For the past 15 years, I have had the pleasure of serving as Accelebrate’s president (and before that was a senior manager at another IT training firm for nearly 7 years). During those 22 years, I have managed more than 7,000 training events worldwide and interacted with clients before, during, and after their training. In my experience, there are key steps you need to take before, during, and after a class to ensure a successful training class that achieves the productivity gains you envision.
Before the Class
- Interview the actual trainer who would teach your class. The friendly salesperson will almost certainly not be teaching your class! More than any other factor, the quality of the instructor will determine the results of your training.
- Deeply understand your audience’s needs and work with the instructor and training firm to customize the outline to address them. Accelebrate is always eager to work with you to ensure that your entire class is highly valuable to the attendees.
- Don’t push the training firm to stuff 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5-pound bag. I am on calls almost every day where the client asks us to compress 5 days of training into 2, or 8 days of training into 4. This kind of compression can only be achieved by dropping topics, simplifying topics (and usually over-simplifying them), or removing hands-on time (which is essential for students to make connections and internalize what they have learned). At Accelebrate, we want your class to be successful and will always advise you on the optimal training duration. If we suggest adding an additional day to your training, it’s because we want your training to achieve your goals so we earn your repeat business.
- Ensure employees meet the class prerequisites and try to place people with similar skill levels into the same class. Doing this ensures that we can teach the topics and pace your class in a way that is pleasing to the entire group. Even though we charge a modest fee for additional attendees, attendees who lack the class prerequisites should not be seated in the training – the class will only be frustrating for them and the additional support and types of questions they ask will only slow down and frustrate your core audience.
During the Class
- As best you can, free your employees’ schedules to focus on the class. Don’t schedule meetings or conference calls during class hours, and help your staff shift their work to other employees as best they can. An employee who is constantly interrupted during class or who is having to work long hours after class will be distracted and tired, losing a lot of the benefit of the training. Make it clear that the training is your employees’ top priority during those days.
- Speak to your employees about not checking their mobile devices, email, or instant messages except during breaks, unless their job duties truly require them to be minute-to-minute on call. Recent research shows that most humans multitask poorly; your staff will learn and contribute much more to the training if they’re able to focus on it.
- Review feedback from your learners. What was effective? What would they like to change next time? Accelebrate conducts detailed evaluations at the end of each class and is always delighted to share your results with you.
- Plan for projects that immediately apply what your learners have learned and supply them with mentorship. “Use it or lose it” definitely applies here: you want your learners to come out of training immediately into projects that apply what they have learned. To be successful, it’s also important that they have mentors with more advanced skills who can help them overcome obstacles. These mentors can be internal to your organization or hired from outside.
Author: Steve Heckler, Founder and President of Accelebrate, Inc.