Retraining the basics: 5 things to remember

Every training manager, teacher, and coach knows the importance of retraining basic skills.  There are examples of it every day: the national soccer team practices dribbling, the elementary teacher reviews basic math skills they taught six months ago, and the training manager runs the customer service staff through phone etiquette every year.  But these “basic” skills can often be brushed over or even ignored by the students because they  feel the tasks are already known or a waste of time.

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To help combat those feelings, here are five things to remember when giving this type of training that will help students engage and ensure they’ve learned the material:

  1. Create an effective learning environment – this can be done in a classroom or even at the employee’s desk.  In a classroom: cut distractions of “work” such as incoming email on mobile devices, establish open communication through encouragement and modeling, don’t lecture, and give the material in doses so potentially boring topics digest in bites instead of long marathons.  At the employee’s desk you have the added challenge of ensuring the technology and presentation method are user-friendly.  The environment is more than just physical space – it’s emotional feel as well.  Sometimes, like with online learning, it’s almost entirely emotional.
  2. Adult learners want practical application, not theory.  Show how the training will apply to their daily lives.  Also, help them transfer the new learning to other areas where it applies in a practical way.  For example, the trainer could show how proper phone etiquette applies to meeting a new client in-person.
  3. Engage experienced employees as peer trainers.  Practical application is best conveyed through stories and experience.  Have a veteran salesperson in the room?  Enlist their help to teach a basic principle and have them show ways they actually use the skill.
  4. Assess, assess, assess.  Training without assessment is like a Ferrari without gasoline.  It may look pretty, but it won’t get you anywhere.  This does NOT mean you have to give a test!  It means you use different methods to make sure the students understand.  (Watch for a future post covering more on assessments.)
  5. Know the audience and modify the curriculum accordingly.  If everyone attending the phone etiquette training has been in their position for a long time, the curriculum can be heavier on shared experiences and stories about the material than long-winded soliloquies on the basics.  Cover the material, but do it in a way that is tailored to the experience of the students present.
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