment – but it’s really important to get them to the stage where they are more open to the other cultures and diverse people.

How do your managers and leader react to the programs you offer? And how do you assess the training ?

The reaction of the operational leaders to this approach is very very positive. There are people who are more willing to open up and to work on themselves than others but I must say that those people who opened up completely are the ones that benefited the most from the program in the end.

About assessment, after the training I usually do a post training assessment where it’s a questionnaire where I ask people different sort of questions.


Who is the Secret L&D manager?

The Secret L&D manager is actually many L&D managers.  They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers.

Implementing the 70-20-10 model- insights from a secret L&D manager

This month’s Secret L&D manager is German, based in Germany and works for a global automotive supply company. She has worked in training and development for over 7 years.

Why are you using 70-20-10?

We introduced the 70-20-10 model in 2016, mainly because too many people were thinking that “development” is just about training, and that if our company wasn’t providing “training” the company wasn’t developing people. The 70-20-10 model helped us show that learning and development is more than just training. Training is one tool, but you can develop yourself all the time. The 70-20-10 model is rolled out globally to our whole organisation. There are also individual initiatives that I have developed which are only rolled out in a specific business area in Europe and for specific development programs like our talent development program.

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How did people react?

I would say the majority of the people in our company did not really understand at first. Only those people who joined the sessions where we explained and showed what 70-20-10 is really about – they understood the sense behind it. Learning and development is not such a big topic in our company and is not the highest priority, so many people read about it and ignored it.

So how have you brought 70-20-10 to life in the organization?

I created an individual development plan, built around 70-20-10, specifically for participants in our training programmes.

Which kind of programmes?

A development programme for our most talented young professionals. First of all, I introduced the 70-20-10 model a little bit to them, and I explained what 70-20-10 is about – and what it is not about too. Mainly that 70% of everything they learn is learning by doing, 20% is learning from others and only 10% is learning by “training”. I must say people were quite surprised about this when I started talking to them about it, but they quickly related to it.  They saw it reflected how they had learned their technical skills, and also their softer skills.

I then introduced a new individual development plan, which I have here in front of me.  I structured it in different levels. First of all, people were asked to define an overall individual development goal. Strictly speaking they weren’t all SMART goals – some were closer to a vision for where do I want to be and by when. As most of the goals were very general, I asked them to explain a little bit about what they meant with this goal. Where they are now, where they want to be and what they think would change when they achieve this goal. These were the key questions we asked them to think about.

Then they had to define three key development areas that they need to work on in order to achieve that very goal. These areas had to be really, really specific. They have to be SMART.

Once they had defined key development areas, they had to define development actions. On the tool I gave them, these actions are actually structured using 70-20-10.  They need to define mostly “learning by doing” actions, then partly “learning through others” actions and the smallest part is the “learning in training” actions.

And then, last but not least, for the individual development areas they were asked to define key performance indicators where they can measure the success of their development. Using KPIs is very characteristic for our automotive supply company because everything is measured in KPIs here. This is a step they understand easily, and I didn’t have to explain to them what a KPI is. Everything they do is measured.

How do you get a KPI from a soft skill?

Well, that’s tricky. Let’s take the simple example of improving presentation skills. So development actions can be “I will present my project four times in front of my boss or my team, and one of these will need to be delivered virtually”. The KPI could be the number of presentations you have done.

So you are just tracking that it’s happening?

Yes. Another example for management training is if you give or receive positive feedback – yes or no – it can be measured. It just helps a little bit, like you said, to track it, to know that they have to document their status. It really helps them to be motivated or to stay motivated.

Have you integrated the 70-20-10 into your senior management programs?

We have.  I think the 70 is really covered by the business simulations we use. In these simulations people lead their own company, competing against each other and most of it is really learning by doing. They have to work with the numbers, they have to work with the reports, they have to make their own decisions. They have the chance to contact their trainers for example, or their colleagues, and ask them for advice, so that’s learning by others maybe, but mostly it’s the learning by doing.

How do senior managers respond to being asked to build KPIs for their own development?

I must say I only really push the KPIs with the young professionals. They need the orientation to have this measured and their development areas are way simpler than the ones from the very experienced senior leaders that we’re training. I don’t push measuring of the senior managers and leaders. I think at their level they should be capable of measuring themselves and knowing how far they have come with their development.

What advice would you give to another training manager who wants to try and introduce this 70-20-10 approach to their organisation?

Firstly, I would say it’s a very rational approach to learning and development. You have to look a little bit at your target training audience and at your people. I mean in our automotive world there are a lot of engineers, and a lot of very structured thinking. They need tools that fit into their rational world and I think 70-20-10 does this for them. Learning is quite abstract and 70-20-10 gives them a framework to put it into numbers. So if you would like to apply this in your company you should really look at what is your target group.

And I see that structure is reflected in the way you have built your tools. I mean you’ve got boxes that need filling in which fits with your target audience, tick boxes, % etc.

Exactly, I’ve got KPIs. As I mentioned, everything is measured here and that’s their way of working. It is what people are used to and comfortable with. I think if you are trying to implement this in a more “creative” or “service”  company you might see much more pushback to the way my tools are designed and the use of KPIs

Thanks for your time and for sharing!

You’re welcome!


Who is the Secret L&D manager?

The Secret L&D manager is actually many L&D managers.  They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers.

Business English training: on-the-job training (for the job)

On-the-job (OTJ) training has been a cornerstone in our approach to in-house Business English training since our first InCorporate Trainers started their jobs (one of them was Scott Levey). When we explain the concept of on-the-job training to potential clients, they “understand” what we’re saying … BUT …they don’t really “get” how effective and beneficial on-the-job training is until they have seen it in action. This post aims to explain what it is, how it works, and how participants benefit, using some non-specific examples of on-the-job training.

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The benefits of on-the-job training

OTJ training is highly effective because the training takes place alongside and as part of your daily work. The trainer uses your work situations (your emails, your virtual meetings, your plant tours) as the basis for your learning. On-the-job training takes place at work, while you are working. This brings two huge benefits.

  1. You maximize your time because you are benefiting from training while you are working.
  2. You can directly transfer what you learn to your job. Your training is completely based on a real and concrete task. Everything you learn is relevant.

If you are familiar with the 70-20-10 model, you’ll know that 70% of learning comes through “doing” and from “experience”. Learning while you work is highly effective and this is the heart of on-the-job training.

“I helped Hans to de-escalate a situation in Supply Chain Management. Hans felt that the American party was wound-up and overly difficult. Hans brainstormed phrases with my help and he wrote a draft email. I helped him improve the structure and tone of the email and suggested he rewrote some of his sentences in plain English. A few hours later, the American party positively replied and the whole thing was solved by the time Hans went home.”

What exactly is on-the-job training and how does it work?

With on-the-job training, the trainer is there when you need assistance in preparing emails, specifications, manuals, reports, slides and other documentation. The trainer can support you in the planning, writing and reviewing stage. The trainer is also available to you for preparing meetings, phone calls, web meetings, teleconferences, presentations and negotiations.  They can then shadow you in action and provide personalized and situationally-based feedback.

On-the-job training focuses on your priorities at work and on you improving your business English in those areas. It can be

  • reactive where you ask the trainer for help “Can you help me improve these slides?”
  • proactive where the trainer encourages you to share work you have done/are doing in English “I heard you are involved in writing the R-Spec for the new project. How can I support you?”

“One of my participants, a product manager, had to deliver two presentations in English. It was basically the same presentation, but for two different audiences.  Observing her in our first practice session, I made a note of language points to work on. We worked on these, and a few other things (key messages, adapting messages to different audiences, Q&A session) over the next week. She delivered the presentations to me again, already with much more confidence and fluency – and then she practised with a few colleagues in a weekly group session and benefitted from both their positive feedback and the confidence boost.  Finally, I watched her deliver from the back and she did great.  After the presentations we debriefed and I shared my feedback (what went really well, what would she like to focus more on next time etc) . She was too critical of her performance and I helped her to be realistic about what she needs to focus on.”

