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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Either-Or Thinking May Limit Your Impact

a combination of delivery formats may be your best bet

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Training is, after all, a kind of faddish business. Marry training to technology, which is an even more faddish field, and you can see why you hear so much noise about dumping whatever you have been doing and embracing "more up-to-date" methods.

I'm not a big fan of either-or thinking, and that's what we're dealing with, most of the time, with any given training fashion. There's a tendency to see your favorite tool or approach as the answer to nearly every question.

I can remember a client at a fairly good-sized corporation telling me, one day, "We have decided to move all of our training on-line." Now, she was just telling me that because she wanted my help in adapting the content.

But she got more than my help. She got the question, "Is that really a good idea?"

Call me an old stick in the mud, but I just don't believe that every single thing a large corporation needs to teach its employees, in all their various functions, can be taught better on-line than in a classroom, or through other means. I'm sure this was a great idea for some subjects, courses, and situations. I'm just as sure this "one size fits all approach" did not work for everything and everyone.

Now, for that client, a more balanced approach might be adapting only the courses that are most suitable for on line delivery. But that solution, although better than putting all the eggs in one delivery basket, is still too "either-or" for me.

Yet this is the level at which so much training design still works. Early in development, the designer asks the question, "Should this be a live seminar, a video-conference event, a self-study activity, an on-line class, or something else?" And while the designer works through the list of pros and cons to make the decision about delivery, I already have my answer:


A lot of people in the training business have no trouble putting some courses into one medium, other courses into another, but they don't seem to be very comfortable mixing delivery methods within a given course. Let me give a simple example, perhaps some training for sales representatives on a particular product line. Assume the products within that line are going to take several contacts, with a prospect, before closing the sale.

Rather than a live seminar, or a completely on-line course delivered through a browser interface, we could try something like this:

  1. Participants read written material designed to give them an overview of the most appealing benefits of the products for particular markets. Material gives them the details they need to distinguish between products, answer common questions, and so on.
  2. An on-line quiz tests their mastery of the material. They have to pass the test to continue.
  3. A series of recorded commentaries or interviews with Subject Matter Experts -- clinicians, engineers, programmers, whoever is appropriate -- give participants insights into the hot buttons of the people most involved in the purchasing decision, along with typical objections.
  4. A half-day live seminar, led by successful sales staff, knowledge subject experts, sales managers, etc. requires participants to answer typical questions, handle objections, quickly identify appropriate products, and manage other "on the fly" situations. Immediate feedback and coaching, in real time, quickly build on strengths and correct deficiencies.
  5. An automated series of follow up e-mails simulates follow up questions from prospects. Participants are assessed on the speed and effectiveness of their responses.

Many other elements could be worked into this project, of course, but the main point is that this isn't a live course, or an on-line course, or a self-study packet. It is efficient training, with many elements automated. And it is effective training, getting the best out of available methods and resources for greater impact, more quickly, on how employees do their jobs,

Rid yourself of either-or thinking, and take that flexibility down to ever more modular levels, and your company (and clients) will reap the return on the effort you invest in a better, more balanced, design.

© 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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