The Best Kind of Job Training

Nothing says "I don't value my employees" like sending them to worthless training classes.

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Suzanne Lucas

What do you think is the best approach to training employees? Face-to-face, on the job training, or using a Learning Management System?

Yes.

Aren't I helpful? I love training. That's where my heart is. I also think it's undervalued. Bad training, however, is very bad, and worse than a waste of everyone's time. It damages morale in addition to being ineffective. Nothing says "I don't value my employees" like sending them to worthless training classes. (And let's not try to pretend that all training classes are worthwhile. They are not. It's like that saying, "There are no stupid questions." Of course, there are stupid questions. Lots of them. And people who ask stupid questions should stop doing it.)

[See how to get employees to fill out timesheets.]

So, what training method is best? It totally depends on audience, topic, time frame, costs, and the trainer. Generally, I am a good classroom learner. I like the interaction between teachers and students. I frequently learn things from my fellow classmates. For instance, right now I am taking a German class. There are six of us in the class, and the interaction with the other students is invaluable. I had the option of taking private tutoring, but knew that I would be more successful in a classroom setting. When one of my classmates makes an error and the teacher corrects her, I learn from her mistakes as well.

On the other hand, I learned to type using a computer program. This was in the 1980s, and on an Atari 64, so you know it was an awesome program. It involved words coming at you from four corners of the screen and you had to type them correctly before they blew up your space ship. This was a highly effective training tool for me. If I had been in a classroom setting, having a fellow student raise her hand and say, "I keep hitting 'R' when I mean to hit 'E,'" would not be helpful in the way that my colleagues' mistakes are in German class.

[See what to do when a dream job isn't.]

Two different topics. Both involve communication skills. The methods couldn't be more different. Yet, they were both effective. (At least I hope the German classes are effective. I need to be able to tell obnoxious children to sit down while on the bus. We haven't covered the "Phrases Crabby Ladies Say on the Bus" chapter yet.)

So, you can't just say, "Classroom training is the best!" and go for it. If your clients are located at five different sites and the material could be covered through a Learning Management System, that might be your best option, even if you know that they will learn the material more thoroughly in a classroom. The requirement to leave the office—and spend more time traveling than learning—can build resentment and inhibit the education.

You need to take the students into consideration. Not to over-generalize, but your laboratory scientists are a very different group than your marketing gurus. You shouldn't approach them in the same way. You should be thinking about the information they need and the best way to convey it.

Now, granted, sometimes you have to run an entire company through the same training. This is usually information that is not related to the employees' actual jobs, but fulfills some requirement from the legal department. (Sexual harassment training comes to mind. I have yet to find a single employee that attends such a training and says, "Wow! I had no idea what I was doing was illegal as well as immoral. I will stop now!") Your goal here is to design training that will convey information with the least amount of resentment. (Because no one says, "Yippee! Sexual harassment training today!") You won't want to customize it for each group. And this is fine, or course, because no one pays attention anyway.

[See whose side HR is on.]

The answer to which type of training is best must be determined on a case by case basis. Keep in mind that those of us who train may have very different learning styles than the people we are asked to train. Don't get caught in the "how would I best learn this?" trap, but think "how will my trainees best learn this?" And then, run from there. And note, this training came through written word.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.