What on-the-job training isn’t

What the trainer does not do is write the email/document for you (where’s the learning in that?). One common misconception is that on-the-job trainers are translators or proof readers. They’re not, in the same way that translators and proof readers aren’t trainers. Collaborative proof reading and translation can be an option, but the ownership needs to stay with the learner.

Another misconception is that on-the-job training is traditional “classroom training” during work time. The trainer will certainly use the “insider” view and what they have seen on-the-job to tailor traditional “off the job” training. This means your group training, coaching, 1-1 training, and seminars are closer to your workplace and that the transfer of learning is smoother.  But “on the job” training is learning while actually doing. There’s a good example of how this looks in action in an R&D department here.

“Three of my participants had written a 300-page instruction manual and they came to me with the request to help them improve it. Nobody in their department understood it enough to successfully use the system that it was meant to explain. I told them I would read it. Oh boy. We worked on writing with the reader in mind, structuring documents to make them scannable and writing in plain English. Visuals replaced paragraphs and we even created a few video tutorials too.  Four weeks later, they produced a second manual. Over one hundred pages lighter, it was clear, comprehensive, mistake free, and written in a style that everyone could understand, even me. As a result, the system that was supposed to make everyone’s job easier made everyone’s job easier.”

Bringing on-the-job training to life

We sign confidentiality agreements with our clients. Even when we don’t, we wouldn’t use their actual documentation online, so these examples are non-specific and Hans is not really called Hans … she’s called XXXX.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of this approach, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Virtual training v. face-to-face training: How does it compare?

James Culver is a partner at Target Training Gmbh and has 25 years of experience in delivering customized training solutions. His career has encompassed being a HR Training Manager, a Major in the US Army National Guard and a lecturer at the International School of Management. He’s also a talented percussionist and storyteller. In the final part of this series of blog posts on Virtual Training delivery, he answered the following questions…

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You have 25 years’ experience in training delivery. When did you start delivering virtual training?

James Since the 90s. In the United States we started very early with virtual delivery in the community college system. We often had remote sites of small groups of students who still wanted to take advantage of the kinds of courses that we would offer on the main campus, so we started delivering virtual training . When I started working with virtual training it was extremely expensive to do some of this work. Our system was basically a camera set-up and the professor or the trainer was just speaking to the camera. There was very little interaction available with the other sites and it was like TV school.

How would you say that virtual delivery compares with face-to-face delivery?

James There are probably two things to think about. One is the content that one delivers and the other is the context. By context I mean everything that surrounds the content. How things are being done, who is interacting with whom and how they are interacting – the richness of the communication. As far as content is concerned, the topic that’s covered, the information that’s shared, I’d say virtual delivery and face-to-face delivery compare quite favourably. In fact, the virtual platforms that we use at Target Training are tailor made for delivering lots of content in interesting ways. It’s very easy to add videos, recordings, to have whiteboards etc. For example, if we have content that is pre-prepared on a slide and made available to people, they can annotate it, they can put questions there etc. That’s really, really easy on a virtual platform.

What is harder most of the time is everything that we get from being in the same room as someone. Facial expression change, body language changes. We often don’t see or get that in a virtual environment, even with the market-leading systems. The challenge as a trainer is that we risk missing  a large chunk of the information that we would get from participants in a classic face-to-face training session. That is a major challenge. As a trainer in face-to-face training I have a feel for how things are going because I’m in the room. It’s much more difficult to have a feel for how things are going, when you’re in a virtual environment. And you need that “feel” so you can adjust and give the participants the best possible learning experience.

What are your workaround strategies for that?

James There are workaround strategies and through external and internal training and on-the-job experience our  trainers use them. One strategy is that you have to ask a lot of open and closed ‘check questions.’ Questions like “Are you with me?”, “Is that clear?”, “So what are the key points you’re taking from this?”, “What are your questions so far?” Experienced virtual trainers will ask those kinds of questions every 2 to 3 minutes.  Essentially, as a trainer you have a 2 to 3 minute time limit for your input before you ask a check question, and the check questions should be both open to the group and targeted at an individual too.

Which training themes lend themselves best to virtual delivery and which don’t?

James The themes that lend themselves best to virtual delivery are those that are more content focused – for example classic presentation skills training or presentations delivered virtually.  These types of training solutions focus on input, tips, do’s and don’ts, best practice sharing and then practice-feedback -practice – feedback etc.

Another theme that works very well for us when delivered virtually is virtual team training, whether it be working in virtual teams or leading virtual teams. By their very nature, virtual teams are dispersed so the virtual delivery format fits naturally. Plus, you are training them using the tools they need to master themselves. And of course, another benefit is if the training is for a specific virtual team the shared training experience strengthens the team itself.

The types of training solutions that are more challenging when delivered virtually are those where we are trying to change ourselves or others. Topics such as assertiveness or self-efficiency need to be thought through and developed carefully if they are going to be more than an information dump. Here the coaching aspect is far more important.

Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, management and leadership training can work really well when done virtually. Our Driving Performance solution is a good example of this. The secret here is to emphasize the bite-sized learning, provide additional resources outside the session e.g. flipped classrooms with relevant videos and articles, and provide opportunities for one-on-one conversations too.

More on virtual delivery

Please see the posts below, or start here.

 

5 things you can do to make virtual training a success

E-learning has been around since 1960 and the “virtual meeting room” is not a new idea either. Many companies already have experience with learning via online platforms or mobile learning, and already have some type of tool to meet and collaborate virtually.  The jump from meeting virtually to training virtually seems simple – and it is, if you carefully consider what it will take to make the virtual training successful. Here are a few things we have learned during 7 years of virtual delivery. The posts 5 questions you definitely need to ask when you are setting up a virtual training program and getting started with virtual delivery have more information on this topic.

Work with a trainer who can design, deliver and debrief with confidence in a virtual environment

Clients come to us with the experience they have with face-to-face training. They know what they can achieve in a one-day seminar and they are looking to transfer this experience to a virtual training environment. However, not everything is directly transferable. In a face-to-face session a trainer observes, reacts and adapts on the fly. They constantly monitor what’s working, and what isn’t, what people are getting and what not etc. In a way, the trainer “feels” how the training is going. With virtual delivery, trainers have less opportunity to do that.  A common response for the trainer is to focus a lot more on the content rather than the training dynamics … which can turn the training into a lecture.

Virtual training demands trainers with new skills, qualifications and experience. You need an experienced trainer who can design, deliver and debrief with confidence in a virtual environment.

Create time for interactions

As touched upon above, in a face-to-face seminar it’s easy and natural for interactions to occur – either with the trainer or between participants.  When you deliver training virtually this becomes much harder. Don’t assume that interaction will occur easily. It’s much more challenging for groups to actually get together and get a feel for each other in a virtual environment. An experienced and qualified trainer finds workarounds: Interactions are planned, activities are scripted carefully and more time is allocated for group and pair activities.

Keep the training groups small

The difficulty level of enabling and encouraging interaction means that smaller groups (not larger groups) are a must in a virtual environment. Our experience is if you want to go beyond knowledge transfer to building skills and changing behaviours, a group of 6 is ideal. The more participants you have beyond 6, the harder the interaction becomes, and the more likely it is that somebody tunes out and/or starts multi-tasking – and the more time the trainer needs to spend on monitoring and controlling the technical environment and not focusing on the individuals themselves.

For groups above 8 you should use a skilled and experienced “producer”. A producer supports the trainer in managing the virtual environment, monitoring interactions, setting up breakout rooms and maintaining speed, flow and interaction etc.  An experienced technical producer can easily enable the trainer to work with 12+ participants.

