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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.

When trainers become participants: 17 tips for getting the most from your training

As a training company we invest in internal training with a passion. We can cover many of the soft skill and leadership topics internally, but when we are lacking the insider knowledge we carefully qualify and source external providers. One of the questions we ask a potential provider is their experience in training trainers. Training trainers can be daunting as you know that your participants are evaluating the training and you as the trainer with a insider’s eye (much like a chef cooking for another chef who is watching them work in their own kitchen!). When trainers become participants, they also go through an internal process which can be every bit as uncomfortable. We recently organized a seminar for a small group of our management team. Bringing in an external trainer changed the dynamics, and as experienced trainers we were now in the passenger seat. Over the 2 days we asked ourselves “what could we as participants do to get the very most from our training?”. Here are our tips for getting the very most from your training experience.

Engage with the training and trainer before you start

  1. Make sure you know why the training has been organized. What is the context for the training? And what does your organization / your manager hope you’ll take from the training? Ideally your manager will have shared this with you, but if not then seek it out.  And if for some reason you can’t get an answer before the training stats then get it during or after the training!  If you want to make the most of your training investment, understanding the what’s and why before the training starts is a must [Making most of your TI ebook]
  2. Build clear goals. What would you like to leave with? What questions do you have? What would you like to learn? practice? reflect on? And discuss these with your colleagues too!
  3. Is there anything you as the participants can do before the training to help the trainer/training really go to plan? Is there any information that you’d like to share? Or want them to be aware of?

Choose your attitude

  1. Suspend judgement. You, your manager or your organization has qualified and selected this training (and maybe this particular trainer) so trust that they know what they are doing and let them do it.
  2. Connected to this, the trainer and training is already paid, so adopt a “what can I take from this?” mentality and not a “prove yourself to me” Be curious and be open to learn what you expect and what you may not expect too!
  3. Share your thoughts and feedback with the trainer before it is too late. Don’t wait until the end to tell the trainer you would like them to have done something differently. Don’t adopt a “I don’t want to rock the boat” or “why bother approach”. It could be that the trainer or training can’t give you what you want – but wouldn’t you rather want to know sooner than later rather than sitting there thinking “when will we ..?”
  4. Reinforce the positive – feedback forms have a place, but like anyone trainers like to hear positive feedback as they work. If you find something useful, interesting or enjoyable then openly share this.

Help yourself during the training so you can help yourself later

  1. Organize and write your notes from the outset in a way that will help you make sense of them when you refer back afterwards.
  2. Find and use tools that will help you during the training. If something interests you proactively ask for suggestions for books, websites etc so you can go deeper later
  3. Be honest and open about your problems. Don’t hesitate to ask you trainer to repeat something, explain something again or share more examples.  If you are struggling there’s a good chance one of your colleagues is too!
  4. Look to bring in examples from your day to day life during the training. This helps to make the training more relevant and transferable. It will also help the other participants and the trainer to connect learning to reality.
  5. Ask all your questions. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
  6. Use your breaks to reset and recharge. Don’t try and work for 10 minutes, but instead stretch, get some fresh air, talk to the others.  Network, reflect or recharge.

See the training as the start of something

  1. Review your notes at the end of each day and in a few weeks, to help with transfer and long-term memory. Consider setting up a calendar reminder a month later to revisit the training
  2. Take one concrete action immediately after the training.
  3. Catch up with your colleagues back at the office. Maybe you want t0 schedule lunch with a colleague who was also in the training and review both content and actions since the training.
  4. Commit to one or two transfer steps you will do after the training. Make these concrete and share them with others.

So whether you have an internal or external trainer, you also have a big role to play in getting the very most from your training day.  Let us know if you have any other tips too!

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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.

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.

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

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.

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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).

 

 

 

 

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.

The importance of staff training

We’re a training company. We meet with corporate clients and we ask them questions to find out their situation. They ask us questions too. If they like us, we send in an offer with a training concept. The answers to the questions (from both sides) are often similar. Our clients need training because it will help them succeed. Which makes the company succeed. Here are some of those questions, this time answered by two of Target’s key people, Chris Slattery (Managing Director) and Scott Levey (Operations Manager). 

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How important is training when it comes to staff?

SL: Training is as important to us as it is to every company. (Ironically though, trainers in the industry just don’t get enough training themselves, and there tends to be very little done on an incidental basis.) By nature, trainers in this industry often work independently and at best get development opportunities by accident. Our policy is to attract and hire the best trainers and, through training, help them to stay sharp. When we hire, we look specifically for evidence of continual improvement so we know we are working with people who are open to development and learning.

