We welcome our new and existing subscribers to our Business Performance eNews. In this issue, we continue our theme on the four ways we can engage learners in our training programs. Last month, we looked at strategies for ensuring that the learning is relevant to training participants. In this third installment, Leslie Allan shares his top four techniques for building in effective learner practice into every program.
Just as team sports players need to know the rules of the game and how the game is being played out, employees want to know where the goal posts are. Our second feature article this month looks at ways you can effectively communicate your organization's goals in a way that will engage your players. Plus, we introduce you to our expert facilitator, Chris Bennett. Find out more about Chris in Meet Our Expert of the Month. We trust you enjoy this month's edition of eNews.
Engaging Learners through Practice
by Leslie Allan AIMM MAITD
Why Practice Is Important
Professional trainers work hard to engage learners and foster skill development. They do this using a variety of strategies and techniques. If you are a novice trainer or simply want to be more effective in your training, there are four key areas you need to focus on to get your program participants motivated and engaged in useful learning. These four areas are:
- Goal orientation
- Real work relevance
- Interpersonal interaction
In this article, I want to focus on the third of these training techniques; using practice sessions during the course of the training program. My discussion below applies equally no matter what form your training program takes. It applies to face-to-face classroom sessions and all forms of distance learning, such as online webinars and workshops.
It is now well-known that practicing a skill develops and strengthens neural pathways in the learner's brain. This strengthening aids memory and turns a previous slow conscious response into an expert automated response or a habit.
Importantly, practice sessions can also engage learners. These sessions can get participants more involved in the subject matter, sparking their interest as they experience new aspects of the skill. With the success that they achieve throughout the practice session, their self-confidence builds. More confidence leads to a greater desire to achieve even higher proficiency. For many, the act of practicing becomes a self-reinforcing loop.
Building in opportunities for practice also increases engagement by revealing to participants firsthand how the new skills can improve their work on the job. Furthermore, we are at heart social beings. We strive for a sense of belonging and thrive on personal and group interaction. Practice sessions allow much more scope for participants to interact at a human level with the trainer and the other course attendees.
Trainers must think strategically about when and where they will place practice sessions within their training programs. Think for a moment about the consequences of neglecting to include adequate opportunities for learners to practice. With endless theory sessions or stories from the trainer, or the turning of one electronic page after another during an e-learning program, not only will participants refuse to learn, they will lose all interest in learning.
Four Tips for Using Practice Sessions
The importance of skill practice is a given. But how do you go about building in effective skill practice sessions in a training program? Here are my top four techniques for using practice sessions to generate learner interest and a desire to excel.
- Intersperse theory with practice sessions. The variety of physical movement and mental activity helps to maintain participant interest. This is also an excellent method of chunking and pacing the subject matter. If you want to move participants from a simple base to more complex knowledge or skills, practice at the end of each chunk of theory builds participant confidence to want to move to the next level.
- Use a practice method that suits the skill being taught. Role-plays are excellent for building interpersonal skills, such as negotiation, conflict resolution, interviewing, performance feedback, and so on. Case studies allow for in-depth analysis and response to specific real-life scenarios requiring problem solving ability, consulting skills, and so on. Drills are appropriate for technical and artistic skills, such as soldering, assembly, playing a musical instrument, and so on. Varying the type of practice session will also help to maintain participant interest and develop a wider repertoire of skills.
Read all four techniques for
using practice sessions effectively.
Find more powerful strategies for engaging learners. Check out Leslie Allan's practical resource kit packed with ideas, tools and templates for implementing effective learning. Visit the From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance information portal to download the free introductory chapter and start using Leslie's comprehensive training guide and toolkit today.
Communicating Organizational Goals
by Leslie Allan AIMM MAITD
Setting clear organizational goals helps concentrate employee efforts on achieving those objectives. The key is to ensure that the goals are well-defined, relevant and unambiguous. For example, the fuzzy goal of "improving product quality" leaves employees with little idea of where to begin. What is "quality"? What quality attributes are more important, or are they all equally important? How much should quality be improved? Is a 30% improvement sufficient? What about 2%? Is it to be improved this year? Or this month? As you can see, a fuzzy goal such as this gives little guidance for the employee on what to do and where to start.
On the other hand, setting a target of reducing failure rates on Product A by the end of this year gives employees something that they can get their teeth into. The latter goal forces a focusing of effort onto failures of Product A this year. There is no diffusion of employee efforts through constant debating about meanings, priorities and proposed changes in direction. To assist you in defining clear goals, we recommend you using the SMART method of constructing objectives. A SMART objective is Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic and Time specified.
Once you have well-constructed goals, your next step is to communicate them effectively to all impacted employees in your organization. If the goals are set by higher levels of management, then to be successful in focusing employee attention, managers will need to communicate them through all of the organization's levels up to the front-line employee.
In working out what communication methods to use in reaching your employees, consider each of the following:
- shareholder, director and other company reports
- financial reports
- strategic plans
- operational plans
- company public web site
- company intranet
- department meetings
- team meetings
Continue reading how to communicate organizational goals.
Find out more about how to set goals, give effective feedback and motivate employees for top performance. Check out our easy to read e-book, 2 Way Feedback. This compact e-book is packed with strategies for building trust and creating a high performance culture in your workplace. Used successfully by business owners, team leaders and managers in organizations of all types and sizes. Find out more about 2 Way Feedback and download today!
Meet Our Expert of the Month – Chris Bennett
Have you met our team of expert consultants, coaches and trainers? This month we proudly feature Chris Bennett. Chris has over 25 years' experience as a trainer, facilitator, and speaker. He is passionate about helping individuals and groups achieve positive, transformational change in the areas of personal and professional development and wellbeing. He uses a strength focused approach with a unique combination of practical Tai Chi exercises and philosophy plus Appreciative Inquiry.
Chris has worked with many organizations across business, government, and non-profit sectors, including large corporations, state and local government departments, SMEs, schools and sporting clubs. He has a highly flexible approach and adapts his sessions, presentations, workshops and conference energizers so the best possible outcome can be achieved. Chris explains his approach, "People need to want to change before it can become truly transformational change. I see my role essentially as a facilitator of change. To help that process along, my sessions are interactive, fun, and practical".
Chris, with business partner Sue James, conduct their popular The Essence of Appreciative Inquiry workshops. And in his 'spare' time, Chris is writing a memoir. Contact us today to find out more about how Chris Bennett can help you.
Meet the other members of our expert team of professional consultants, trainers, facilitators and coaches. Whether you need help with your current issues or a future project, our experts are ready to assist you in a variety of specialized fields.
Stay Up to Date
Keep up with all of the latest news and commentary by regularly visiting our topical Business Performance blog.
Check out our recent blog posts and let us know your thoughts in the Comments section. And don't forget to click the Like button and be the first to Share with your friends and colleagues.
- How Do You Engage Learners?
Getting training participants engaged in the learning is critical to the success of any training program. We all want to do it well, but few trainers succeed.
- Case Study (Performance): Inventory Management
Follow how a manufacturing business set employee performance standards as part of its program to implement a new inventory management system and train employees in its use.
- Case Study (Roles): Working in Teams
This case study examines how you can clarify employee role expectations and task areas before implementing self-managed teams and teamwork training programs.
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