We've all been to mandatory training sessions fighting to keep our eyes open. It doesn't have to be that way, says Vicki Halsey, a workplace learning expert and author of "Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences That Connect, Inspire and Engage."
Training workers is necessary and expensive. So make it worth every penny by using key tools to spark interest.
• Energize. When employees see workplace training simply as a way to make changes, they are less motivated to engage. Show them what they're going to do with the information, Halsey says. Tell them how the training will improve their results at work. "It turns on the brain's light switch and makes them say 'that's why it's important to me,'" she told IBD.
• Focus on method. Halsey urges speakers to zero in on how they communicate: "Look out for ocular lock: that spaced-out, glazed-over look people get when they're tuned out." Do you have enough visuals? Are you carving out large chunks of time for hands-on activities? When will the audience ask questions or interact in other ways? All of these are crucial to making your lessons compelling.
• Listen. Good trainers let learners do much of the talking, Halsey says. Use the 70/30 rule: Learners talk 70% of the time, leaving teachers with 30%. "They are letting you know they know," she said.
Focus outward, wrote Doni Tamblyn and Sharyn Weiss in "The Big Book of Humorous Training Games": "Be your learners' biggest fan. Make a point of mentioning a learner who had a useful question or comment at break. Do anything else you can think of to transfer ownership of the learning process to its rightful owners — your learners."
• Practice. View your training more as a workshop than a lecture. Hands-on learning makes lessons concrete. Let your learners apply the subject. If you're teaching them phone sales techniques, have them chat with co-workers. Halsey's 70/30 rule applies here too: 30% of the time teaching, 70% practicing.
• Be upbeat. "Many studies have shown that both cognitive and creative thinking improve dramatically when mental imagery and the related emotions are positive," Tamblyn and Weiss wrote.
Avoid using negative comments such as: This will eliminate problems. Instead, try: This will help.
"Most importantly, (have) a habitual stance of acceptance: 'Tell me more about your idea' instead of 'I'm not sure that will work,'" wrote Tamblyn and Weiss.
• Have fun. Enjoy your learners' and your humorous moments. You're not a comedian trying to score laughs. Your job is to create a stress-free environment where the best learning can occur.
Light-hearted trainers "are playful as opposed to judgmental," Tamblyn and Weiss wrote.
When you make a mistake, acknowledge it by saying something like: Hold the applause, there's more where that came from.
Laugh at the class members' humor, if it's appropriate, and share their witticisms with others in class, Tamblyn and Weiss note.
• Extend learning. It doesn't end when workers leave the classroom. Make sure they're putting their new knowledge into practice. One way to spark that approach is with email reminders, Halsey says.
Create a buddy system within a company. Halsey says she recently employed this strategy following a training session with workers at the Ikea furniture firm. The employees had completed a training session centered on improving emotional intelligence. Paired workers then committed to trying one of the exercises and reporting back to their buddies within two weeks.