Deliver several sessions of max. 2.5 hours instead of one long session

A full day face-to-face seminar won’t translate into a full-day virtual seminar. People can’t concentrate for that long in a virtual environment. Our experience is that 2 – 2 ½ hours is the maximum length for a single session. This means that you should be thinking about three 2-hour virtual sessions to equal one day of face-to-face training.  You can cover a similar amount of training in the same time BUT if you are delivering the training virtually you have to redesign the approach and split it up and break it down.

Plan carefully, when working with multiple time zones

One benefit of virtual training is that anyone anywhere can join. We encourage you not to get carried away with that. It may save you money but you will lose the full effectiveness of the training. In our experience, it’s a huge challenge for the participants and the trainer when some are joining at six in the morning, some during the post-lunch lull, and some at six in the evening. Respecting people’s concentration spans and environments will pay off in the end.

 


For more information

If you are new to virtual delivery, looking to ramp up your virtual delivery or interested in making your virtual training more interactive and valuable then find an experienced partner or a consultant. We could be the one for you, who knows. If you’re thinking of starting with virtual training put out an RFP, be clear about what you want to achieve and ask for suppliers to tell you what you need in order to make it work.

Getting started with virtual delivery

Although many professionals, managers and training managers know of virtual delivery there is still some confusion as to what it is and how it works.  Here are some common questions we get asked when supporting our clients in integrating virtual training into their learning strategies. For more information on this topic, see also 5 questions you definitely need to ask when you are setting up a virtual training program.

What do we mean when we talk about virtual training or virtual delivery?

Virtual training (also known as virtual delivery or remote delivery) is training where one or more of the participants is not in the same room as the trainer.  Training is delivered using one of the many “unified communication platforms”. This term includes web conferencing tools such as WebEx Training Center, Adobe ConnectGo Meeting or Skype for Business and video conferencing services such as BlueJeans or Polycom.

People often think of virtual training as an international solution. For example, we’ve delivered a virtual session with the trainer based in Frankfurt, Germany and having participants in Hawaii, Boston, Luxembourg and Singapore.  However, if you have a trainer in one location on a site and you have participants on the same site/same country but in different rooms – that’s virtual training too.

How does virtual delivery differ from e-learning or webinars?

These terms are often defined by a training supplier’s marketing department, but typically most L&D professionals will agree that:

  • E-learning is led by the learner and there is no live trainer.  The learning is self-paced through interacting with a computer-aided learning program. A simple example is Duolingo as an app for language learning. SkillSoft is an examples of e-learning aimed at developing your soft skills.
  • A webinar is speaker-led and has probably about 50 people maximum – although some webinars have hundreds in the audience. The webinar is delivered through video or a video conferencing platform online and the presenter is talking most of the time. At the end he or she has the ability to take questions and if they are using a producer they can engineer interactive moments e.g. asking for input via a poll during the webinar.
  • Virtual training is a trainer plus participants. Ideally the training is interactive, engaging and adaptive the needs of the participants.

What does virtual training give you that a webinar doesn’t?

Put simply, virtual training is about learning through interaction, engagement and personalization – it is active learning. This includes learning from the trainer, learning from personal experiences and from each other via e.g. discussions and experience sharing. Webinars are comparable with lectures or online presentations – learning is passive and based solely around the speaker and the content they are sharing.

How many participants can you train virtually at the same time?

Surprisingly, many people assume that virtual means more participants.  This is often based around experiences in webinars with 50 people plus. In a face-to-face training seminar, we would never try and deliver training to 50 participants in the same room.  Typically, we suggest 8-12 participants with 14 being a maximum.  Years of experience have shown us that an ideal number for highly-interactive virtual training is about 6-8 people. With a small group like this you can make sure that people have a chance to interact with each other in a more intimate way, using options like breakout rooms found in the more functional platforms such as WebEx Training Center or Adobe Connect. These breakout rooms offer the same benefits as integrating small group activities in a training room. This interaction is really important because a lot of the value of training, whether it’s virtual or face-to-face, is the interaction that the participants have with each other. They don’t just learn from the trainer but through each other too!

What is a producer and why do we need one?

A producer ensures that the virtual training runs smoothly and supports the virtual trainer in delivering an interactive, personalized and above all smooth training experience. This allows the trainer to manage up to 50% larger training groups too e.g. 8-12 participants. Their role includes:

  • providing technical support to participants before, during and after the training
  • setting up break out rooms, polls etc
  • monitoring engagement and contributions in chats and break out rooms
  • modelling activities
  • time checks with the trainer and participants

For more information

At Target Training we offer all of our solutions in a virtual format too. This includes in-house Business English with our Virtual InCorporate Trainer , Presenting in a virtual environment and Working in and Leading virtual teams. If you would like to know more about our virtual solutions, save time and money and extend your training reach then please contact us. Finally, see here to read more about delivering training virtually.

5 questions you definitely need to ask when you are setting up a virtual training program

More and more of our clients are embracing delivering training virtually. Many are striving towards a global training solution where everyone has access to the same high quality of training no matter where they are based. Others are need to cut travel costs. Some are moving towards bite-sized learning and providing training in smaller chunks. This growth in interest has meant that at Target Training, we’re finding ourselves frequently taking on a consulting role with those clients who have little or no experience in virtual training. Below are some of the key questions we’ve been encouraging our clients to ask themselves.

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Q1. How much experience do your participants have working with virtual platforms?

It’s important to match the virtual platform you use for delivering training with your staff’s experience and comfort zones. How familiar are the participants joining the virtual training with virtual communication in general?  What can they already do? And which systems do they regularly use for e.g. virtual meetings? Some participants using video conference tools every day for their regular check-ins with their virtual colleagues. In this kind of environment, you would want to take advantage of their skills and deliver training using a rich virtual platform with diverse and useful functionalities. Webex Training Center and Adobe Connect are great examples.

However if your staff are completely new to this kind of work and new to these platforms then don’t worry. Don’t spend a lot of money on a top-end virtual training platform when people can’t use the tools.  There are a lot of simple yet effective platforms that could work for your people, and their simplicity means that they will probably have an easier time working with it and therefore use it more often. Consider Skype for Business, Polycom or BlueJeans.

Target tip – Choose a virtual training platform which matches your staff’s experience and comfort zone.

Q2. What is the lowest common denominator when it comes to your technical infrastructure?

Many of our clients are looking for pan-global training solutions for their staff around the world – everybody should be able to benefit from the same training.  However, if in certain parts of the world the bandwidth available is very slow, cameras are disabled, sound cards aren’t standard etc this will inevitably cause problems and negatively impact the training. Either that person is going to have real difficulty fully participating in the training and/or  it will also cause delays for everyone else.

You have 2 choices – either work with the lowest common denominators when it comes to your technical infrastructure and then adapt the training to this level OR choose to split the training group based on technical capabilities.  

Target tip – Respect and adapt to the lowest common denominators when it comes to your technical infrastructure.

Q3. How much experience do your staff have in being trained virtually?

Connected to the first two questions, if you are going to set up virtual training approach for people who have had little or no experience of receiving virtual training before then you need to plan in time to teach them how to make the most of the virtual training environment.  Your training provider should be able to do this for you. Part of this time will be spent training the participants on how to use the technology AND you also need to help your participants learn more about how virtual training can look and feel different.  Comparing it to a classic face-to-face seminar won’t help.

If you are looking at virtual training for your virtual teams then you can kill 2 birds with one stone here – they will develop their virtual communication skills and strengthen their team at the same time!

Target tip – Invest a little time training people to learn and develop in a virtual training environment. This could be part of the very first session or a separate event.

Q4. How many people are you planning to invite to each virtual training session?

When it comes to classic face-to-face seminars most people are aware that if you want to keep the training interactive and relevant to each individual you need to limit the group size.  Groups of 10- 14 are standard practice.

When it comes to virtual training many clients assume much larger groups are possible.  Most of the time this is due to confusing e-learning and webinars with virtual training.  The maximum number of people we would suggest inviting to a virtual training session is impacted by two factors.

