The Most Effective Training Techniques
There are numerous methods and materials available to help you prepare and equip employees to do their jobs better. Indeed, with so many choices out there, it can be daunting to determine which methods to use and when to use them. Moreover, using several training sessions methods may be the most effective way to help employees learn and retain information. This article takes a close look at each of the various techniques and examines their advantages and disadvantages. We also explain how you can combine the different methods into a practical blended learning approach.
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Before considering specific training techniques, ask yourself these questions:
- What are your training goals for this session?
- New skills
- New techniques for old skills
- Better workplace behaviour
- A safer workplace
- A fair and equal workplace free of discrimination and harassment
- Who is being trained?
- New employees
- Seasoned employees
- Upper management
- What is your training budget?
- How much time has been allocated for training within your organisation?
- What training resources and materials do you have at your disposal?
Your answers to these questions begin the narrowing process for your training choices. Now let’s examine those training methods, their pros and cons, and where they best fit in a training program.
Even with the many technological advances in the training industry, traditional formats remain viable and effective.
Classroom or Instructor-Led Training
Instructor-led training remains one of the most popular training techniques for trainers. There are many types, including:
- Blackboard or whiteboard. This may be the most “old-fashioned” method, but it can still be useful, especially if you invite trainees to write on the board or ask for feedback that you register on the board.
- Overhead projector. This method is increasingly being replaced with PowerPoint presentations, which are less manually demanding, but overheads do allow you to write on them and customise presentations easily on the spot.
- Video portion. Lectures can be broken up with video portions that explain sections of the training topic or present case studies for discussion.
- PowerPoint® presentation. Presentation software is used to create customised group training sessions that are led by an instructor. Training materials are provided on CDROM and displayed on a large screen for any number of trainees. Employees can also use the programs individually, which allows for easy make-up sessions for employees who miss the group session. This method is one of the most popular lecture methods and can be combined with handouts and other interactive techniques. [See page 37 for PowerPoint presentation tips.]
- Storytelling. Stories can be used as examples of right and wrong ways to perform skills with the outcome of each way described. This method is most effective with debriefing questions, such as:
- How does this story relate to training?
- How did the main character’s choices make you feel?
- What assumptions did you make throughout the story? Were they correct?
- What would you have done differently?
This technique makes communication easier since it is non-threatening with no one right answer. It is cost-effective, especially if trainers have their own stories to tell. Stories can also make sessions more personal if they involve people trainees know. You can also find many training stories online.
- Instructor-led classroom training is an efficient method for presenting a large body of material too large or small groups of employees.
- It is a personal, face-to-face type of training instead of computer-based training and other methods we will discuss later.
- It ensures that everyone gets the same information at the same time.
- It is cost-effective, mostly when not outsourced to guest speakers.
- Storytelling grabs people’s attention.
- Sometimes it is not interactive.
- Too much of the success of the training depends on the effectiveness of the lecturer.
- Scheduling classroom sessions for large numbers of trainees can be challenging—especially when trainees are at multiple locations.
You can use lectures effectively by making sure your audience is engaged throughout the session. Here are several ways to achieve this:
- Train your trainers in the art and science of public speaking.
- Give your trainers about the materials they need.
- Use with interactive methods.
There are many ways that you can break up training sessions and keep trainees attentive and involved, including:
- Quizzes. For extended, complicated training, stop periodically to administer brief quizzes on the information presented to that point. You can also begin sessions with a prequel and let participants know there will also be a follow-up quiz. Trainees will stay engaged to improve their pre-quiz scores on the final quiz. Further, motivate participants by offering awards to the highest scorers or the most improved scores.
- Small group discussions. Break the participants down into small groups and give them case studies or work situations to discuss or solve. This is a good way for knowledgeable veteran employees to pass on their experience to newer employees.
- Case studies. Adults tend to bring a problem-oriented way of thinking to workplace training. Case studies are an excellent way to capitalise on this type of adult learning. By analysing real job-related situations, employees can learn how to handle similar situations. They can also see how various elements of a job are working together to create problems and solutions.
- Active summaries. Create small groups and have them choose a leader. Ask them to summarise the lecture’s major points and have each team leader present the reviews to the class. Read aloud a prewritten summary and compare this with participants’ impressions.
- Q & A sessions. Informal question-and-answer sessions are most effective with small groups and for updating skills rather than teaching new skills. For example, some departmental procedure changes might easily be handled by the supervisor’s short explanation, followed by a question-and-answer period and a discussion period.
