Corporate training practices are shifting to employee-friendly, digital and mobile-centric models. Employees no longer need to stay after hours to complete mandatory training. If they want to learn more about a specific task or process they can usually access the content on their device of choice in their own time.
What does this mean for trainers though? Those subject specialists with deep understanding of how staff can improve their skills. Naturally, the need for an increasing emphasis on corporate training will only increase with an aging workforce, but how do you give your trainers the tools to manage this?
For starters, one of the best ways to adapt from face-to-face to the virtual world is for your trainers to participate in online seminars and get a sense of how the learner interacts. Below are five other aspects to think about:
1. ‘Death by powerpoint’
There is little worse than the dreaded ‘death by powerpoint’, especially in eLearning. How do we avoid this? By developing eLearning tools that actually engage those undertaking the training, rather than encouraging passivity and lethargy.
eLearning tools can make experienced trainers feel as if they have been ‘blindfolded’; there are no polite nods, no eye contact or foot tapping which usually gives aware trainers an idea of how well their course is being received. To counteract the adjustment, training is needed.
2. Blended learning and experimentation
In reality most training programmes in enterprises are a form of ‘blended learning’. A certain number of hours in the classroom alongside other training methods, give training managers actual, in-person feedback on their methods and employees the opportunity to express their needs or reservations. This is usually being followed up by more manageable modular units, delivered as both text and video.
As this is often new for trainers and employees alike, it’s preferable for organisations to introduce it alongside a ‘culture of experimentation’. This gives trainers the chance to develop new methods in collaboration with learners to understand how it impacts on their learning, before launching into a set programme.
3. Online interaction
Online training and face-to-face training empower very different training methods and an understanding of the distinction of “what works best where” is necessary. Some charismatic trainers have the force of personality to succeed face-to-face, but most often don’t have a clear plan. e-Trainers do not need charm, but they do need structure because online, with a lack of visual cues, it all breaks down. It’s so hard to get people to listen to you if you are not well structured and you’re essentially just a voice.
Online course delegates understandably expect fast speed-of-responses. Trainers need to adapt to this by using tools that actually allow for quick feedback.
The trainer needs to bring together learners and encourage them to share their thoughts and views. There is a definite role of “facilitator” to get this up and running. Training managers shouldn’t be afraid of changing their methods and content if feedback on particular areas is overly negative.
4. Abandoning knowledge
The fourth way is slightly more abstract and relates to how we consider ‘knowledge’.
Technology has made company knowledge more ‘asymetric’ – In layman’s terms, more knowledge is shared and the breadth of who it reaches, in terms of employees, is wider than ever before.
More junior employees need to be given free rein to adapt and manage affairs in their own departments, especially those which produce and manage technological innovation.
Technology has impacted training in another way too, much of the process of training involves relearning and forgetting to get new skills ready. New software is as much about forgetting old skills as learning new ones, and trainers need to be trained in new teaching methodologies to achieve this. The issue of how to train older employees, particularly given an aging workforce, is of particular importance here.
Trainers need to think differently about session preparation. As well as preparing materials, they need to ensure there will be no technical issues. All connections need to be tested with learners to resolve firewall issues and to ensure bandwidth is adequate for the program. Trainers may not be able to use streamed audio, video or application sharing on the worst connections, in which case other software might need to be considered. This is an issue of network infrastructure and requires collusion between trainers and IT departments.
Many face-to-face trainers are doubling up as online instructors. As well as considering the best platforms for eLearning delivery, it’s really important that trainers are prepared too. Online instructors need to know how to help employees as they progress through their studies. There are instructional strategies which need to be deployed and someone needs to be trained how to teach this.
By Nicholas Kleanthous