  1. The number of people is limited in some cases by the bandwidth that you and the participants have. (see Q2)
  2. Secondly, it depends on how easily you can manage the group and keep it interactive and relevant to the individual participants. We strongly recommend smaller groups – six is the magic number.  Larger groups of up to 16 can work when you choose to use a “producer” to support the trainer. The producer helps the trainer to manage the functionalities and tools within the platform, and to keep an eye on interaction and questions.  They’ll also step in when the technology causes problems.

Target tip  – Keep training groups smaller than you normally would for face-to-face training.  Invest in a producer when you want larger groups as it will be better value than running sessions twice. 

Q5. What are we doing before or after the virtual training session to boost the learning and drive transfer to our workplace?

Think about how you can make this a more enriched learning environment, and how you can help your staff apply what they learn to their workplace.  An example of pre- and/or post-training could be using your in-house learning management system. Maybe a “flipped classroom” work where a lot of the learning is inputted before the virtual training itself (meaning the virtual training session focuses on application)?  How about individual accountability calls with the trainer after the training? Or on-the-job coaching delivered virtually as in our Presenting in a virtual environment training?

Target tip – Position the virtual training as part of a learning journey. Support managers and employees in understanding the role they play in maximizing the return on the training investment. This eBook can help you.
Go to the eBook
If you are interested in learning more about virtual training please reach out to us. We would love to help you.

Nine ways to Learn More … Effectively, Enjoyably and Easily!

Want to learn anything more effectively, enjoyably and easily? Then use each letter of the words in the triangle to memorise the following 9 ways to do just that:

1. I Can – Believe it or Believe it not!

As Henry Ford once said “Whether you believe you can do something or whether you believe you can’t you’re right!“ Decide to believe in yourself – your potential is infinite and your best has yet to come!

2. Creativity – yours is infinite – let it soar!

We are born creative! Even though we may not have used our creativity for a long time it’s still there waiting to be unleashed! Like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, it may need a drop of oil! Today do something totally new or something old in a totally new way. Your creative ability is infinite. Observe any children at play and you will see infinite creativity in full swing! Let them inspire you!

3. Attention/Mindfulness – learn to relax and focus

Learn to put your attention where it’s needed most and on what’s truly important in the present moment. As our society continues to get faster and faster, the tendency is to cultivate a mind which is always “racing” and prone to distraction. We must learn to relax our minds. Learn meditation, relaxation, yoga, mindfulness, tai chi or similar forms of exercise which cultivate stilling your mind and improving your attention.

4. Newness – your brain thrives on newness!

When you first arrived on this planet everything was new and in those first few years you learnt to walk, talk, recognise, eat and much much more! In times of great change we learn greatly! So remember if we resist change, we are also resisting learning! So travel to a totally different culture, learn something you thought you couldn’t learn and continuously try new ways of doing old things. If it doesn’t work, so what, learn from it and try something different instead!

5. Learning Growth – Continuously aim to improve how you learn

Before learning anything set yourself a goal – the who, what, when, where, why, how of what you’re learning. Ask yourself – how will I know I’ve learnt it – how will you test yourself? Get an overview of what needs to be learnt. Use the left and right side of your brain – the logical and the creative. For example use colour, words, images, structure, movement, rhythm, excitement, humour. Above all make it an enjoyable experience! After achieving your learning goal ask yourself – what worked and what could be done better next time?

6. Exercise – Physical exercise – Body/Mind

Recent research in Japan showed that people who exercise three times a week for half an hour have mental abilities 30% greater than those who don’t. It really stands to reason – do you think you learn more effectively if you physically exercise regularly? Test it and see – take time to exercise. The exercise can be gentle like walking, swimming, cycling or whatever type of exercise you like.

7. Age – regularly exercise your mind

No matter how much of your brains potential you have used so far, there is always more to use – you have at least 100 billion brain cells. The reason that we believe “mental abilities get worse with age” is because most people believe it! There was a time when we all thought the world was flat as well! We were all wrong! Begin to believe that your … mental abilities can soar with age… exercise them and as they say “use it or lose it”.

8. Reinforce – keep noticing what’s working: The law of reinforcement

Whatever behaviour is reinforced will tend to be repeated – so keep on noticing what’s working and celebrate it! Keep on reinforcing what it is you would like more of in your life. Think about everything that is working, then ask yourself – how can I improve the rest?

9. Never give up learning to learn

Learning is growth. Growth is learning. Never stop learning. Never quit exploring. Your canvas awaits your creative masterpiece. Never give up learning! Never give up learning to learn!

Now if you’ve read this far, congrats and remember as Einstein said “the true power of knowledge is in its application”. Decide to take at least one action after reading this article and learn more … effectively, enjoyably and easily! Let us know how it goes!

About the author

Sean is a leading expert on how to use more of your minds infinite potential. Sean trains and coaches organisations and individuals worldwide to tap into some of this untapped infinite mental potential. With over 25 years of experience in the training industry, Sean has delivered training to many businesses and organisations worldwide. You can learn more about him at: www.MindTraining.biz

The secret L&D Manager: What do L&D Managers look for in a training offer?

This month’s Secret L&D manager is Australian, based in Germany and works for an American corporation which produces machine vision systems and software.  He has worked in training and development for over 18 years – as an L&D manager, an in-house trainer and as an external training provider.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

What do you look for in a training offer?

First and foremost I want to see if the provider actually listened to me. I want to see some evidence that they understood what I was saying and had a clear grasp of my expectations. What I mean by that is the offer has to reflect my true needs and the information that I gave to them at the beginning. Next, I want to see some added value as well. Yes, I want to be sure that they listened to me but I also want them to bring something extra to the table. I guess I’m expecting them to show me that they are sharing some of their expertise and experience by offering me a new idea or a solution to a problem that I hadn’t thought about.

To be honest I don’t really want, or even need, a super-detailed offer document. In fact, the more I think about it the less likely I am to be impressed by a 50 page in-depth report with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Let’s face it, we’re all very busy, so what I want to see is a document where they break it down into chunks so that I can get a clear look at what is going to happen and how they’re going to make it happen. Oh and not forgetting, the expected outcome at the end of the training. You know, what people can do better after they have been on the training course than they could before. That is after all why we’re sending them on a training course.

Obviously I want a clear understanding of how much the training solution is going to cost me. Yes, I know that it is not always possible to identify every possible cost but what I don’t want are any nasty surprises later in the process. You know, you suddenly find you’ve got a business class ticket you’re paying for. That’s going to be an issue.

If it’s the first offer from a new provider, what extras do you need?

Things are a bit different when it’s somebody you haven’t used before. If it’s the first time, I really want to see an example of what the training material looks like. That look and feel is very important to me. I want to be sure that the material looks professional and isn’t, for example, full of cartoons or hand-drawn pictures. On day 1, when our people walk into the training session and pick up the material for the first time, I want them to be impressed. First impressions matter.

Equally I want to know what they’re going to get at the end of the training. Are they going to get a whole slide pack, pdf documents of notes, and photographs of flipcharts? You know the sort of things I mean. Whatever it is I want to know that in advance. So samples are always a good idea.

Do you need any information about the providers in the offer?

Generally not, I like to do my homework before anybody gets to the offer stage with me. I want to feel reasonably confident that the provider is up to the job, whatever the job is. So before I even ask for an offer I will have done a fair bit of digging and that will include references from previous customers and things like that. That type of thing needs to be handled before an offer not during or after the process.

How many offers do you look at for one session?

Generally I want 2 or 3. Any more than that and I’m wasting my time digging around and doing a very bad job of filtering out the good offers in the first place. There are times when I know exactly what I’m looking for and then one provider will probably be fine. Sure, for me, as an internal training provider, it’s important to have multiple providers. But if there are courses where we only uses one particular provider I don’t have a problem with that.

What is your biggest frustration with offers?

I think the thing that frustrates me more than anything else is when you feel like you’re just getting the same thing that they send to everyone. It drives me mad! Why did I spend 2 hours explaining my situation to you and you send me a generic offer. That makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time. I never expect to buy, and probably never (or very rarely), buy an off-the-shelf product.

