Chapter 7, Conducting Training Programs

Objectives

This chapter will help you

► understand concerns that must be addressed when conducting training sessions

► recognize which kinds of settings are most effective for different kinds of training

► identify formats that are most appropriate for specific training needs

► understand the strengths and weaknesses of team

Introduction

After identifying and presenting the organization’s needs and having designed the appropriate programs, it is time to conduct a training session. Remember that the key to whether a training program is successful is how much it improves employee performance on the job. When conducting a training program, the delivery must be as useful and relevant as the content.

Initial Concerns

The actual training session is the moment of truth for the trainer. Will the participants be eager to attend the session? Will their objectives match those we have set? Will they learn what the program is designed to teach them? How much of what they learn will they be able to remember and use on the job? As a trainer, you naturally will be concerned about these issues.

Participants’ motivation will also be a concern to the trainer. The trainer’s job, however, is not to motivate the trainee. Motivation comes from within individuals and cannot be imposed upon them from the outside. What the trainer can do is create an environment that allows trainees to motivate themselves. One element of this environment is to include participants in goal setting for the training session. While you, as a trainer, have identified general goals through the needs assessment, it would be wise to get participants to state their specific goals for each session. One reason is to help the trainees feel included in determining the direction of the program; another reason is to help find out what interests and needs the individual trainees have. The more these needs can be addressed during the session, the more participants will motivate themselves to learn, remember, and use the information and skills they acquire. Both of the authors of this text begin their workshops by asking participants to identify, briefly, their goals for the session. One word of caution is in order, however: If you ask for participants’ goals, be sure to address these goals during the workshop. Otherwise, you will have built up participants’ expectations and then disappointed them.

At the same time, remember to consider the objectives of individual managers whose employees are being trained. While the needs assessment gives an accurate picture of organizational issues, individual managers may differ in which issues they emphasize. Suppose that the assessment indicated a company-wide need for training in time management, computer literacy, and performance appraisals. You still need to find out which of these skills is most important to the specific department with which you are dealing. Remember that each manager will evaluate the effectiveness of the training program according to his or her own standards.

Another way to help trainees motivate themselves is to show them the ways in which they will benefit from what they are going to be learning. By believing that the training session will lead to outcomes they expect, the trainees are more likely to learn and remember what is taught.

Environmental Considerations

As a trainer. your training sessions should be conducted in ways that help participants remember and use information and skills. One way to do this is to make the training session resemble the actual job situation as closely as possible.

Suppose you are training participants for a job that involves answering numerous phone calls in a noisy, high-pressure atmosphere. At the presentation stage when discussing the skills participants need, a quiet setting would be reasonable. When the participants practice these skills, however, a room full of ringing telephones, loud voices, and noisy copy machines would be more realistic. Practicing the new skills in a setting that closely resembles work enables participants to transfer these skills more quickly to the job.

Two major types of training environments are on-site settings and off-site settings. Each has advantages and disadvantages in terms of how closely it resembles the actual work setting. Other considerations, however, help determine which type of environment is most appropriate.

On-Site Settings

On site settings include various locations within the firm’s office or plant. These settings are realistic, because they are in or near the actual places trainees work, and they avoid the costs of off-site locations. Several types of training are best suited for on-site locations. One is employee orientation, where new employees learn about company policy, individual job responsibilities, relationships between managers and employees, career opportunities and similar topics. Because the purpose of orientation is to help the new employee become familiar with the organization, on-site training enhances this process.

Another method best suited for on-site locations is on the job training, Through this method, employees learn a job by doing it, and their learning may be guided by a trainer, an experienced employee, or both. The on-site location allows the trainee to learn many aspects of the job in addition to the specific job duties. For example, a server in a restaurant learns how to wait on tables by practicing and observing what other servers are doing. In addition to learning the specific skills of taking orders and serving food, the server also learns the type of manner to convey: the atmosphere may be elegant and formal, or casual and friendly. These behaviors are different from the specific duties of taking orders and serving food, but they are an integral part of these duties.

