In a survey that my company conducted, we asked 900 working
professionals across the country, "What is the most laborious part of
your work?" What came back revealed that most people (24%) felt that
learning new information was a tough part of their job.
Many companies use one or more training options such as in-house
staff, consultants, and computer-assisted learning. For many people,
taking on new information can be both overwhelming and challenging. It
interrupts the "status quo."
However, this can be overcome with training programs that are
customized for departments and even for the individual. It’s like
buying new shoes–one size does not fit all. And as we all know, the
better the fit, the more comfortable the shoe.
One strategy that is most effective for many of the companies I
consult with is to take a needs assessment in advance. While I often
speak to managers and employees separately, I usually ask the same
questions to determine if they are in agreement on what needs
improvement. Here are some of the questions I ask:
* What type of training do you think is needed here?
* How has training been handled in the past?
* What skills do you think need improvement here?
* What type of training do you think is most effective?
* How do you determine if training has been effective or not?
Of course, space does not permit me to go into detail about taking a
needs assessment. However, the point is that when we ask enough
appropriate questions, usually we can build on training partly based on
those answers. It is an effective way to customize the program.
It has also become evident that information that used to be covered
in a one-day program now can become a series. This is because each
topic needs more in-depth coverage, and by breaking the program apart
over a period of time, people get a chance to digest the information in
bite-sized portions. Then they can effectively put into practice one
new skill instead of trying to master six and not succeeding with any
one of them.
Another way to overcome employees’ struggles with new information is
to recognize that people learn at different levels. It is not fair or
cost-effective to put a whole group together where it is clearly too
elementary for some and overwhelming for others.
I see this sometimes in presentation skills training where some
people are ready to take the next step by being videotaped and
critiqued based on a presentation or pitch they have prepared. Others
may never have really given a formal presentation, and the thought of
speaking before even a small group almost causes them to break out into
hives. In these cases, it is much better to divide the class into
smaller groups and let people learn at their own level.
In the information age, flexibility will still be the critical
foundation for success. Future generations will need more than just
mastery of subject matter; they will need mastery of learning, and this
takes time, patience, and customization.