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Two generally accepted approaches to learning—passive and active—drive most training activity. Passive learning is reading, seeing, and hearing. Active learning is saying, writing, and doing. Studies show that retention rates are 20-40% higher in active learning. Unfortunately, the passive approach is taken all too often via streaming videos, death by PowerPoint, long-winded lectures, and e-learning. When the thunder and lightning ends, employees quickly revert to the old way of doing things because none of the training resonated.

Developing a training strategy that will facilitate learning and truly change how employees do their jobs on a daily basis is not an easy feat. By following a few simple steps that leverage active learning techniques, an organization can ensure that trainees are armed with everything they need to be successful.

1. Allay fears

Fear is the biggest driver of the “this won’t work!” mentality. It’s normal for trainees to feel concerned or confused. Change, no matter how little, can make life more difficult at first. Don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist or minimize trainee feelings. Instead, work together to understand and eliminate those feelings by gathering individuals or small groups to discuss specific ways day-to-day tasks will change. Link the change to tangible end goals with desirable outcomes. Lastly, provide support so trainees have a direct lifeline when they need it.

2. Read between the lines

Often, a trainee’s concern is not what is being directly stated. “This won’t work for me” could mean, “I have no clue as to what is going on,” or “I’m really afraid that my job is going to change for the worse.” Address these concerns immediately. Try to get the root of the issue and find answers. Even if the issue cannot be resolved completely, take the time to investigate and follow up. It will go a long way in calming anxiety and building trust.

3. Leverage subject matter experts

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are the people who know their areas of the organization inside and out. The SMEs know their purpose in the organization and how their jobs fit into the bigger picture. Find these people early—at least one for every function within the organization. Do what it takes to enable the SME to become a champion for change. SMEs will know their people and processes well and can help develop the best strategy for training. Because of their comprehensive knowledge, SMEs can also predict where disconnects or trouble may arise.

4. Get to hands-on training as fast as possible

Hands-on training can be done in groups or in a one-on-one setting. What works for one person might not work for everyone. Regardless of how it’s done, the faster trainees can practice real-life scenarios, the faster they will learn. Even if trainees don’t fully understand the changes that will be taking place, allow them access to the new way of doing things and give them time to understand the concepts while at the helm. Don’t rely on pre-made, step-by-step lists. Instead, devote more time to hands-on training where users can build their own lists in their own language.

5. Highlight the positive, but don’t gloss over the negative

There will be a number of differences in how work is performed in the future. For example, documents may be handled differently, or there may be more approvals (aka red tape) because there were no controls in the old process. Focus on the desirable end goals and the big picture, not on how perfect everything will be as a result of the change. Be realistic. Acknowledge that processes might take longer than before, but explain why.

6. Bridge the gap

Asking trainees, “How did this process work before?” can be extremely powerful. Understand how employees worked before and map out the new process in terms of the old, pointing out what has changed and how the new process handles each step. This will not only dispel fears, but also help trainees make individual connections to the process.

7. Teach employees how to problem solve

There’s no way that every scenario or situation can be covered in training. Instead, training should focus on critical elements and common scenarios. Trainees should be given time to fundamentally understand their new work. Arm trainees with all the back up they need through training materials and a lifeline. If trainees understand what they are doing, why they are doing it and where they can find more information, they will be better equipped to handle a problem if it arises.

Change is hard on an organization and its people. Pushing change down to employees without proper preparation will most likely lead to failure and disconnects. Trenegy helps companies address change head-on. We design training strategies that help employees move past their fears and become a part of the organization’s future.


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