Job rotation is another training method well suited to on-site locations. In job rotation, the trainee performs a series of jobs, spending a predetermined period of time (several days to several years) on each job. The purpose is to give the trainee a broad view of the organization and the various ways the jobs and departments operate. Suppose a computer operator’s training includes working in the accounting and sales departments; this experience would enable the operator to gear the work towards the needs of each department. Again, the on-site experience increases the trainee’s familiarity with the job.

Another training method that is appropriate for on-site settings is coaching. Coaching is similar to performance appraisals in that an employee and his or her supervisor review the employee’s performance strengths and weaknesses. Coaching goes beyond appraisals, however, because it focuses on the employee’s future goals and steps toward these goals. Through the coaching process a cashier in a grocery store might express interest in becoming a store manager. The boss would then help the cashier identify courses or other training steps leading to this goal. In the coaching process, the trainer’s role usually is limited to helping supervisors coach their employees. Trainers themselves do not deal directly with employees in this process.

Career development, another on site method, involves trainers who specialize in career planning. In career development, employees take diagnostic tests to identify their interests and skills. The career specialist, who is familiar with company jobs and with the skills and knowledge required for these jobs, helps employees set long-term goals for career development. As an example, John was a draftsperson for two years and he knew that to make any progress in the company, he should go back to school and become an engineer, however, he did not feel particularly committed to this idea. After taking several diagnostic tests and talking with his firm’s career specialist, John realized that he wanted more opportunities to work with people than an engineering job would provide. John combined his experience and his new realizations, and became an architect for the same firm.

In addition to the specific training methods presented so far, workshops in any number of subjects may be held in company conference rooms or other on-site locations. These workshops usually take one-half day to two days, and are designed to address a number of needs within the organization. Managers’ workshops may cover new management techniques, administrative assistants’ workshops may cover time management and communication, and supervisors’ workshops may cover ways to deal with problem employees. For in-house workshops, the trainer plays a major role: designing, presenting, and evaluating the sessions.

The main advantages of on-site locations are that they provide a realistic setting and are virtually cost free. A main disadvantage is that because of the proximity to their departments, participants may too easily be called away from the training session to take care of day-to-day problems at work.

Off-Site Locations

Off-site locations include meeting rooms in hotels, university conference centers, or other facilities designed to provide this service. Off-site locations mean added expense, but their advantage is that they allow participants to focus on the issues at hand instead of worrying about work. While professional consultants and trainers use these kinds of facilities to hold public workshops, in house trainers also use these facilities for various types of programs.

Perhaps the most common training method used in off-site locations is the workshop. For example, new supervisors may need a one-day workshop outlining their new responsibilities and ways to carry out their new duties. The trainer may use a meeting room in a nearby hotel to get the supervisors away from the office so they are not available for phone calls or other interruptions.

Another type of training method that works well in off-site locations is programmed instructions, where trainees use texts to learn at their own rates. For example, a new salesperson may use programmed texts to learn the steps involved in selling. Pretests included in the text would allow the salesperson to identify those areas he or she already knew and could therefore skip.

Closely related to programmed instruction is computer assisted learning. The interactive nature of a computer program – that is, the way trainees get “right” or “wrong” responses from the computer – gives trainees immediate feedback and speeds up the learning process. In addition, computers can provide simulated experience, as in driver education. For both programmed and computer assisted instruction, companies must weigh the costs of developing programs against the benefits derived in terms of time saved and accuracy of learning.

One problem with off-site locations, in addition to the cost, is the possibility that ideas and skills learned in training session will not be transferred to the work situation. One firm held off-site training in word processing: the employees learned word-processing skills and appeared ready to use these skills at work. The office environment. however, was different from that of the workshop. In the office employees had to deal with phone calls, noisy machines, interruptions, and a generally fast-paced atmosphere. Their word-processing skills appeared dramatically lower at work than in the training session. A more effective training environment would include the noise and distractions, making it possible for trainees to learn and practice under more realistic conditions. To avoid this problem, trainers must make their sessions as realistic as possible, using methods described in the next section, “Training Formats.”

