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September 2010

Cutting Edge Employee Training

The basics haven't changed, but teaching them has.

Written by Nicole Voth | 0 comment

Want to keep your finger on the pulse of performance success for your operation, want to know what’s on the cutting edge of learning and development? Quick! Ask, Bing, Google or phone a friend; “what’s new in employee training?” I’ll save you the trouble and dial you in: nothing. Seriously.

In this day of connectedness, social networking and wiki communities, the nuts and bolts of addressing an employee who needs knowledge and skills has remained predominantly the same as circa 1971. I’ll grant you that our delivery methods have, in some resorts, become much slicker, more high tech and efficient. But really, the what, why, when, who and to whom we’re delivering is essentially the same.

The big cutting-edge news, I suppose, is that money isn’t the best answer. Throwing money at training may give you a slick package, but won’t necessarily get you more bang for that buck. In fact, the only comment I’ll make about money is this: The best dollars spent in training are not an expense, they are an investment. Not everyone (big guys and mom ’n’ pops alike) is willing and capable of treating training funds this way—so the playing field levels here, despite the dollars available to spend.

Nuts and Bolts 2010
This is the stuff that will never change, folks. No matter who they are, you are, where we are—this is the stuff that’s built to last in adult education.

1. Why do we train? The short answer is because there is a need. You can actually measure that need: it’s the gap between an employee’s current level of skill, knowledge and attitude, and the level you require. There are many ways to measure need; you can observe the employee at work, require basic competency testing, or ask for feedback from customers and co-workers. Even the consciously incompetent employee might tune in and notice a deficiency in his own performance.

2. Who’s trained? I often advise managers to diagnose the needs of their employees in two areas: willingness and capability (attitude and knowledge/ skills). Training is not a one size fits all scenario. Training is just one type of “performance intervention,” a means of interfering with a condition or process to either a) prevent harm or b) improve functioning. Consider this matrix of willingness and capability:


CAN If they can and If they can but
will do the job, won’t do the job, do
what do they need? they need training?

CAN'T If they will do the What do you do if
job, but can’t, they wouldn’t do the
what do they need? job, even if they could?

If we apply training to someone who can do the job but won’t, what effect will the training have? The best way to predict a successful outcome of training is to correctly diagnose the need for it.

What are your other options? Other types of performance intervention include discipline, recognition, coaching, mentoring, counseling and even recruiting/hiring. It should be easy enough to figure out where each of these enters into the matrix above.

3. When do we train? At the risk of sounding repetitive: when employees need it. The best time to train someone on a skill or knowledge is when they require the information and will actively engage or employ it. It’s rather amazing to see a learner acquire just the right information, just in time to put it to use.

4. What do we train? Are you picking up on the theme yet? Train employees on content that is based upon the needs you discovered by evaluating each individual/group. The content should be logically prioritized by productivity and guest contact outcomes, linked to related prior and future tasks/concepts, and grounded in opportunities for demonstrated mastery.

5. How do we train? Since you’ve made it this far, chances are you still believe there’s something new in training. Since I’ve already tried debunking the notion of cutting edge training in paragraph one, I’ll take this opportunity to make some confessions.

• Yes, training does often look different these days.

• I am aware that PowerPoint isn’t the newest game in town.

• The older I get, the less serious the frontline will take me unless I succumb to tweeting my training or skiing their asses into next week before class.

• I had to do research to be able to define the ambiguous term of e-learning, and only know what a wiki is because my daughter’s kindergarten teacher uses one.

E-learning is a new training option. It’s done over an online platform incorporating traditional media, such as instructors, texts, video, audio and discussion. Most e-learning venues are a combination of these delivery methods:

• instructor-led group webinar

• self-guided webinar

• self-study with subject matter expert and cohort communication. This can be a) synchronous (chat, videoconferencing, teleconferencing, social networks), or b) asynchronous (e-mail, intranets, threaded discussion, blogs, forums, wikis)

• streamed video/audio/PowerPoint

• blended learning, a combination of online and face-to-face.

It used to be that trainers were significantly limited by their access to technology, its affordability and the savvy of the end user. Take, for instance, a new employee orientation video, the crown jewel for introducing your incoming staff to the resort, the bosses, the base area(s), the company culture etc... Back in the day, this was a huge project you would do no more than every other year (if you had a big budget or big turnover at the top). It was time consuming, costly and always done with a professional crew that marketing recommended. With the technology available to me today in this YouTube world, I giggle wildly thinking about what I could get those resort executives to do on film for the new and returning employees to enjoy!

Ultimately there are many options at our disposal, and many free or low-cost hosts available. Your best option becomes a function of time, company culture, technical resources and skills, employee needs and content (skills and knowledge). As a trainer and a human I have pretty hardboiled opinions on the value and efficacy of learning in person versus online, but that’s another story. You can deliver training according to your personal preference and style, as long as the following non-negotiables remain true: fundamental human needs are addressed in the process, and a defined measurable behavioral change occurs as a direct result of the intervention.

The Non-Negotiables
1. Fundamental human needs. People need to feel heard, to feel acknowledged, to feel respected and to feel competent. These aren’t training needs; they’re emotional needs that transcend everything. Our challenge is, in that moment of interaction, to address those needs and leave them intact or even better than we found them. For learning to occur, these needs must be considered, addressed and nurtured. Every time.

2. Behavioral change. We’re back to the purpose of training. Training is an intervention designed to correct a gap or deficiency in performance by supplying a new, improved standardized behavior. The only way we know training works is that we measure a difference in performance (skills, knowledge and attitude). If, after training, you don’t look for and hold folks accountable for changed behavior, then, congratulations!—you’ve wasted your time and resources. It’s up to the trainer to ensure that the training worked.

As you know, training (or the lack of it) is a powerful part of organizational performance. Training endeavors to take imperfect human performance and expand it, enlighten it and in doing so dazzle the guest, increase visitation and revenue, and send our bottom lines soaring.

The Bottom Line
What makes training cutting edge? Not the package, not the delivery, and not the trainer. The essence of cutting-edge training is taking the necessary time, spending the necessary resources, and basing training on the needs of the learner. In fact, I hereby retract my earlier debunking of training as not being cutting edge. The mere act of training, really training, is still cutting edge.