CS: The phrase ‘never buy hair restorer from a bald salesman’ springs to mind. We are obliged to take training seriously for any number of reasons but, most importantly, when training makes our staff stronger, we move up a notch as a company. Our challenge is to make sure that we promote internal training to ensure that the company as a whole benefits from external measures taken by individuals.

What makes training effective?

SL: Skill or job based, the training has to be relevant. The training from which we have had the most positive feedback has been our in-house “Boot Camp”.  This is where we explore the skills an InCorporate Trainer needs in order to be successful when delivering in-house training. New trainers generally have low expectations coming onto the course (‘training for training’s sake’ being a classic attitude) but the feedback has been consistently strong and participants report that they have been pushed, been developed and gained confidence during the week.  Not only that, their line managers have reported a clear difference, as have the end client.

CS: And be ready to be actively involved in supporting whatever training you go for.  Your support, or lack of, makes so much difference.

Is intercultural training still relevant?

CS: Intercultural training introduces the concept of dilemmas which every society is confronted with.

For example:

  1. Do we/they see events as individual and isolated or do we approach them within the context of a larger picture?
  2. How do we/they balance the rights of the individual against the interests of a wider society?

How a society deals with these dilemmas is the essence of that society’s culture. I would suggest that the intercultural aspect is everything… and nothing. “Nothing” in the sense that the theoretical study of regional differences (e.g. be sure to wear white socks on a first date in Ballybunnion), while possibly of some passing interest, is not necessarily conducive to effective communication. “Everything” in the sense that communication – which is our business – is founded on shared understanding. Beyond a rudimentary level of language proficiency, working out what is meant becomes more important than the words that are used and what is actually said.

Why is language training still so important in the business world today?

SL: Communication is extremely important in all areas, and people just don’t think about it often enough on an day to day level. We don’t always listen well; we are not always understood in the way we want to be understood and in a way that gets results. And this is in our native language. International business communication in a language you don’t really know is difficult – you know what you need but you don’t know how to say it exactly. Successful communication revolves around people setting aside time to reflect on how they communicate and how they can make it more effective. Language training is a tool that supports this. So people can do a great job in English.

How do you organize your training budget effectively?

SL: We talk to staff about their current skills and their needs for the future. This is an ongoing conversation. It’s also vital that our managers carve out time to think about their own needs; skills; and the future situation of the client and the team they manage. And we know that it is not always feasible to solve a current problem by throwing training at it: training often takes too long to solve an immediate concern.

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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.

 

Needs analysis questions for departments in need (of training)

‘Word your requirements precisely and ensure that you cover all categories of human-related requirements.’ That is one of the underlying principles of needs analysis. A needs analysis helps define what any system should look like, before it gets to the design stage. In other words, if you don’t know what you need, you might end up getting the wrong thing.



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How to get the right thing

If you are ever in the situation of having to find “some training” for your team, department or company, start with a simple training needs analysis, which won’t take very long. It is important that you can clearly outline who should receive training and why. It means you will know what to ask for when you are ready to talk to a potential provider. A training provider who knows what they’re doing will have lot of experience with training program design and they will design the system for you/with you. The more insight you can give from the very start, the more effectively your training program (your system) can be designed and implemented.

People commonly start by thinking about the sort of training they want. Effective training must have realistic objectives for everyone involved. If you are familiar with our blog and online publications, you’ll have come across this sentence “Start with the end in mind.” Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What result(s) do we want to see?
  • What behaviour needs to change so that this result can be achieved?
  • What skills, knowledge or attitudes do people need to learn to change this behaviour?
  • What sort of training is most appropriate for learning these skills, knowledge or attitudes?

A good training provider should be able to help you to define the behaviours that support your objectives. They should be able to help you to decide what skills, knowledge and attitudes affect these behaviours. And, finally, they can suggest alternative ways for delivering training which will ensure that your people learn and can transfer the training to the workplace.

Finding the right trainer

There is a huge supply of trainers and training providers on the market. Finding the right trainer is not necessarily easy, even though it can be. It helps to clarify at this stage what type of trainer you’re looking for, because it will allow you to exclude a large section of what is on offer. Here are some things to consider:

  • What skills, knowledge and attitude are we looking for?
  • How much relevant training experience should they have?
  • How qualified should they be?

