Getting students to show up for an intro class one thing, and, unfortunately, getting them to come back again for follow-up training is something else entirely.
Both managers and employees sometimes fail to see the value of quarterly or even monthly training. Making do or figuring it out on your own is often the favored approach. However, productivity and worker satisfaction can both increase when people know how to use the machines and the programs.
One of the best ways to prove the value of training is to discuss the perils of not backing up important documents. This helped me win one important debate over the merits of training.
In the space of one week, one person lost his entire drive—nothing had ever been backed up—and I was asked to put together a training program for new PC users. I did so (fortunately I didn’t have to fix the lost drive problem), and the very next week, my boss started crossing names off the training list. “They’re too busy,” was the answer when I asked why these people didn’t need training.
After shutting my office door and screaming for a few minutes, I collected myself and calmly wrote a note to my boss and his boss explaining why, in fact, these people were not too busy to spend an hour learning the basics.
These employees did lots of research and often spent months putting together reports from their pages and pages of notes. If they lost these notes, and didn’t have an extra copy of them somewhere, all that time would be lost.
Oh the agony, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth!
And why, pray tell, wasn’t there an extra copy somewhere, a manager would ask? “I’ve never been trained to back up files,” is the standard employee answer.
These same bosses were the ones who liked to blame all problems on the system when, in fact, operator error is to blame more often.
At any rate, this was a successful memo. All the names that had disappeared from my class list magically reappeared. I used one man’s misfortune to make my point and possibly to save others from the same fate.
Managers make many of the decisions when it comes to training classes, but employees are the ones who actually have to show up, listen, and stay awake. Engaging them requires another solution. You have to be an informed, responsive, and receptive instructor, and you have to make your lessons relevant.
Useless trainers have been a topic of much conversation. Check out these articles about how to give great lectures, keeping yourself up-to-date, and avoiding the useless trainer syndrome.
The sound of success
The best ways to keep students coming back are to:
- Load up your courses with practical, everyday exercises.
- Include a couple of fun lessons.
- Always answer all questions (even if they are off the subject) and answer them as quickly as possible.
One of my all-time favorite training sessions was with a man who hadn’t done much with computers and had to learn how to do layout on a Macintosh. The session went well and at the end he said, “You know, Veronica, this is kind of fun.” He came to me with questions in the future and helped me refine my own training skills. Based on his questions, I could determine what worked and what didn’t. He would tell me how he understood a certain subject and what his co-workers understood as well. Sometimes it was right and sometimes it wasn’t.
Based on these reactions I could find new examples or metaphors to use in future classes.
Having enthused students on your side makes everything easier.
This is an ongoing issue. Send me a note with your suggestions and strategies about proving the worth of ongoing training.