- Question cards. During the lecture, ask participants to write questions on the subject matter. Collect them and conduct a quiz/review session.
- Role-playing. By assuming roles and acting out situations that might occur in the workplace, employees learn how to handle various conditions before they face them on the job. Role-playing is an excellent training technique for many interpersonal skills, such as customer service, interviewing, and supervising.
- Participant control. Create a subject menu of what will be covered. Ask participants to review it and pick items they want to know more about. Call on a participant to identify his or her choice. Cover that topic and move on to the next participant.
- Demonstrations. Whenever possible, bring tools or equipment that are part of the training topic and demonstrate the steps being taught or the adopted processes.
- Other activities.
- Create a personal action plan
- Raise arguments to issues in the lecture
- Paraphrase important or complex points in the talk
- Interactive sessions keep trainees engaged in the training, which makes them more receptive to the new information.
- They make training more fun and enjoyable.
- They provide ways for veteran employees to pass on knowledge and experience to newer employees.
- They can provide in-session feedback to trainers on how well trainees are learning.
- Interactive sessions can take longer because activities, such as taking quizzes or breaking into small groups, are time-consuming.
- Some methods, such as participant control, can be less structured, and trainers will need to ensure that all necessary information is covered.
Experiential, or hands-on, training, offers several more effective techniques for teaching employees, including:
- Cross-training. This method allows employees to experience other jobs, which enhances employee skills and gives companies the benefit of having employees who can perform more than one task. Cross-training also gives employees a better appreciation of what co-workers do and how their jobs fit in with others’ work to achieve company goals.
- Demonstrations. Demonstrations are attention-grabbers. They are an excellent way to teach employees to use new equipment or explain the new process steps. They are also useful in teaching safety skills. Combined with the opportunity for questions and answers, this is a powerful, engaging form of training.
- Coaching. The goal of job coaching is to improve an employee’s performance. Coaching focuses on an employee’s individual needs and is generally less formal than other kinds of training. There are usually no set of training sessions. A manager, supervisor, or veteran employee serves as the coach. He or she gets together with the employee being coached when time allows and works with this employee to:
- Answer questions
- Suggest more effective strategies
- Correct errors
- Guide toward goals
- Give support and encouragement.
- Provide knowledgeable feedback
- Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships allow employers to shape inexperienced workers to fit existing and future jobs. These programs give young workers the opportunity to learn a trade or profession and earn a modest income. Apprenticeship combines supervised training on the job with classroom instruction in a formal, structured program that can last for a year or more.
- Drills. Drilling is a good way for employees to practice skills. Evacuation drills are useful when training emergency preparedness, for example.
- Hands-on training methods are useful for training in new procedures and new equipment.
- They are immediately applicable to trainees’ jobs.
- They allow trainers to immediately determine whether a trainee has learned the new skill or procedure.
- They are not suitable for large groups if you do not have enough equipment or machines for everyone to use.
- Personal coaching can be disruptive to the coach’s productivity.
- The apprenticeship can be expensive for companies paying for employees trained on the job and are not yet as productive as regular employees.
Computer-Based Training (CBT)
Computer-based training is becoming increasingly prevalent as technology becomes more widespread and easy to use. Though traditional forms of training are not likely to be replaced entirely by technological solutions, they will most likely be enhanced. Human interaction will always remain a key component of workplace training.
Nonetheless, it is a good idea to look more closely at what training technologies have to offer and how they might be used to supplement existing training programs or used when developing new ones. Computer-based training formats vary from the most straightforward text-only programs to highly sophisticated multimedia programs to virtual reality. Consider the following types:
- Text-only. The most straightforward computer-based training programs offer self-paced training in a text-only format. These programs are similar to print-based, individualised training modules with the addition, in most cases, of interactive features. While simple in form, these programs can be highly effective and present detailed information and concepts comprehensibly and quickly accessible way.
- CD-ROM. A wide variety of off-the-shelf training programs covering a broad range of workplace topics are available on CD-ROM. Training consultants can also create programs for the specific needs of a particular organisation or individual departments.
- Multimedia. These training materials are an advanced form of computer-based training. They are much more sophisticated than the original text-only programs. In addition to text, they provide stimulating graphics, audio, animation, and video. Multimedia tends to be more provocative and challenging and, therefore, more intriguing to the adult mind. Although costs are higher than text-only software, employee learning benefits may well be worth it. Multimedia training materials are typically found in DVD format.