Determining investment

There are many factors and steps involved in getting to a well-designed, effective system. Consider for example how workload, deadlines, holidays and illness could affect the success of the training.

  • How much time can each individual invest (realistically) in the training?
  • How much additional resources can be spent on the training (administration, travel, etc)?

What determines success?

And leading from that, how will you measure success? If it’s enough that people put a tick under the smiley face on the feedback form after the training, that’s fine. But “happy sheets”, as we call them, measure only the reaction to training, not the actual results. Tests measure knowledge, is that what you want? That’s fine too. Whatever you’re looking for when you define success, these questions will be useful:

  • Which systems do we need to measure success, or progress?
  • What can we do to make sure that learning is transferred to the workplace?

Again, a good training provider will be able to support you with figuring out the details of measuring the training and overall success. A great training provider will already have systems in place and will be able to provide detailed reports.

The next step

Now you can start thinking in more detail about the design and share the requirements for your system with an expert. The systematics of that will all be explained in a future post.

 

 

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!

What makes a great trainer?

We recently had the opportunity to ask a selection of managers what they think are the qualities of a great trainer. At the end of the session, they were pretty much in agreement. Their collated answers are summarized below.

Variety and flexibility

Have a wide range of activities to use flexibly in different training situations. These activities should accommodate different learning styles. The trainer also needs to vary the training approaches and the interaction patterns in the training room. They need to know how to make sure participants get the most from the training.
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Creative and innovative

The more personalized and interactive the activities are, the more immediately transferable the results will be. A great trainer will feel the reward of delivering something that really adds value for the participants. Great trainers are passionate about what they do. They will want to experiment with new ideas and activities, each time reflecting on its success and development.

Know the audience

It’s not always possible to know every participant in advance. But a great trainer will have done the research. They’ll know about, for example, what the client does, what their challenges are, and how they expect the training will help them reach their goals.

Embrace change

With new training trends, new technologies, and the ongoing cycle of change in business, the trainer’s ability to adapt will make him/her/the training more effective. Great trainers drive change. They introduce new techniques and elements to the training – a blended learning or virtual learning element for example.

Focus on results

Great trainers work with the end in mind. Every activity should consider the goals of the participants and learning progress is measured. The trainer looks for immediate results (reaction to the session) and long-term results (behaviour on the job).

Approachable

Having a genuine, active interest in people is just one of the qualities of a great trainer. The trainer’s ability in building relationships is a major part in ensuring an effective outcome for all stakeholders.

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We offer a number of train the trainer programs in English and German. Not all the information is currently on our website. Here’s a good place to start.

The best training course I have ever been on (or why wanting to be there made all the difference)

Most of my working life I have worked independently in or with small organisations, where training has often been on the job and learning by doing (the “70%”), or learning from and copying colleagues (the “20%”) And to be clear I’m not complaining –I’ve worked with and learnt from a long list of inspiring individuals. So a big thank you to Jörg, Wilfried, Wolfgang, George, Danny, Richard, Mac, Piers, Niven and many many others. Indeed the best “training” I have ever experienced was the 20% of the 70/20/10 model – and the best training course I have ever been on was one I really wanted to join. Here’s what made it such a great experience.

Professional and personal benefit

I’ve never been “sent to training.” Any seminar I’ve attended has been self-financed, and I’ve therefore always been choosy. Earlier in my career I attended seminars that could provide a hard benefit for my own work – but the best seminar I’ve ever attended benefited not just my work but me personally. The seminar was an introduction to the Ennegram. It was run by the Enneagram Institute of Greece and took place in a small hotel on Naxos, an idyllic Greek island.




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Inspiring trainers

The Enneagram unfortunately does not appear often on the radar screen of the HR departments of most German corporations – it seems at first glance to be too wacky and esoteric, but as a trainer who has worked with DISC, SDI and the MBTI I’ve found it to be powerful and challenging. The seminar was delivered by two inspirational Ennegram experts, Russ Hudson and Don Riso. Don and Russ had together developed the Enneagram away from the esoteric and mystic and made it into a robust psychometric tool, although the word tool does not do it justice. To cover the content of the seminar in a paragraph would be to invite ridicule. Suffice to say it covered applied psychology, history, mathematics, anthropology, theology. We explored the 9 types and took them to a deeper level.