And there is one more thing. The one where you get an offer that has no mention whatsoever of the intended outcome and what we’re actually trying to achieve. I would say those are the 2 most frustrating things.

 


 

Who is the Secret L&D manager?

The Secret L&D manager is actually many L&D managers.  They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers. Also from the Secret L&D manager:

The Secret L&D manager: 4 questions for screening potential training providers

This month’s Secret L&D manager is German, and works for a global telecommunications organization. He’s been working in training and development for over 20 years for a variety of organizations including automotive, financial services and higher education. He’s lived in multiple countries and is interested in balancing classic approaches with virtual learning and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). We asked him, What questions do you ask potential training providers when they first approach you?

This eBook is also available in German – follow the link below.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

I get contacted by training providers on a regular basis, and to be honest how much time I give them depends a lot on what else is going on.  However I’m always interested in new ideas which I think can add value to our associates here and do try to make time to ask questions and learn.  I tend to get straight into things and want to take control of the conversation. I’ll ask questions like …

Tell me the two or three topics that you as a training provider are specialized in?

I’m not interested in working with training providers who say they can do everything. So what are the 2 or 3 things that you are good at? I want details. I want to see experience and innovative ideas. I want them to be able to talk me through activities and the “why” behind the activity.

If I feel they know about training and are not trying to promise the earth, my second question needs to be about their trainers. Knowing more about who their trainers are is hugely important to me and I need to know they’ll fit my training population. I ask something like ….

Who are your trainers? How do you find them? How do you select them? What is their background?

I was a trainer myself, and still do some internal training.  I know the impact and potential of the training is realized (or limited by) by the person in the room – by the trainer.  I want specifics and real examples from a potential training provider. I’m not interested in general broad-brush descriptions. I want to know who they would use to deliver a specific solution and to know why that person, what’s their experience, style etc.

I’d then ask …

Why do you think you’re different from all the other trainers and training providers that offer similar things?

Seriously, explain to me why what’s special or different about what you’re proposing? Otherwise, why should I change?  If they stop and think about the answer, that’s fine. If they babble, then I’m not interested. For me a training provider needs to know themselves why they are different or special.

My last question would be something like …

Before we spend any more time on this can you explain your pricing model?

I want to know what they charge for a one-day, off-the-shelf training program. The kind of thing that’s really a commodity product.  I want to know pricing for a customization and preparation, and I want to know if travel and expenses are included or not.

I want to find an example. I’ll pick something simple, so I know if their rates are competitive and if this actually makes sense to me and our situation. If you deliver a standard 2-day presentation skills training for me, what will the cost be for 10 people? And if it’s much more expensive than what I already have, or if I have no real reason to believe that they will be genuinely considerably better than my current solution, then that’s time saved for both sides. I also want a clear answer here.

I think these are my top four questions. These are pretty much what I need as a basis.  If I’m interested, then I’d like to meet them in person and see where we go from there.

Who is the Secret L&D manager?

The Secret L&D manager is actually many L&D managers.  They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers. Also from the Secret L&D manager:

 

 

Making sure managers understand the importance of their role in developing our staff

This month’s Secret L&D manager is Australian, based in Germany and works for an American corporation which produces machine vision systems and software.  He has worked in training and development for over 18 years – as an L&D manager, an in-house trainer and as an external training provider.

New Call-to-actionWhat are your challenges as an L&D manager?

One of the things that’s burning at the moment is helping the managers I work with see the role they play in developing people.  This is not a question of lack of willingness on their side – just a lack of awareness of the role they can and should play. For example, most of the time if they know that Dieter needs to improve his presentation skills, they send him on one of the 2-day presentation courses we run. When Dieter gets back, they expect that they can tick a box and say, “Well, Dieter can present now.” This is a start, but it isn’t good enough. It is not enough for them to assume that the training department or the training provider is going to solve everything alone. I need to help them see their role in developing their staff’s skills.

How do you see the manager’s role in developing their staff?

If we look at the 70-20-10 model, just 10% of the change will come from the training itself. 20% is when Dieter is learning from his colleagues, sharing ideas and giving each other tips and feedback. BUT, the other 70% will come from just getting up there and doing it (best of course, if supplemented with feedback and guidance where required). If the manager wants somebody to get better at a skill, they need to make sure there is plenty of opportunity for that person to actually use that skill, give them support and guidance and let them use what they are learning. This is clearly in the manager’s hands.  I want our managers to be realistic in their expectations and see the role that they play in the developmental process. We work together.

How do you see your role in this?

I have a number of roles. I work to identify current and future training needs. I then organize practical training with training providers who are going to deliver what we need and challenge the participants to really improve.  I also need to help our managers understand their role in developing our staff and encourage them to see training as a collaborative effort between them, the employee, us in L&D, and the training providers.  And of course, the person getting the training needs to take some responsibility and ownership for their own development – and I can offer advice and support here too, both before and after the “formal” training. Our experts need to be present in the training and they need to actively look to use what they have learned and practiced after the training too. And again, this is where their manager plays an important role.

Who is the secret L&D manager?

The “secret L&D manager” is actually a group of L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers.

You can meet more of our secret L&D managers here …

And if you’d like to share your thoughts and experiences without sharing your name or company then please get in touch.

Does the Peter Principle still hold true? (And what you can do to develop your managers.)

Nearly half a century ago Laurence J. Peter published his seminal work on selection and promotion, “The Peter Principle”.  In this satirical look at why things go wrong in businesses, he argued that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.” His theory is so convincing that you feel it must be one of those natural laws that is just simply true, and indeed the Peter Principle is based on the behavioural observation that there is a strong temptation for people to use what has worked before, even when this might not be appropriate for the new situation.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

Over the last couple of decades I have had the impression that the Peter principle is either out of fashion or no longer as relevant. Management training is now so widespread that all managers are now allegedly agile, change agents, ace communicators and inspirational. Yet intuitively I have always felt the Peter Principle in its elegant simplicity must still hold true, so you can imagine my relief when I came across an article in the Times by Alexandra Frean entitled, “Rise of the accidental manager lies behind UK’s low productivity”. She uses the term ‘accidental managers’ and explains “they have excelled in their role and are rewarded with promotion to a management position that is entirely different from the job they have been doing, only to flounder when they get there.” Does this sound familiar? The focus of her article is that accidental managers are more prevalent in the UK and account for the UK’s poor productivity. According to Ann Francke, head of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), four out of five bosses in Britain are accidental managers; so 2.4 million managers are probably not delivering to full capability. And international comparisons indicate UK managers perform 30% below the benchmarked countries of Germany and Scandinavia. Francke does not agree that good managers are born not made and makes an impassioned plea for more and better training.

Which neatly brings us on to the question: What does effective management training look like? Here are four thoughts to consider:

Invest early

Building skills, knowledge and behaviors in young managers can provide spectacular results for years to come! Simply teaching and training simple skills for managing the task, the team and the individuals, does yield real returns. More investment at the beginning is a must especially training solutions for when they first move into management  .

Show the managers that their managers care about the training

Research consistently shows that when a training participant’s manager shows interest and involvement this is the single most important factor in transferring the training to the workplace. Involvement starts with explaining the purpose of the training and linking it to values, strategy and concrete business needs. It finishes with senior managers who are committed to delivering results through developing performance. And keep this human!

Fewer models

There are hundreds of management, communication, team, interpersonal dynamics, and strategy models. Good management training understands that models can be useful BUT they need to be simple to grasp, easy to remember and actionable. And be aware of trying to bend a model out of shape just to fulfil a trainer’s desire to show how everything fits. Managers can deal with complexity too!