Whether trainers use on-site or off-site locations, the environment must help, rather than hinder, trainee learning. The temperature of the room should be comfortably cool, to help trainees remain alert. Acoustics should allow everyone to hear and be heard, to provide active participation. All slides, flip charts, transparencies, and other visual aids should be easily accessible to everyone. Ironically, if the room setting is appropriate, no one will notice, only uncomfortable aspects of a room seem to stand out! Make the physical environment unnoticeable by making it conducive to learning.

Training Formats

The content of a training session – that is, what the session is about – is only part of the training package. The rest is process – how the content is delivered. While the content of a training session ultimately is the bottom line, the process of delivery determines how receptive trainees are and how quickly, and how well, they learn the content.

Lecture

The lecture is a traditional training method, but not necessarily the best one. Lectures are useful when the main purpose of training is to convey information. If a company wants to inform employees about changes in health-care benefits, a lecture would be an appropriate way to explain the changes. Lectures also are useful for large groups. If the company decides, for example, to explain the health-care benefits to all five hundred employees at one time, a lecture in a large auditorium would work. But when the purposes of a training session go beyond simply informing or trying to reach a large audience, the lecture is not the most effective method.

One shortcoming of the lecture is that it is one-way communication. The trainer talks, and the trainees listen – and often are not likely to ask questions, especially in large groups. Without verbal feedback, the trainer cannot tell whether he or she is coming across effectively. Even worse, the trainees do not have a chance to find out if they are learning what the trainer wants them to learn. As an example, a trainer in a medium-sized firm chose the lecture method to teach five hundred employees how to handle their time cards on the new computerized system. The unfortunate result was close to five hundred versions of the “correct” way to deal with the time cards. The trainer had to use other methods not only to teach employees the correct way, but also to undo their mistaken ideas about the correct way.

Another problem with the lecture is that its one way nature conveys a negative, top-down message to trainees. This message says, “I’m the know-it-all trainer, and you’re just a lowly trainee.” Regardless of the contents the trainer wants to convey, lectures tend to create resistance among trainees because of the inequality of positions. In a technical firm, an experienced trainer who was new to the company used the lecture method to explain new software options to computer specialists. The specialists reacted in several negative ways ranging from passive non-listening to loud disagreements. Investigation indicated that the computer specialists were reacting more to the new trainer’s “know-it-all approach” than to the information the trainer tried to convey.

The lecture method is also limited by its reliance on verbal skills. In a trucking company, a trainer spent two hours lecturing to the mechanics about ways to use new equipment. Because they were more oriented to physical application than to abstract verbal explanations, the mechanics got very little out of the lecture. They started learning about the equipment only after an experienced mechanic physically helped them use it. An unintended negative outcome of the lecture was that the mechanics felt “put down” by the verbally-oriented trainer.

Another shortcoming of the lecture is that it is not easily transferable to the job. Trainees may understand the concepts presented in a lecture, but still not be able to perform the related skills. A common problem in management development programs is that even though managers eventually understand the importance of praising employees, often they still do not actually praise their employees at work. Lectures may take care of the cognitive – that is, the conceptual or understanding – aspect of learning, but they do not address the actual performance.

The lecture also is limited by the fact that it does not deal with individual differences among trainees. In a hospital, the trainer lectured to head nurses, radiology supervisors, head pharmacists, and other department supervisors about ways to handle conflicts among employees. Because it was designed to cover everyone, the lecture was too general to be useful to anyone. The trainees’ backgrounds and personalities were different enough to warrant a specific, instead of a general, approach.

Another problem with the lecture method is that because it does not invite input from trainees, it does not capture or involve them. Without involvement, trainees often fail to buy into the content of a lecture. The managers of a small accounting firm wanted the support staff to change several of the procedures they followed. The trainer used the lecture method to present the changes, and the staff listened obediently. At work, however, the staff members kept forgetting the new procedures. Had they been more involved in identifying the need for changes or in designing the new procedures, instead of simply being told about them, the staff members might have supported the changes more enthusiastically.

The lecture method is useful for conveying information or dealing with large groups. It has major shortcomings, however, as a training format. Several alternative training formats, discussed in the following sections, are more effective in practice.

Discussions

One dynamic alternative to lectures is the discussion format, where trainees make comments, ask questions, and give examples. A big advantage to discussions is that they involve participants directly in the subject manner. By taking part, the trainees buy into the session more strongly than in straight lectures.