The five day workshop provided space and opportunity for self-reflection. It was a „selfish” learning programme, in a positive sense. There was a refreshing shift away from learning a couple of tips and techniques for the day to day work – and a rewarding focus was on what are my motivations, how can I develop and how can I avoid the downward spiral into the darker side of my personality.

Location, location, location

The location was paradise. Imagine arriving at Athens’ airport, a short bus ride to the port of Rafina, staying overnight and eating seafood, catching the morning ferry to the Cyclades, a three hour sail to Naxos, disembarking, lunch in the harbour tavern, finding one of the island’s few taxis then to the hotel with its own beach surrounded by endless blue sky and water.

Motivated participants

The other participants were diverse, motivated and engaged – even the more sceptical among us. We learnt together and from each other, and from Russ and Don. Our only mystery was our selves. There were long lunches with time to swim and sleep; but we worked late into the night (Mediterranean time rhythm). The room was small, crowded and hot and it did not matter. Technical support was non-existent and not needed: the view was breath-taking and more motivating than a PowerPoint screen.

To summarize

Like Hans Castorp in the Magic Mountain I re-entered the real world five days later, enriched and motivated. Here are the factors that made the training so fantastic.

  • It was not a “have to join” seminar but a “want to join” seminar.
  • The course presenters were inspirational.
  • The other participants were diverse professionally and culturally and I made some good friends.
  • Learning from each other is powerful.
  • It was a great location – I doubted it would have had the same impact in a business hotel at an airport.
  • The content was intellectually stimulating and challenging
  • There was ample time and process for self-reflection
  • And as a bonus I could transfer what I learnt to my private and business life.

I believe looking at the list above there are clear parallels and transferable to dos to the corporate world of organizing training. Do you see them too?

What does Blended Learning really mean?

Blended Learning (BL) is one of those terms that is kicked around freely in the world of training and development. The only problem is that there are so many different interpretations of what it actually means. For some people it is virtual training, for some it is e-learning, others might think it is e-learning with a mixture of classroom time, and so on. A great starting point is to think about the meaning of the word “blend”. The chances are, you have a blender in your kitchen. What do you do with your blender? Usually you pick the ingredients you want to make your smoothie, soup, marinade or whatever else you might be making. You pick those ingredients in the quantities that you like, and you hit the blend button to get the result you are looking for. That’s what blended learning is: choose your ingredients, adjust the quantities, blend, and you’ve got your result.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers


Why should you consider adopting a blended approach to learning in your organization?

Research by the National Training Laboratory (World Bank) shows that the amount of new information trainees retain depends on how the information is presented. The graph below shows the retention rates for the six most common methods of teaching new information:

retention graph Logically then, one mode of delivery is not sufficient to achieve the intended results from training programs. The more you blend, the better the results. And consequently, the better your return on investment is.  Blending is therefore not really a training option,it’s a must.

What can you put in your BL toolbox?

The different ways of training (training modalities) are important to understand. Your 5 main choices are:

  • Face-to-face training (seminars, classes, workshops, peer coaching)
  • On-the-job training
  • Wikis and community learning
  • Webinars / Virtual classrooms
  • Web-based Training (WBTs)

At the most basic level, blended learning could be that you set home work after a training intervention and follow up on it, BUT you can do much better than that!  In this mobile age, there are literally hundreds of tools out there you can choose from. You’ll need to take a look at them, evaluate them, and figure out which ones are best for you and your organization. And if you’re not happy with any of them, there are easy-to-use platforms that allow you to develop your own.

How can you get that perfect blend for your training program?

Deciding which elements to use when isn’t easy, but there are tools out there. You need to decide which tools are best suited to each step along the learning journey you are designing. Try using a decision tree to help you with this.

What are the main obstacles?

The 5 main obstacles we’ve seen clients face are:

  1. When are you asking your participants to do the elements which are not face-to-face? In a lot of cases, this has to happen after work and within their own time. Your staff have to complete certain elements, but they need to be given time and space to do this. This means a higher investment of course, but you can then expect that the participants will work through these blended elements. The level of motivation will also be much higher, and that will mean that the participants are actually likely to learn more.
  2. The fear of technology. Blended Learning does not actually have to involve a technology based part, but invariably these days it will. Some people are easily able to take on new IT tools, while others find this more challenging, and ultimately scary.
  3. Getting and sustaining true virtual engagement. I speak from experience as a participant. I have joined an online course with chat functions to help interaction between the participants and tutor. For the first few modules I’ve been full of energy and assigned time for the training, but after that practical realities and operational issues have got in the way, and the training has slipped further down my to-do list (especially when there are no time constraints on the training). That’s a big shame, but it is a reality, and one that I’m not alone in facing.
  4. Disconnected content. Successful Blended Learning involves teaching and deepening the same content using different modalities and a range of tools. In several programs I’ve seen there has been little connection between the content of the face-to-face training and the virtual elements. Rather than building on knowledge, new input is being given in each setting. This may be because there is so much input, but the result will be that a lot has been covered, but little has been learnt.
  5. Unrealistic expectations. Just because a participant has attended a webinar, it does not mean that they actually know the content. You need to have seen facts several times and be able to relate them to a relevant context in order to learn them. It’s only when you need the information in reality that you will see how successful this has been. If no opportunity arises over the months following this training element, then it is likely that participants will not remember much of the session. Blended Learning can help by offering further tools to aid retention outside the training room – but application is essential!

Blended Learning is finding the right blend of training tools to suit your individual organizational needs. Finding this blend will help improve learning retention as well as providing resources that participants can refer to outside face-to-face training. On the flip side, if you’re investing in or designing a Blended Learning program for your organization, then you need to make sure that the expectations and outcomes set are realistic. For the training to be motivational, participants need to have time, space and the necessary technical equipment. If you have all that in place, then the chances are you’ll see success.

16 jargon-busting learning terms you need to be familiar with (if you work in L&D)

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Thousands of new words are created each year. Not surprisingly, some of those words are related to learning and L&D. Here – in no particular order – are the top 16 learning terms we think you need to be familiar with in 2016.

1. Blended Learning

Blended learning is about finding the right blend for an individual training solution. Think of a training toolbox, which can include face-to-face and online training solutions. You and the trainer can pick the best options from the toolbox at each stage of your learning journey. There is not one truly successful blended learning course that looks the same – it depends entirely on the needs of the participants and the organization.

2. Flipped Learning

Flipped learning simply means that all the face-to-face time in training is dedicated to productive learning. All other elements of training are done in preparation for and as a follow-up to the face-to-face training sessions.

3. Bite-sized Learning

These day people don’t have a lot of time for training. And they don’t have long attention spans. Training should therefore come in small doses, or bite-sized chunks. As well as slotting easily into busy schedules, training needs to be available from everywhere. The Training Journal blog puts bite-sized learning as the top learning trend for 2016.

4. mLearning

mLearning (mobile learning) means that you can access and use learning resources e.g. apps, videos, links from your smartphone or tablet wherever you are.

5. eLearning

eLearning involves the use of specific online courses and apps. There is typically no face-to-face element. There will often be a facilitator who runs the course, gives feedback and ensures that collaboration is taking place.

6. Business-centric Learning

In this model, the needs of the business take priority. All L&D is aligned to the business’, not the learners’ needs.  Success is then measured based on the impact that the training outcome has on the needs of the business.

7. Web-based Training (WBT) /Virtual classrooms

Web-based training is the same as face-to-face learning – just delivered virtually. Using tools like Skype for Business or Webex, the trainer can connect with participants anywhere in the world and train them in the same way as they would in a face-to-face environment. This learning space is called a virtual classroom.

8. Social Learning

This type of learning means that people learn from each other. This happens through collaboration and working together. This can be face-to-face or on, for example, intranet / internet platforms. This is really what the 20 in the 70:20:10 approach is about. We learn a lot from other people, the situation, and what is around us.

9. On the job Learning

And this is what the 70 in the 70:20:10 approach is all about. This is the amount you learn when you are actually working on the job. If 70% of learning is on the job, and 20% is social learning, then only 10% of training needs to be through formal instruction.

10. Gamification

Gamification, is as the name suggests, a way of turning learning into an enjoyable, memorable and interactive experience. It is often so enjoyable that participants don’t actually realize that it is training.

11. Informal Learning

This is the learning which happens in an unplanned way when people interact with each other. There is no control from above as to what will be learnt.

12. Experiential Learning

This kind of learning is all about the experience. Take, for example, virtual teams training. There is plenty of information openly available about how we should be working in a virtual team. A trainer can also share this information. We can read an article, nod, think “mm, that’s right, I’ll try that next time”, but if we don’t experience the event, and receive feedback on what we’re doing, then there is little chance that we will actually change our behavior.