Skill drills beat bullet points

It’s not what you know it’s what you do as a manager that counts. Discussing the role of feedback, exploring SCARF, sharing horror stories can be useful BUT the most important things is to get managers practicing, practicing and practicing.  Skill drills change behaviors and build confidence.  Yes, role-plays aren’t real but they give you an opportunity to experiment and practice! And my experience is that investing in business actors always add value too. This is why Target’s own leadership and management programs focus on doing (again and again).

 

 

 

 

Are language tests really the best way to assess your employees business English skills?

When a department manager asks us to “test their employee’s business English” there are typically 2 reasons – they want to know if somebody is suitable for a specific job, or they are looking for evidence that somebody has improved their business English. In both cases we fully understand the need for the information – and we often find ourselves challenging the idea of a “test”. HR & L&D, line managers, business English providers, teachers and participants are all familiar with the idea of tests – we’ve all been doing them since we started school – but as a business tool they have clear limits. 

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Are language tests really the best fit for purpose when it comes to corporate English training?

At the heart of these limits is the question “does the test really reflect the purpose?”.  These limits were highlighted in a recent newspaper article “Difficulty of NHS language test ‘worsens nurse crisis’”. The article focuses on the shortage of nurses applying for work in the UK, and behind this shortage are 2 factors: firstly the inevitable (and avoidable) uncertainty created by Brexit, and secondly that qualified and university-educated nurses who are native English speakers from countries such as Australia and New Zealand are failing to pass the English language test the NHS uses. One of the nurses said:“After being schooled here in Australia my whole life, passing high school with very good scores, including English, then passing university and graduate studies with no issues in English writing – now to ‘fail’ IELTS [the English language test] is baffling.”

To be clear there is nothing wrong with the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) per se. It is one of the most robust English language tests available, and is a multi-purpose tool used for work, study and migration. The test has four elements: speaking, listening, reading and writing.  My question is “Is this really the best way to assess whether a nurse can do her job effectively in English?”

Design assessment approaches to be as close to your business reality as possible

We all want nurses who can speak, listen, read and write in the language of the country they are working in – but is a general off-the-shelf solution really the best way?  What does a nurse need to write?  Reports, notes, requests – yes …essays – no.  Yet that is what was being “tested”. One nurse with 11 years experience in mental health, intensive care, paediatrics, surgical procedures and orthopaedics commented: “The essay test was to discuss whether TV was good or bad for children. They’re looking for how you structure the essay … I wrote essays all the time when I was doing my bachelor of nursing. I didn’t think I’d have to do another one. I don’t even know why I failed.”

Jumping from nursing to our corporate clients, our InCorporate Trainers work in-house, training business English skills with managers in such diverse fields as software development, automotive manufacturing, oil and gas, logistics, purchasing etc etc . All these managers need to speak, read, write and listen and they need to do these within specific business-critical contexts such as meetings, negotiations, presentations, emails, reports etc. So how do we assess their skills? The key is in designing assessment approaches which are as close to their business reality as possible.

Using business specific can-do statements to assess what people can do in their jobs

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a scale indicating language competency. It offers an excellent start for all business English programs. BUT the CEFR does have 2 major drawbacks when it comes to business English:

  • The CEFR is not specifically focussed on business-related communication
  • The CEFR levels are broad, impacting their suitability for assessing the progress of professionals with limited training availability

In 2010, and in response to our client’s demand for a business-related focus, we developed a robust set of can-do statements. These statements focus on  specific business skills such as meetings, networking and socializing, presenting, working on the phone and in tele- and web-conferences. Rather than assessing a software developers writing skills by asking them to write an essay on whether TV is good or bad for kids we ask them to share actual samples – emails, functional specifications, bug reports etc.  They don’t lose time from the workplace and it allows us to look at what they can already do within a work context. The Business Can-do statements then provide a basis for assessing their overall skills.

This “work sample” approach can also be used when looking to measure the impact of training. Before and after examples of emails help a manager see what they are getting for their training investment and, in cooperation with works councils, many of our InCorporate Trainers use a portfolio approach where clients keep samples of what they are learning AND how this has transferred to their workplace.  This practical and easily understandable approach is highly appreciated by busy department heads.

To wrap up, I understand that the NHS relying on a reputable off-the-shelf solution like IELTS has clear attractions. However, if you are looking at assessing at a department level then consider other options.  And if you’d like support with that then contact us.

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How great training clients maximize the impact of their training budget

A common question I am asked in client meetings is ‘What makes a “great” training provider?’ and then of course I’m asked to show that we are one. There are a lot of factors involved in being a great training provider, from having the right trainers, to providing relevant training (that is easily transferred to the workplace), and from having the right processes right down to the flexibility and adaptability of the program, based on the changing business needs of the participants. In part, our greatness is achieved because of great clients and we are very lucky to have many of those across Europe ranging in size and spanning numerous industries. Like great training providers share common characteristics, so do great training clients. Below are are three of them.

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1. Great training clients really get the importance of buy-in on multiple levels

Training, whether it be Business English, soft skill or leadership programs, is most successful when there is buy-in across the board. HR and L&D are important, but it is the buy-in from operational and line managers that makes a real difference. Managers at all levels and team leaders all have a role to play. The managers of our “great clients” share the “why?” behind the training. They look to link it to strategy and decisions, and show that they are personally expecting commitment and engagement. This buy-in keeps the participants focused and aware of why they are training on certain topics.  This management buy-in also supports the work of HR and L&D, energizing their efforts and challenging them to challenge us when it comes to questions such as training design, transfer to the workplace, and continual improvements. So, if you have multiple levels of management, HR and participant buy-in, you will definitely see results tied to your company goals and get a lot more out of your training investment.

2. Great training clients give feedback when things are great and when things could be better

When we put our heart and soul into delivering training, we love hearing that we are doing a great job. Even when the training doesn’t fully meet the client’s expectations, we want to hear about it. Our best clients understand that we value what they have to say and tell us openly, on a regular basis. The more consistent clients are with feedback, the easier it is to address any issues that may arise. Being clear about communication needs, proactively collaborating on training goals, content and methods, and sharing the background to decisions work to build robust relationships creates a lot of trust and understanding that leads to productive, long-term and fun partnerships. Win-Win is remarkably easy when both sides genuinely care about the other.

3. Great training clients are open to new ideas and approaches

It is great when a client knows what they want. It can make our job as a training provider that much easier – after all you know your staff, your corporate culture and what works well.  AND, we also value the chance to apply our years and years of experience when the situation presents itself. Our best clients know that they can trust our expertise and, after exploring the whys and hows, are willing to give it a chance.  We understand we have to earn that trust, but need a chance to do so.  So, know what you want as a customer, challenge what your suppliers may suggest at times but also be open to new ideas as you may be pleasantly surprised what your supplier can do.

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How we built the Business English can-do statements: An interview with Chris Slattery

How good is your business English? B1? C2? These terms didn’t mean much to most of us ten years ago or so, but today the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard for describing language ability. It is used around the world to describe learners’ language skills. The 20 years of research the Council of Europe put into designing and rolling out the CEFR  was undoubtedly worthwhile: we now have a robust basis for a common understanding of what language levels mean. However, the CEFR is not business English specific – it was was designed for general education purposes. It doesn’t directly connect to day-to-day business communication scenarios. It doesn’t directly meet the language training needs facing businesses and corporations today, nor does it directly address common business communication scenarios.

In 2010, Target Training worked with the worlds largest courier company, Deutsche Post DHL, and another language training provider (Marcus Evans Linguarama) to close this gap. The outcome was a detailed set of can-do statements usable by employees, their managers and training providers alike. Chris Slattery lead the project at Target Training, and I asked him a few questions about this project.

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What made you want to get involved in this project?

Chris: We had been working closely with the Corporate Language School at DP DHL for over 5 years, and they were keen to begin measuring their training investment. A major part of this was being able to measure learning progress. They had tried to use an off-the-shelf solution but it wasn’t working, and the CEFR was too abstract to use in a business environment. We’d been working closely together trying to make things work – and when it was clear that the tools just weren’t strong enough they asked us if we could build a business specific tool which was founded in the CEFR levels. We asked that if we were going to be the “developer” another provider be involved as a “tester” to ensure the end product was robust and practical. This is how Lingurama became involved, and this 3-way collaboration strengthened the project.