- Virtual reality. Virtual reality is three-dimensional and interactive, immersing the trainee in a learning experience. Most virtual reality training programs take simulation, which is a highly effective form of training. It is a hands-on experience without the risks of actual performance. For example, flight simulators have been used successfully for years to train airline and military pilots in critical flying skills and prepare them for emergencies in a safe and forgiving environment.
- Computer-based training programs are easy to use.
- They can often be customised or custom designed.
- They are suitable for helping employees develop and practise new skills.
- They are useful for refresher training. They apply to self-directed learning.
- They can be cost-effective because large numbers of employees can use the same equipment and program.
- They are flexible because trainees can learn at their own pace and at a time that’s convenient for them. Computer-based programs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter which shifts an employee works, training is always available.
- Some programs are interactive, requiring trainees to answer questions, make choices, and experience those consequences. This interaction generally results in greater comprehension and retention.
- They are uniform, which makes it possible to standardise training.
- They are measurable. When computers are used for training, it is possible to track what each employee has learned right on the computer. Most programs have post-tests to determine whether the employee has understood the training. Test scores give trainers statistics for training evaluations.
- These programs require trainees to be computer literate.
- They require trainees to have computer access.
- There is little or no interaction with a trainer; if trainees have questions, there’s no one to ask.
- These programs are not effective at teaching “soft-skills,” such as customer service, sales, or sensitivity training.
- They are not the best choice for new or one-time training. Trainers need to live interaction to ensure new skills or concepts are being communicated. Trainees need to be able to ask questions and receive feedback.
- Some poorly designed programs are “boring” and result in trainees having a low retention rate of the material and a low finish rate.
Online or E-Learning
In addition to computer-based training, many companies with employees in various locations worldwide are relying on other technologies to deliver training. According to the ASTD “State of the Industry” report, companies use a record level of e-learning, and ASTD predicts that number will continue to rise. This method is becoming more and more popular as access to the Web becomes more widely available. Some examples include:
- Web-based training. This method puts computer-based training modules onto the Web. Companies can then make available to their employees either on the company’s intranet or on a section of the vendor’s website set up for your company. There are many courses available on the Internet in many different topic areas. These courses provide a hands-on, interactive way for employees to work through training presentations that are similar to CD-ROM or PowerPoint, on their own. Training materials are standardised because all trainees will use the same program. Materials are also easy to update, so your training is always in step with your industry. Web-based training programs are also often linked with software (a learning management system, or LMS) that makes trainees’ progress trackable, making recordkeeping very easy for the training administrator.
- Tele- or video conferencing. These methods allow the trainer to be in one location and trainees to be scattered in several places. Participants are networked into the central area and usually ask the trainer questions via the telephone or a webchat feature. Lectures and demonstrations can be useful in using this method.
- Audioconferencing. This method is similar to videoconferencing but involves audio-only. Participants dial in at the scheduled meeting time and hear speakers present their training. Question and answer sessions are frequently held at the end of sessions in which participants can e-mail questions or call in and talk to a presenter.
- Web meetings, or webinars. This method contains audio and visual components. Participants dial in to receive live audio training and follow visual material on their computer screens. These presentations are similar to CD-ROM or PowerPoint presentations and sometimes offer minimal online interactivity. Q & A sessions may also be held at the end of sessions.
- Online colleges and universities. This method is also known as distance learning, and many schools now offer certificates or degrees through online programs that require only minimal on-campus residency.
- Collaborative document preparation. This method requires participants to be linked to the same network. It can be used with coaches and trainees to teach writing reports and technical documents.
- E-mail. You can use e-mail to promote or enhance training. Send reminders for upcoming training. Solicit follow-up questions for trainers and managers. Conduct training evaluations through e-mail forms.
- Online or e-learning programs are effective for training across multiple locations.
- They save the company money on travel expenses.
- They can be a less expensive way to train expert industry professionals and consultants from outside the company.
- They are useful for refresher training.
- They are suitable for self-directed learning.
- They can easily update with new company policies or procedures, federal regulations, and compliance issues.
- They offer trainers a growing array of choices for matching training programs to employee knowledge and skill levels.
- These programs require trainees to be computer literate.
- They are usually generic and not customised to your company’s needs.
- Some employees may not like the impersonal nature of this training.
- Employees may be too intimidated by the technology or the remoteness of the trainer to ask questions.
- Lack of computer terminals or insufficient online time may restrict or preclude access to training.
- Inadequate or outdated hardware devices (e.g., sound cards, graphics accelerators, and local area networks) can cause programs to malfunction.
- Your company’s Internet servers may not have enough bandwidth to receive the materials.