Often, the format may be primarily lecture with regular input from trainees. At a workshop for secretaries, the facilitator described key points involved in time management and then asked the trainees to describe situations that illustrated these points. One benefit of this method is that it uses examples that are meaningful to participants. The process of incorporating trainees’ comments within a lecture, however, requires excellent facilitative skills on the part of the trainer; what individuals will say cannot be predicted. In addition, trainees often feel uncomfortable speaking, even from their chairs, to a large group.

Another way to get trainee input is to break the larger group into smaller subgroups. Trainees usually feel comfortable speaking in groups of four or five. At the workshop for secretaries, the facilitator had the trainees talk in small discussion groups about problems they have dealing with telephone calls. Everyone had something to say because the small groups served as support systems. After a few minutes, the facilitator had one representative from each subgroup summarize the issues raised in that subgroup. Partly because of support from the subgroup, and partly because of some individuals’ tendencies to be more outgoing, each subgroup was able to produce a representative who would speak to the entire group.

Whether they are done within the larger group or within smaller subgroups, discussions make training sessions lively. They help trainees get more out of the sessions by encouraging them to put more effort into them.

Case Studies

Case studies can add a lot to discussions by giving participants something specific, yet nonpersonal, to talk about. A case study describes actual problem situations in a company, using artificial names, and the problems relate to several points covered in training sessions. The problem situations are described, but no solutions are offered. The trainees read the case study and offer their own alternative solutions, based on what they have learned in training sessions.

The trainer may have everyone work on the case study alone, or may assign trainees to groups of two or three. In a workshop for furniture warehouse personnel, the trainees read a case study about problems in the warehouse of a computer company, and then discussed the case study in groups of three. Although the case study clearly reflected problems similar to those in the furniture warehouse, trainees felt more comfortable talking about the problems in some company other than their own. The necessary problems were addressed without anyone feeling put on the spot.

On one level, the case-study format gives trainees a chance to apply some of the principles that were covered in training sessions. On another level, small group approaches to solving the case studies create lively interaction among trainees. Because the case-study problems do not single out a particular individual, trainees often feel more comfortable discussing them openly.

Role-Plays

Role-plays give trainees a chance to enact, rather than simply discuss, various responses to problem situations. One purpose of enacting these responses is to give the trainees practice at a skill presented by the trainer. Another is to allow the trainees to get feedback both from the trainer and from other participants about how their behavior came across. A third purpose is to give trainees experience at giving feedback to each other. Role-playing helps trainees learn by doing.

Role-plays combine spontaneity and planning. In one sense, they are spontaneous, because the trainees choose their own reactions, words, and body language. In another sense, role-plays are planned, because the trainees already know which behaviors they are supposed to act out. The trainer may design the role-play situations, or the trainees may create their own.

In a workshop for new supervisors, the trainees didn’t have enough experience yet to predict problems they were likely to encounter. The trainer designed problem situations for them based on input from experienced managers. Once the situation was described to them, the trainees took turns playing the role of supervisor, while another trainee acted out the problem person role. The trainee playing supervisor reacted in whatever ways he or she thought were appropriate. The trainees’ reactions were based partly on their own personalities and experience, and partly on what they had learned so far in the workshop. Once they enacted their responses, the other trainees shared their reactions to each other’s responses. After all the trainees got feedback from each other, the trainer added a few comments and suggestions.

In another example, experienced managers acted out role-plays they designed for themselves. Each trainee had a specific situation he or she wanted help dealing with, so each trainee described the situation to the group. Another trainee played the part of the other person – as described by the trainee designing the role-play – and the manager played himself or herself. Again, behaviors were based partly on individual personalities and experiences and partly on what the managers had learned in the workshop. The trainees gave each other feedback, and the trainer added comments at the end. In this situation, trust and confidentiality among the trainees and with the trainer were crucial to the success of the role-plays, because of the individual nature of the problem situations.

Role-plays give participants hands-on experience with ideas presented in workshops. They also allow trainees to observe each other’s behaviors and give each other feedback.