13. Independent / Self-directed Learning

This kind of learning is completely up to the participant. Management has no control over this. In contrast, the learner has total control. Choosing what interests you, means that you are more likely to remember what you learn and be motivated to pursue your learning further. There are endless tools, apps, and websites available which mean that learners can work at their own pace and at times that suit them.

14. Self-paced Learning

In this kind of learning it is the learner who decides how fast they want to move through the course.

15. Ongoing coaching and mentoring

Telling people something once generally isn’t enough. Ongoing coaching and mentoring is key to ensuring that messages and content have been understood, digested, and are being put into practice. This approach means that individual training goals can be set and reached.

16. Prescriptive Learning

If you’re sick, you go to the doctor’s. The doctor gives you a prescription to fix the problem. In the same way, prescriptive learning programs are designed to fix the skills gap and get the individual from where they are now, to where you and your organization want them to be.

For more information

  • These are just some of the learning terms that are in use at the moment. They will of course change. There are some really useful glossaries around which are updated on a regular basis. Here’s one we like
  • To keep up-to-date with trends in the industry, follow our Flipboard magazine: On Target with L&D

Qualifying potential training providers

The key to assessing potential training providers is to find out how well they fit to what you want to achieve with the training. It’s important to get to the point quickly and here are a few questions that can help you decide if the people you’re talking to are ‘right’ for your company.

 

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Are they prepared?

Before you present your company and situation to them, let the training provider describe what he/she already knows about your organisation. At the very least, they should have done their homework by reading the homepage. The most impressive of providers will already have incorporated your internal company language into their (written or oral) presentation:

  • If you sent them information prior to the meeting, are they referring to its content correctly?
  • Have they picked up any company brochures while they were waiting for you in the lobby?
  • Do you have to repeat yourself or are they listening to you describe your organisation attentively? (taking notes, rephrasing what you said, using company language)
  • Does their presentation reflect what you are looking for?

What kind of business do they have?

You need to know whether you´re dealing with a one-man-show (flexible to your needs but limited in scope) or a training company (offers standard content but can provide wider services). Additionally, you need to know how their business model fits your company and whether their training approach is compatible with the leadership culture in your organisation:

  • How many people work there?
  • Can they provide you with trainer profiles?
  • Who would you work with on the actual design of training content and why is he/she the most qualified?
  • What kind of international work have they done in the past?
  • What is their policy should a trainer drop out at the last minute? (replacement, back-up)
  • Which institutions do they cooperate with? (business schools, leadership think tanks)

How do they approach designing training content for new clients?

You can buy standardised content from any reliable provider, or you can ask a provider to customise training content to your situation and needs. If you choose the customized training option, you can ask:

  • How do they normally go about creating a new design for a first-time client? (design phases, milestones, client approval, dry runs)
  • What do they suggest they need to get to know your organisation in order to be able to create a suitable design? (discovery interviews with stakeholders, plant visits)
  • What level of customisation are they willing to provide? (adoption of company-internal language/abbreviations, integration of company goals/competences/principles into training content, incorporation of internal specialists in training programmes)

What methods of quality management do they apply?

No training measure should be an individual, stand-alone event. Any professional training provider should have a variety of methods to ensure the applicability of training content to the business and the transfer of learning to the workplace. For longer-term or repetitive measures, they should suggest methods to maintain high-quality content and to review and update these contents to your changing business environment:

  • Other than the typical “happy sheets”, what kind of evaluation methods do they offer?
  • What methods have they used successfully in the past to ensure an effective learning transfer? (also ask about negative experiences and their underlying causes)
  • What is their approach towards blended learning? If you have an online learning platform, how could the training contents be linked back to it?
  • What certifications do they possess? (industry certificates like ISO or individual certification like personality diagnostics)

What are their expectations regarding contracting?

Most companies have internal standards about contracting external suppliers, whether it be about payment terms or travel regulations. Most training providers do not like to have to accommodate their contracting terms but, as the customer, you should ensure that the contract details suit your business:

  • What are their daily rates? (beware of different rates for design, preparation and delivery)
  • What kind of payment terms do they suggest? (timing of invoices, listing of travel expenses, payment of instalments)
  • If they create materials customised to your organisation, what are the intellectual property considerations? (ideally, you should be able to use this material internally for other purposes)

What references can they provide?

