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Engaging New Hire Training: Break up with PowerPoint

I am convinced boring employee training sessions led to the invention of cell phone game apps.

Here’s how I picture that light bulb moment: Miss Amazing New Hire was super excited for her first day on the job.

“Just get through this onboarding,” Cool New Boss told her. “And you’ll be ready to work.”

Hours later, Miss Amazing New Hire was still watching slides. Then, as the monotone presenter approached slide 234 (something to do with sexual harassment and not being a sleazebag), the clock entered soup-mode – every tick slower than the one before.

“This is already the longest week of my life,” Miss Genius fumed. “And today’s only Monday.”

Then, bing! Bam! Light bulb! Chase the dot, crush something tasty, or smash a brick was born.

No, Miss Genius was not immature. She was bored. (Also she later quit to develop and market her app as an answer to Death by Power Point Training. And, she’s not alone. Employee turnover among IT Integrators is a staggering 83%.)

Yes, PowerPoint, I’m looking at you.

Is there a way to avoid the soul-crushing onboarding that siphons a new employee’s enthusiasm from their very first day?

Onboarding should prepare the new hire to assimilate into the company’s culture, give them an idea of what the job will be like, and provide them with access to and knowledge of critical systems and programs.

It should also increase their enthusiasm.

As you re-design, improve, or create from scratch an effective new hire training program, consider four basic tenets: the information to be given, the learning styles of potential students, the exam, and resources for future study. Combat Death by Power Point by addressing these specific fix points.

Carefully consider the information to be given.

That perfect line between informed and prepared employees and anxious and impatient new hires is the Oz of New Hire Training. We want to get there but often face lions and tigers and bears, and sometimes that cracked, yellow road leads us into forests having nothing to do with our mission. Various factions might encroach upon new hire as a chance to correct infractions before they occur, a place to levy “culture” and “precedent” lessons that derail your mission of preparing the new hire to do her job. We should strive to provide our employees the information necessary for success, but also, we must respect our employees’ time. Acknowledge that some lessons are not applicable during the first week on the job.

Ensure the information given is worthy of your learners’ time and delivered in a way that uses every minute effectively. If employees do not personally buy the message, they will dismiss the entire training as a waste of their time, tipping your Oz from prepared to impatient.

Delivery must provide a path to learning for all learning styles.

Once you have deemed the information as necessary, you must consider your employees as classroom teachers consider their students – with the understanding that learning styles differ from student to student. In any given group, you may have auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile learners. You can bet that many of your employees are a combination of these learning styles.

The best path to engage each employee and ensure information retention is through blended training. Each module should include visual, audio, hands-on, practice, and demonstration elements. Though emailing a slide deck to your employees seems easy enough, the deck won’t actually train them to do anything. Except, maybe, develop a get-out-of-training habit.

The performance test should be more than a test.

Consider your high school teachers – the really good ones you will someday thank in your Oscar acceptance speech. Did they fly through information, then immediately throw a multiple-choice pop quiz at you? No, they didn’t.

They delivered the information, then offered hands-on application or discussion. They encouraged you to practice the information through in-class activities and homework. These teachers enabled you to demonstrate mastery in dozens of ways: a research paper, a speech, a practical application or group project, maybe even a test of some kind. In any case, you were fully prepared to put the knowledge to use.

Why should employee training be different? If the information is critical, and a required training should indicate that it is, then the test portion of training should be important as well. As the slide deck has been found wanting, the ten-question quiz on the last slide is just as useless.

Let’s all agree to place stale slide decks and multiple-choice quizzes in the “Check the Box” training category. They may meet a specific requirement, but they’re not actually helping anyone.

Consider this as your next training performance test: Before training begins, tell your employees no test will be given at the end of the training. Instead, the information given is imbedded in their performance standards; that each employee will be responsible for delivery of the information and skills taught through the training.

Counseling employees on skill demonstration in advance of performance ratings will hold leadership accountable for continued application of skills. Through this approach, training evolves from being an interruption or hassle to a valued activity for both employee and leader. If you can connect the lessons in the training to the specific language of performance evaluations, you can demonstrate to learners the applicability of the training.

Build a library for continuous learning and rejuvenation.

Employees need a trusted source for information. Do not make them hunt for the information provided during a training session. Hopefully, employees will use the new information as soon as the training ends. If they are expected to, build a resource library so they may confirm information as they commit new processes to memory. If this library is regularly updated and easily accessible, employees will have the resources to build confidence in their new knowledge and abilities.

This is also a great way to incorporate social media into training. You can use YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook to post and share additional resources discussing the training material. When the employees use the training lessons on the job, encourage them to share that experience.

After a particularly challenging software implementation, we had a learner share via an online forum that she’d assisted a customer by accessing information in the software program. Her success fueled more stories of how the program had been giving the customer service reps the information they needed to make customers happy. Eventually they were all saying how they’d known where to find that valuable information because they had been well trained.

Use training as your first defense against employee turnover.

Inadequate training leads to frustration, disappointment, and rejection: experiences that exacerbate employee turnover. Fortify your company with engaging training that uses blended training modules to deliver critical information to new and current employees.

When employees are engaged early and given the information they need to be successful, they’ll believe your organization can help them be successful in the long run. They’ll believe in a learning approach to problem solving and customer service. The first step is early engagement with carefully designed and well-executed new-hire training.

For more on blended training delivery, visit www.clemsonroad.com.


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