Games and Simulations

While role-plays help trainees deal with individual relationships, management games and simulations help trainees deal with the system-wide nature of their organizations. These games focus on the decisions managers make about financial, marketing, planning, communication, policy, and other issues. Using computers to identify long-term and system-wide outcomes, these games show managers the consequences for choices they make. Through simulations, trainees gain experience without having the suffer real world results.

Games and simulations involve several teams of four to six trainees each. The trainer describes the nature of the simulated company, the types of products it produces and sells, and the economic and competitive environment in which it operates. Based on this information, each team defines it’s own company; its goals, objectives, organizational structure, controls, and procedures. The conditions of each team’s company are identical, and trainees begin with a report of what these economic, financial, marketing, personnel, and other conditions are.

On a regular basis each team of trainees makes decisions for its simulated company. The “regularity” may be simulations of daily, weekly. monthly, or quarterly time frames. These decisions are processed on computer, which prints out operating reports of outcomes based on the decisions. The process of making decisions and getting reports continues fora simulated year. Trainees usually have about thirty minutes to make decisions. “Winners” are determined according to net profit and such issues as return on investment. market share, personnel policies, and other factors that affect businesses.

At the back end of the games and simulations, trainees receive feedback from each other, from the trainer, and from other specialists who have observed the activities. One aspect of the feedback focuses on content – that is, the specific decisions each team made and how those decisions affected the simulated company’s situation. Another aspect of the feedback focuses on process: how the team went about making decisions, what degree of participation each team member had, how conflicts within each team were management, and related issues. When decision-making sessions are videotaped, trainees can get an objective view of their own behavior.

Through games and simulations, managers gain realistic experience that closely parallels their day-to-day situations. By seeing the potential consequences of their behavior, the trainees easily can transfer their learning to the work setting.

Numerous training formats add dimensions to the learning process. When you conduct training sessions, choose the format that best suits your trainees, the material, and the organization.

Team Teaching

One way to pack a lot of information and variety into a training session is to use a multimedia approach in terms of trainers. Team teaching means that two or more trainers conduct a session together. This is different from serial teaching, where one trainer runs the session on Monday, and another trainer runs it on Wednesday. Team teaching means the trainers share the same session. In presenting information, the interacting with trainees, they also interact with each other.

Two trainers, Joan and Al, conducted a communication session for department heads in a nonprofit organization. Joan began by pointing out several key communication principles. At a natural pause, Al added a few more points, sometimes looking at the trainees and sometimes looking at Joan. The variety of speakers and the dialogue added interest to the session.

One important aspect of team teaching is that the trainers build on what the other says and does. In the previous example, Al added similar information to Joan’s discussion. Another way to build is to offer different views about the same topic. Later in the same example, Al presented ways to handle communication problems among office workers. After he described one specific way, Joan said, “Another way you might approach this is . . .,” giving a different perspective. In this situation, the trainers must be careful to focus on building, and not to appear as if they are disagreeing.

Another important aspect of team teaching is to use trainers who share both similarities and differences in their backgrounds. While the trainers must both be qualified in the same field, they need to offer different experiences to make an interesting team. Too much similarity between trainers will have a negative effect on trainees, who may feel that they are getting a hard sell. While it is important for the trainers to get along with each other, they also must be careful not to get so involved in each other’s comments that they leave out the trainees.

In team teaching, the trainers can present variety that holds trainees’ interest and can support each other in several ways. Careful planning and similar knowledge, on the one hand, and spontaneity and differences, on the other, can create a dynamic experience for trainees.

Summary

When you are ready to conduct the training session, you have a number of issues to consider about participants’ needs, managers’ expectations, the appropriate environment, the most suitable training format, and the usefulness of team teaching.

On-site settings are best for employee orientation, on-the-job training, job rotation, coaching, career development, and related topics. Off-site settings work well for workshops, programmed instructions, and computer-assisted learning.

Training formats include lecture, discussions, case studies, role­-plays, and games and simulations. Team teaching offers a multi­-media option.

Remember that you have a number of good options from which to choose. Base your decisions on the nature of the trainees, the material to be covered, the managers’ desired outcomes, and your needs assessment.

License

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Communication Training and Development by William Arnold and Lynne McClure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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