- Self-instruction offers limited opportunities to receive context-specific expert advice or timely response to questions.
How to Use a Blended Learning Approach
Blended learning is a common-sense concept that results in excellent learning success. The blended learning approach is simply acknowledging that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to training. In a nutshell, blended learning means using more than one training method to train on one subject. Here are several good reasons to use a blended learning approach:
- A University of Tennessee study showed that a blended learning program reduced both the time and the training cost by more than 50 percent.
- The same study showed a 10 percent improved result in learning outcomes compared with traditional training.
- Learning experts believe that a significant advantage of blended learning is that it more closely replicates how people learn on the job, through experience and interaction with co-workers.
This approach works well because the variety of techniques keeps trainers and trainees engaged in training. Blended learning makes much sense. Consider the many factors that affect training:
- Subject matter
- Audience make-up
- Types of learners
- Budget considerations
- Space constraints
- Compliance issues
These considerations affect your training choices and may even necessitate that you use a blended learning approach. Chances are you already use this method perhaps without even realising it. Have you ever:
- Used a PowerPoint training session and incorporated written quizzes, small group discussions, and role-plays at various points in the training?
- Broken a complex subject into parts and used a different training method to teach each section or step?
- Used a live trainer with hands-on demonstrations for initial training and a CD-ROM or online course for refresher training?
If you have done any of the above methods, you are already using a blended learning approach. Here’s how to plan a blended learning training program.
Once you’ve identified training needs, answer these questions about each situation:
- What are the training conditions?
- Do you have a classroom? How many people will it hold?
- How many computers do you have access to?
- What resources are available?
- What are the characteristics of the training content? Is it soft or hard?
- Who is your target audience?
- What is its demographics?
- How many languages do you need to accommodate? Which ones?
- How many employees need this training?
- How quickly do you need to accomplish this training?
Your answers will direct you to the optimal delivery method. However, time-consuming this process may seem, blended learning offers trainees a well-planned session that is custom-designed for them, the subject, and the learning environment. In the long run, blended learning saves time and money since this training process efficiently uses resources to help employees develop sufficient knowledge retention levels.
List of Training Methods
Many methods of training are available- each has certain advantages and disadvantages. Here we list the different methods of training…you can comment on the pros and cons and make the examples concrete by imagining how they could be applied in training truck drivers.
- Technology-Based Learning
Standard methods of learning via technology include:
- Basic PC-based programs
- Interactive multimedia – using a PC-based CD-ROM.
- Interactive video – using a computer in conjunction with a VCR
- Web-based training programs
The forms of training with technology are almost unlimited. A trainer also gets more of the learner’s involvement than in any other environment, and trainees benefit from learning at their own pace.
Example: In the trucking industry, one can imagine interactive multimedia training on tractor-trailers, followed by a proficiency test to see how well the employee knows the truck.
Simulators are used to imitate real work experiences.
Most simulators are costly, but for specific jobs, like learning to fly a 747, they are indispensable. Astronauts also train extensively using simulators to imitate the challenges and micro-gravity experienced on a space mission. The military also uses video games (similar to the “shoot-em-up” ones your 14-year old plays) to train soldiers.
Example: Truck drivers could use simulators to practice responding to dangerous driving situations.
- On-The-Job Training
Jumping right into work from day one can sometimes be the most effective type of training.
Here are a few examples of on-the-job training:
- Read the manual – a rather dull, but thorough way of gaining knowledge of about a task.
- A combination of observation, explanation and practice.
- Trainers go through the job description to explain duties and answer questions.
- Use the intranet so trainees can post questions concerning their jobs, and experts within the company can answer them.
On-the-job training gives employees the motivation to start the job. Some reports indicate that people learn more efficiently if they learn hands-on, rather than listening to an instructor. However, this method might not be for everyone, as it could be very stressful.
Example: New trucking employees could ride with experienced drivers. They could ask questions about truck weigh stations, proper highway speeds, picking up hitchhikers, or any other issues that may arise.
Coaching/mentoring gives employees a chance to receive training one-on-one from an experienced professional. This usually takes place after another more formal process has expanded on what trainees have already learned.
Here are three examples of coaching/mentoring:
- Hire professional coaches for managers
- Set up a formal mentoring program between senior and junior managers
- Implement less formal coaching/mentoring to encourage the more experienced employees to coach the less experienced.
Coaching/mentoring gives trainees the chance to ask questions and receive thorough and honest answers – something they might not receive in a classroom with a group of people.
Example: Again, truck drivers could gain valuable knowledge from more experienced drivers using this method.
