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The Way I See It … Exploring Effective Training Methods


Training has often been perceived by participants as a convenient excuse to spend time away from work, but if training sessions are engaging and inspiring, even the most reluctant could gain from the experience. Liz Kemp, Senior Learning Consultant at Capita Learning & Development explores the training methods which can guarantee maximum participation from employees and ensure organisations’ resources are put to good use.

A recent survey undertaken by Capita Learning & Development revealed that 80 per cent of organisations planned on either maintaining or increasing their training budgets. This priority given to training is certainly to be commended but the resources invested could be wasted if the training itself is ineffective and fails to inspire.

The trainer’s intention should always be to make the training as effective and productive as possible for those organisations and employees who have invested in it. They should provide opportunities for involvement throughout the training design, and attention should be given to the whole training lifecycle in order to ensure maximum efficiency.

Trainers who also review and develop their own methods on a regular basis can ensure adaptability when it comes to answering the individual learning needs of participants.

Even before the training begins, the most successful trainers work with HR, management teams and employees to start orchestrating a positive state of mind in the participants.

This also allows trainers to tailor their methods around the participant’s specific needs, leading to a fulfilling learning experience which will be received into the emotional brain and then be more likely to be stored in the neo-cortex or ‘thinking brain’ for future use.

Setting a learning contract is advisable, and will help the trainer to tailor the session around the participant’s requirements and allow both trainer and participant to identify specific aims and objectives in order to remain focused throughout the training cycle.

Useful questions to ask at this stage should focus around how the participant feels about training, which method of learning they prefer, what behaviour they desire from others during the training to make it positive and enjoyable, what they can bring to the session, and what they expect from the trainer.

The aim of truly participative training delivery should be to provide opportunities for the employees to simply ‘say, see, hear and do’ throughout the sessions. This can increase the recall post training to 90 per cent and contribute towards enhanced performance and overall personal development. Research also shows that we learn more effectively when fully involved in the training process.

During the training itself, attention should be given to the training environment. An inviting training room should be created. Methods which may be used include relaxing background music, creating a less formal seating layout and decorating the room with motivational quotes or posters.

Icebreakers can also put the participants at ease and help them to feel positive about the session and to gel as a group. These icebreakers can take the form of short games or guessing games. This involves the use of cards containing clues, which can be solved by collecting specific pieces of information during the training. This should have the effect of relaxing the group and allowing them to feel comfortable about participating fully.

Although gelling as a group is an important aspect, a precedent needs to be set as some issues discussed in training sessions may be quite sensitive. It is important to remember that some participants may feel uncomfortable as part of a large group. Certain subjects on soft skills may draw out private information which isn’t suitable for group discussion.

In such a case, you may wish to agree a level of disclosure for plenary sessions and group work. This should guarantee a safe environment for every one and ensure that information suitable for one-to-one counselling sessions is not disclosed to a number of people the participant has just met.

Multi-sensory learning which uses visual, auditory and kinaesthetic methods should be used wherever possible to include the ‘say, see, hear and do’ principle. In this context, accelerated learning techniques can prove effective with many groups. Getting small teams or individuals to create a visual learning map of some of the materials and key learning points is advisable. This will help keep the group focused and reinforce the learning. Furthermore, using small groups or working with individuals is ideal for those participants less comfortable in a large group.

Splitting participants into pairs or threes and asking them to explain different learning points to each other, along with problem swapping between groups whereby the other group solves and returns the problem, allows them to actively engage in discussions. Solving their problems will also create a sense of empowerment.

Smaller teams may also be used to present the key learning points to the rest of the group. To ensure maximum participation and maximum recall, presenting key points by creating a quiz, a story, or developing a rhyme or song can be very effective. The benefits can be heightened even further if participants are given a choice, allowing them to use different intelligences for example written or musical. Allowing them to participate in their chosen method will make them feel more comfortable.

Undoubtedly, one of the most daunting aspects of a training session is role play, however it is possible to introduce stress free role play. The trainer should suggest that the observers advise the role players on how to carry out the task, and then evaluate how effectively their advice is working. This will avoid putting the role players under too much pressure. The trainer can also offer to be the role player with the participants directing the role play themselves in order to draw out the learning. This is an extremely helpful method to use with particularly self-conscious groups.

Accelerated learning techniques such as these which use the senses can increase participation. This is key to effective learning and using simple activities and games can further add to this experience. For example, in a health and safety session, two sets of cards can be used. The first set are questions relating to the subject matter, the second set are the answers.

Learners are challenged to match them up appropriately. This can certainly stop a long instructional session and is even better if done on a large floor space with learners standing and shuffling the cards. However, it is important to ensure that they aren’t sitting for long periods as this slows the blood flow and reduces the amount of oxygen in the brain, which won’t help make the session memorable.

When presenting information, it can take as little as eight minutes before the attention span of the participants begins to wane. Therefore, another tip to keep the level of participation high is to present small groups with key review questions after a learning activity in order to draw out the review learning, and then ask them to present back to the whole group. This avoids a situation where the trainer leads from the front for too long and gives the participants a sense of empowerment over their own development.

As well as using effective methods during the training itself, in order to complete the training lifecycle, the trainer needs to strengthen learning transference to the workplace. In recent years there have been many studies which have showed that the more participative and enjoyable the learning, the more likely this is to be remembered for longer. The lack of recall after a training event can be as little as 30 per cent after a month for soft skills, and for technical skills it can be even lower than 10 per cent after a week if the training does not have sufficient participation by the employee.

Regular action planning sessions are a big plus when it comes to applying the learning to the workplace. Allowing time in the programme for this is much more empowering. Attentiveness and participation during the session is meaningless if the areas covered aren’t put into practice afterwards.

The trainer ultimately determines whether the training was successful. Reluctant organisations and apathetic participants will only be turned-off further if no effort is made on the trainer’s part to maintain and develop their training methods. Implementing most or all of the methods covered will allow participants to engage fully with the training offered, ensure participants learn something on their ‘day off work’ which they can apply on their return, and give organisations the guarantee that they are investing their resources wisely.


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