The CEFR isn’t designed to recognize gaps in performance at work. Our Business English can-do statements mean that managers can identify where they would like to see an improvement in performance, and we then know how to get them there.

Chris Slattery

How did you decide what a successful solution would look like?

Chris: Quite simply, success was a tool that managers and participants could easily use when analyzing needs, setting goals and evaluating progress. We needed something that reflected the specific business skills managers are looking to improve. This meant we had to adapt what was in the CEFR and re-couch it in terms that were relevant for the business world. For example to move from academic and linguistic terms to practical business communication needs.

Can you give an example of a scenario?

Chris: Sure. Take someone who has had English at school and then worked in the States as an au pair for two years. They speak good English with a Boston accent. When they joined DP DHL they had the opportunity to join our InCorporate Trainer program. Whenever somebody new joins the training Target Training needs to assess their English skills.  This lady got placed at CEFR B2, which shows a good degree of competency … but she had never worked in a company before joining DP DHL -and now she needed to go and deliver a presentation in English. How well was she going to be able to do that?

Her general CEFR level is B2, but in her ability to give effective status presentations in English, she might be as low as A2. This discrepancy is huge. The CEFR isn’t designed to recognize gaps in performance at work. The Business English can-do statements mean that these managers can identify where they would like to see an improvement in performance, and we then know how to get them there.

We needed something that reflected the specific business skills managers are looking to improve. This meant we had to adapt what was in the CEFR and re-couch it in terms that were relevant for the business world. For example to move from academic and linguistic terms to practical business communication needs.

Chris Slattery

The full CEFR document is 273 pages long. Where did you start?

Chris: We started by studying the CEFR document in real depth, and understanding how it was built and why certain can-do statements are phrased in specific ways.  At the same time we also agreed with the client which business fields made the most impact on their day-today communication – skills like “presentations”, “networking”, “negotiating” etc . We then reread the CEFR handbook and identified which can-do statements could be directly transferable to business communication scenarios. Then we broke these business fields down into language skills, and used the can-dos in the CEFR document which best fitted these language skills. Our golden rule was that the can-dos had to be within the context of specific business skills AND easily understood by a department manager with no knowledge of language training.

Can you give me an example?

Chris:  Sure. These two statements contributed to one of the can-dos related to participating in meetings at a B1 level:

  1. Sociolinguistic appropriateness at CEFR B: Is aware of the salient politeness conventions and acts appropriately.
  2. Grammar at CEFR B1: Uses reasonably accurately a repertoire of frequently used “routines” and patterns (usually associated with more predictable situations).

Our Business English can-do statement for B1 Meetings: I can directly ask a participant to clarify what they have just said and obtain more detailed information in an appropriate manner.

How long did the whole process take?

Chris:  It took five months to write, test, rewrite, test and rewrite again. We then needed to repeat the process with a German language version too. At the end we blind-tested it with the client, and were delighted with their feedback.  The roll-out took a few months. Today, internally, it’s still an ongoing project. As new trainers join the company, they need to learn how to use the tool to its full potential.

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The Business English Can-Do Statements toolbox also has a short FAQ and 4 ideas on how you can use them. If you’d like to know more, please contact us, or read more about the CEFR framework on our website.

What our clients learned the easy way

Long gone are the days when Business English training consisted of weekly lessons with a native English speaker, discussing what you did over the weekend. (Hooray!) In 2017 A.D, companies are paying more and more attention to the effectiveness of their Business English training programs. HR departments look for a training solution that delivers business results, based on the needs of the employees. A solution that ties in with the organization’s strategic goals. We are proud to have almost 25 years experience in this field. From concept to implementation to measuring results, we’ve learned a thousand lessons along the way, and so have our clients. In an effort to help you find the right solution for your department or company, we asked our clients what they realized three months after investing in results-oriented training that they hadn’t realized before. With some added links and examples from me, here are the three things we heard most often:



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Set concrete training goals

The most successful training happens when the participants have specific goals. A good needs analysis as well as input from managers help set these. Look for tangible business results, this will help you set your short- and long term goals. And, the more specific the goal, the better. For example: ‘Improving emails in English’ is a good start but ‘Handling billing requests from Indian colleagues via email’ is better.

The effectiveness of on-the-job training

People learn 70% by doing, and only 10% through structured training. Allowing the training to be job-focused, and on an “as and when needed” basis produces learning that sticks. A training solution that integrates on-the-job support is highly effective. And, on-the-job training is extremely flexible. For example: It can be used for email coaching, telephone conference/meeting shadowing and feedback, presentation practice and feedback, etc. It allows the trainer to learn first-hand how participants use English at work.

The importance of OTJ – a brief interjection: On-the-job support makes the training useful because it directly targets the training needs of the participant. Our on-the-job training and shadowing solutions are at the heart of the Target Training cycle and a core element of our InCorporate Trainer programs.

Forget about language levels and test scores

These results can’t be translated into how someone has transferred their knowledge to the workplace. If performance in English has improved, the training is successful. Measuring knowledge and language (CEF) levels can be useful as an indicator but it isn’t very practical, nor is it always realistic in a corporate training program. For example: It can take 700 hours of training or more for an A1 (beginner) to reach a B1 (intermediate) level. This type of time investment isn’t possible for most working professionals, nor is it (always) in alignment with the organizational goals.

Final interjection: A chain of evidence is created with Kirkpatrick evaluation model, showing how much training contributes directly towards business goals..

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You can always ask us your questions how to implement a successful business English training program. We’re quite good at it, ask anyone… Or start here:

 

Train the trainer: Interactive presentations

Internal training is often done via presentations and companies often use an internal “expert” to deliver training to other members of staff. Slide after slide appears on the screen and by the end, there’s a handout with the most important points and perhaps a summary. The upside of this type of training is that the information is first hand from the expert. One of the downsides is that the trainer often doesn’t have experience in training. He/she doesn’t understand how to make learning stick, or that only 10% of learning happens through structured training. (Read more about the  70-20-10 model.) Here are a few ideas to make your presentation based training interactive. 



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Who are you and why are you here?

A trainer always explains the objectives of the training session. The objectives need to be relevant to the audience – you need buy-in for learning to take place. Everything that happens in the training should link back to the objective. The participants have objectives too – but they might be different to yours and you need to align the two sets. This is often done through a warmer activity – who are you and why are you here? A warmer activity can be done as a group, in small groups or in pairs. At the end of the activity, everyone has shared their personal objectives (ideally they are visible for everyone to read). The trainer then paraphrases the personal objectives and links it in to the objectives of the session. If there are objectives that can’t be aligned, the trainer points them out: “Sorry, we won’t be covering that in detail today”, or “There might be time to do that at the end of the session.”

Get people up and moving

If participants don’t know each other very well, a few icebreakers are necessary. A game called ‘find someone who’ can be adapted easily to any audience and topic. Beyond that, you can bring discussion cards, or tasks that participants have to do between slides. Especially when people’s interests are fading, stop the presentation and get them up and moving around the room. Ask them to brainstorm in groups, to summarize in pairs, to troubleshoot, or ask them to pick a position in the room based on how strongly they feel about a company/work-related statement. Ask them to present some of the key learning points of the presentation back to you half-way through and use it as an opportunity to align participant knowledge.

Involve your audience

Closely related to the above, even when the training material is dry, full of facts and technical jargon, your training can be interactive. You can engage participants in almost a thousand different ways. Ask them for their experience or opinions, ask them to read out the information on the slides, or prepare a quiz or a competition (with a token prize). Open a debate, do a shout out round of questions or get them to walkabout the room to examine information on the topic at different stations. (Here are 25 ideas on making training active.)