Ultimately, you need to check the references of any training provider before contracting them. Be aware, however, that some references given may be outdated or refer to projects not applicable to what you require for your business:

  • What other similar clients have they worked for in the recent past? (same industry, similar size, similar business model)
  • What other similar projects have they successfully run in the recent past? (focus of contents, hierarchy level of participants, scope of measures)
  • Can they give you the name/contact details of reference clients? (a good provider will want to check with that client first!)

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com

How to convince participants that gamification is a good thing

The first time I used a game in the Business English training room it failed – miserably. Actually, from a training point of view it worked pretty well as participants were talking a lot and interacting in an authentic, interested manner with each other. That was the aim of the session. In fact, being a business fluency class, it was really the aim of the whole course. But participants didn’t see it that way. They went straight to my director, complaining that the class had been a waste of time as they had to play a game.

What went wrong? This experience happened twenty years ago and the participants were heading towards retirement. I don’t think that it is time or age that explains it though. It has more to do with participant expectations, their perceptions of an activity’s usefulness, and the training department and trainer’s need to “sell” the training tools we are using to get participant buy-in. Looking back, I definitely didn’t sell it well enough.

Three ways to sell gamification to training participants

Gamification is all the rage in training at the moment and is one of the top training trends for 2016. And there are lots of tools out there to help the trainer convert the training room into a fun, interactive, engaging place to learn. Most of us working in training know that this is a good thing. Let’s look at some ways training managers and trainers can convince participants that games are not a silly, waste of time in training. We need to show them that games are a very valid way to learn, retain and use what has been taught, as well as being a great diagnostic tool to find out more about what they still need to know.

We’ve found that taking these three steps really helps to make participants feel ready to take on any kind of activity you want to give them. They’ve just got to know why.

Ensure you and your training provider share the training methodology before the training begins

Participants in any form of training have to know what to expect. Take language training for example. People have learnt languages in many different ways, but most commonly at school where the focus tends to be on grammar and accuracy. Traditionally they expect the teacher to stand at the front of the room and ask individuals questions. In language training, intercultural training and leadership training today, trainers are encouraged to act as facilitators and resources rather than to stand at the front of the class and talk at the class. The shift from this kind of traditional school teaching to a trainer who facilitates learning and makes participants play games and talk about their own experiences is a big leap. And it needs explaining before the training is even purchased.

To consider: Does your corporate training catalogue describe the training styles and tools that will be used in the training room?

Ensure your training provider shares the aims at the start of the training session and again at the start of the activity

You can generally get adults to do anything in the training room – as long as they know why. General course aims are often explained and shared right at the start of the course in the first session. They really need to be shared right at the start of the session and when setting up each activity too. Here’s a couple of simple ways trainers can be using to get participant buy-in:

  1. At the start of the session, write up your main aims in the corner of the board of flipchart. You can then tick them off as you move through the session and draw the participants’ attention to the fact that you’re doing this and that they’re making great progress.
  2. Start each activity by explain “why”. All you need to do is add a “so that”, “in order to” or “because”, and it helps to link your rationale back to the aims you outlined at the start of the session:
    • I’d like you to work together and play this game so that…
    • In order to …… we’re going into divide into two teams and…….
  3. Finally, check that everyone is OK with that. A simple Is everyone OK with that? or Does everyone feel comfortable with that? goes one step further towards making participants feel that they have been included in the decision-making process as well as giving them an opportunity to say that they don’t want to do whatever the trainer has just asked them to do.

To consider: Do your trainers and training providers share their aims at regular intervals? At the start of the program? At the start of each session? Before activities?

Ensure your training provider is debriefing effectively

Training providers need to be getting the participants involved in the rationale and evaluating the usefulness of an activity. They need to give them the opportunity to decide if they think they would benefit from doing that kind of activity again. Creating a dialogue helps to build rapport, increase buy-in, and build a positive learning environment. And a positive learning environment will help move participants along their learning journey. Here are some ways of starting that debriefing dialogue:

  • Why did we do that activity?
  • What did you get out of that activity?
  • How could that activity be improved?
  • Would you want to do that kind of activity again?

Trainers should go back to their list of aims on the board. Review this list and mark what has been covered, and what hasn’t. If some aims haven’t been met, this should be discussed with the participants.

To consider: How well does your training provider debrief training sessions?

Your search for the right training provider

For more ideas regarding what to expect from a training organization, why not take a look at our eBook The Definitive Checklist for Qualifying Training Providers:



eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

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