Lectures usually take place in a classroom format.
It seems the only advantage to a lecture is getting a considerable amount of information to many people in a short amount of time. It has been said to be the least effective of all training methods. In many cases, lectures contain no form of interaction from the trainer to the trainee and can be quite dull. Studies show that people only retain 20 percent of what they are taught in a lecture.
Example: Truck drivers could receive lectures on issues such as company policies and safety.
- Group Discussions & Tutorials
These most likely take place in a classroom where a group of people discuss issues.
For example, if an unfamiliar program is to be implemented, a group discussion on the new program would allow employees to ask questions and provide ideas on how the program would work best.
A better form of training than lectures allows all trainees to discuss the new program’s issues. It also enables every attendee to voice different ideas and bounce them off one another.
Example: Truck drivers could have group discussions and tutorials on safety issues they face on the road. This is an excellent way to gain feedback and suggestions from other drivers.
Role-playing allows employees to act out issues that could occur in the workplace. Critical skills often touched upon are negotiating and teamwork.
A role play could take place between two people simulating an issue that could arise in the workplace. This could occur with a group of people split into pairs, or two people role-play in front of the classroom.
Role-playing can effectively connect theory and practice, but may not be popular with people who don’t feel comfortable performing in front of a group of people.
Example: Truck drivers could role-play an issue such as an extensive line-up of trucks is found at the weighing station, and one driver tells another that he might as well go ahead and skip the whole thing. Alternatively, the role plays a driver who gets pulled over by a police officer and disagrees with the speeding charge.
- Management Games
Management games simulate real-life issues faced in the workplace. They attract all types of trainees, including active, practical and reflective employees.
Some examples of management games could include:
- Computer simulations of business situations that managers’ play’.
- Board games that simulate a business situation.
- Games surrounding thought and creativity – help managers find creative ways to solve problems in the workplace or implement innovative ideas.
Example: In a trucking business, managers could create games that teach truckers the impact of late deliveries, poor customer service or unsafe driving.
- Outdoor Training
A nice break from the regular classroom or computer-based training, the usual purpose of outdoor training is to develop teamwork skills.
Some examples include:
- Wilderness or adventure training – participants live outdoors and engage in whitewater rafting, sailing, and mountain climbing activities.
- Low-impact programming – equipment can include simple props or a permanently installed “low ropes” course.
- High-impact programming – Could include navigating a 40-foot “high ropes” course, rock climbing, or rappelling.
Outgoing and active participants may get the most out of this form of training. One risk trainers might encounter a distraction or people who don’t like outdoor activities.
Example: As truck drivers are often on the road alone, they could participate in a nature-training course and depot personnel to build esprit de corps.
- Films & Videos
Films and videos can be used on their own or in conjunction with other training methods.
To be truly effective, training films and videos should be geared towards a specific objective. Only if they are produced effectively, will they keep the trainee’s attention? They are also useful in stimulating discussion on specific issues after the film or video is finished.
Films and videos are useful training tools but have some of the same disadvantages as lectures – i.e., no interaction from the trainees.
A few risks to think about – showing a film or video from an outside source may not touch on issues directly affecting a specific company. Trainees may find the information very interesting but irrelevant to their position in the company.
Some trainers like to show videos as a break from another training method, i.e., a break from a lecture instead of a coffee break.
This is not a good idea for two reasons. After a long lecture, trainees will usually want a break from any training material so that a training film wouldn’t be too popular. Two: using films and videos solely for a break could get expensive.
Example: Videos for truckers could show the proper way to interact with customers or illustrate preventive maintenance techniques.
- Case Studies
Case studies provide trainees with a chance to analyse and discuss real workplace issues. They develop analytical and problem-solving skills and provide practical illustrations of principle or theory. They can also build a strong sense of teamwork as teams struggle together to make sense of a case.
All types of issues could be covered – i.e. how to handle a new product launch.
Example: Truck drivers could use case studies to learn what issues have been faced in the trucking industry and what they could do if a similar situation occurred.
- Planned Reading
Planned reading is pre-stage preparation for more formal methods of training. Some trainees need to grasp specific issues before heading into the classroom or the team-building session.
Planned reading will provide employees with a better idea of the issues, giving them a chance to think of any questions beforehand.
Example: Here we may be stretching if we think that truckers will read through much material the training department sends them.
Many avenues exist to train employees. The key is to match the training method for the situation. Assess each training method implemented in the organisation and get feedback from trainees to see if they learned anything. Then take the results of the most popular and most effective ways to design a specific training program.
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