Ask for commitment

When the participants leave the training room, what are they expected to do? They learned something but how will they transfer that to their job – that’s a good question to prepare yourself for. Before the training session finishes, take enough time to ask participants about their ideas, and also to give advice on making the learning stick. You may also consider a Personal Learning Plan.

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Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic. We also offer a range of  Train the Trainer and Workshop Facilitation seminars.

 

Stepping into management: the learning and development journey

One of the drawbacks of being a trainer is that now and again you fail to realise that what is obvious for you is new to others. In a recent young managers program the “eureka” moment came when, following a young manager’s “Maybe I’m not cut out for this job”  statement, I shared the Conscious Competence model”.  The model, developed by Noel Burch, has been around since the 1970s – and it’s a great way to prepare for and reflect on your development as a manager (or development in any other role).  I assumed my participants knew the model already but they had never heard of it. This is a quick recap.




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Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence

Ignorance is bliss, and you don’t even realize that you are performing poorly. As a new, young manager perhaps you don’t even realize you are making elementary mistakes. Instead of delegating you are dumping tasks on people and walk away convinced you are empowering them to find their own solutions. Perhaps your tasking is incomplete, or maybe you don’t have clear goals because you didn’t consider this your role.  Are you delaying giving feedback because you don’t want to upset anybody and it will sort itself out anyway – or perhaps the way you give feedback is so clumsy you demotivate somebody.  The list goes on and on. You assume you know what y0u’re doing –  it’s more or less the same as before but with the better desk and more benefits. You’re not aware that you don’t have the necessary skill. Perhaps you don’t even realize that the skill is relevant.  In the first stage, your confidence exceeds your management skills. Before you can move to the next step you need to know and accept that certain skills are relevant to the role of manager, and that mastering this skill will make you more effective.

Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence

Someone helped you understand that you need to develop a new skill. Or, you have been sent on a management training programme and your eyes have been opened. Or perhaps confronted by poor results you’ve actually  taken a step back and reflected on what’s been going on and the role you’ve played. You are aware of your lack of skills. You are consciously incompetent. This is a difficult phase as you are now aware of your weaknesses, or in today’s insipid jargon your “developmental areas”.

Nobody is born a manager, although some people may well have innate skills, making the transition to manager easier. Learning by feedback, learning by suffering, learning by doing and learning by failing – these things brought you to the second stage. Training can play a role as can learning from your peers and exposing yourself to opportunities to learn. By staying positive and embracing the small successes your confidence in your own management abilities grows.

 

Stage 3 – Conscious Competence

At this stage you have learnt some reliable management techniques and processes, but they have to be consciously implemented.  It’s a bit like painting by numbers. You know how to facilitate a meeting well, but you still want to take time to reflect on the steps beforehand.  You can make a great presentation and get your message across … and you know what you need to do in advance to get the success you need. You can provide feedback in an appropriate manner – but not without thinking it through beforehand. At this stage, your ability to be flexible and proactive in unexpected situations is limited – but you can do it. The task-oriented aspects of managing are becoming fine-tuned but it is still learning by doing, trial and error, or copying managerial role models. You are testing your limits.

Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence

Quite simply you have become what you wanted to be –  a skilled manager. The task and relationship aspects of managing are now “part of you”.  You know how to achieve the task, develop individuals and build a team – and can do it without too much thinking. Non-routine situations are challenging, yet do not faze you. You are like Beckenbauer in football, or Federer in tennis. You always appear to have enough time and space to make good decisions. But even masters can lose matches and need to learn and practise.

To summarize

The model can be universally applied as a model for learning. It suggests that you are initially unaware of how little you know – you simply don’t know what you don’t know. As you recognize your incompetence, you acquire a skill consciously, then learn to use that skill. Over time, the skill becomes a part of you. You can utilize it consciously thought through. When that happens you have acquired unconscious competence.

  • It will help you understand that stepping into a management role is a learning journey -and not an instant enlightenment.
  • It reinforces that rank does not automatically give you authority.
  • It reassures you that you can succeed as a manager. You just need space and time to find your feet.
  • Understanding this dynamic and learning basic management techniques will quickly help you overcome the early frustrations.

And finally you can manage your emotion as you develop.  You are going through a well-known learning process.  Nobody is born a manager!

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Read more about the model (this article suggests a fifth stage and has a matrix to clarify the four stages). And finally, a few blog posts you might be interested in:

 

10 easy steps you can take to kick-start your learning in 2017

The idea of new year resolutions isn’t a modern invention. The Babylonians and Romans both made promises to their gods at the start of a new year. Whether or not you are making resolutions, the start of a new year does bring new opportunities for you to refocus on learning new skills and building knowledge.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but here are 10 proven and practical steps you can take to help get your learning off on the right track in 2017.  And here’s the good news …. you don’t need to necessarily do them all! If you try just a couple, you’ll see the benefits by the end of the year.




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1. Set realistic goals

Take half an hour to think about what you really want to learn, develop, improve, and why. Now write those goals down so you have something to refer back to reflect on. Whether it be improving your vocabulary in a foreign language, overcoming presentation stress  or learning to play the drums: SMART GOALS HELP!

2. Find options for achieving these goals

If you want to improve your writing skills, how are you going to do that? Use an app, attend a course? Do your research and find options that are going to work for you – and try to get the ball rolling sooner than later. It’ll be summer before you know it.

3. Get social

Talk to people about their goals and what they’re doing to get there. How are they learning? And what can you learn from them? And share your goals too.

4. Eat small bites

Micro-learning is one of the learning & development trends for 2017. The great thing about this is that it acknowledges the time issue we all have. Training can now happen in bite-sized chunks that literally take no more than 5 minutes at a time – that means you can learn something very quickly without having to make major changes to your routines and schedules. There are micro-learning solutions for most areas, including business English.

5. Get organized

If you’re learning anything new, it helps to organize yourself. That could be organizing your notes, your time, and setting priorities. Take the time to consider what works for you.

6.  Experiment

According to the 70-20-10 learning model 10% of learning happens in formal training situations, 20% happens through social interaction, and 70% happens on-the-job. On-the-job means in practical, real situations. So, if you’re learning something, you need to experiment in real situations. Look for opportunities to do this.

7. Learn from your mistakes

If you experiment, you’re going to make mistakes. Don’t worry about that, it’s part of the learning process. Just make sure you actually take the time to reflect on what went wrong and what needs to happen differently the next time round. And then do it differently.

8. Enjoy yourself

The best learning happens when it’s so much fun, you don’t even realize you’re learning. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Choose learning options that fit in with how you would normally be spending your time. That could be watching a movie, listening to a podcast, reading a book, or playing a game on your tablet.

9. Notice your progress

If you write down your goals, and review them regularly, you’ll see the progress you’re making. It also helps if you can begin to notice the small events that show that learning is happening.

10. Celebrate your results

And when you notice those small events, celebrate and reward yourself. When we ask participants to build transfer plans at the end of a seminar we ask a number of questions, “What? How? By when? Who else needs to be involved? What does success look like?” AND “How will you reward yourself?”. It could be as simple as holding off on buying a new book or as grand as buying concert tickets and taking your daughter.

Overcoming the 4 core obstacles that prevent intentions turning into action

Whether they be new year resolutions or not, our plans and intentions often fail to materialize due to a lack of specificity, vision, accountability, and discipline. To overcome these 4 obstacles …

  • Define what you want to achieve as clearly as possible (see step 1 below)
  • Consider what success looks like – and then ask yourself if you are really doing all you can to make your vision come true
  • As well as holding yourself accountable, set up a “buddy system” in order to stick to your resolutions. Avoiding embarrassment can be a great motivator (see step 3) -although some research does argue that sharing goals actually widens the intention-behavior gap.
  • Stick to your goals and your plans, and don’t make excuses.  The more you practice discipline, the more disciplined you become. When you do slip, rather than making excuses, think of ways to do it next time should you happen to come across a similar obstacle.

Good luck and have fun learning!