The Bulletin recently interviewed Lorri Freifeld, the editor-in-chief of Training magazine. She writes on a variety of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. A writer/editor for the last 20 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. Freifeld’s position in the training industry allows her to keep abreast of the most current trends and research.
Bulletin: Why is training important?
Freifeld: Training touches every aspect of a person’s life. It starts in school, where you are trained to learn and to interact with others. As you move through life with your jobs, with each new skill that you need to learn, training is going to play a huge part in that. It can make the difference between success and failure in terms of your career. It all starts with training.
Bulletin: What are some of the training basics we tend to forget?
Freifeld: It all goes back to setting expectations. Once you know what you are trying to achieve, it comes down to figuring out how you can best train people to meet that expectation. The next step that most people forget is to measure it. Track performance, and make sure that you did see the desired results.
Also, training reinforcement is huge. I can’t tell you how many times it just ends after the training. No one revisits you and asks, “Do you remember these three really important points?” No one checks in a week later and asks, “Are you doing the job any better? These are some things you may want to keep in mind.”
Bulletin: What are some recent trends in training?
Freifeld: A lot of the trends in training revolve around delivery. With higher education, I’ve definitely seen trends that involve more roleplaying and case studies. We’re also seeing more in terms of what we call gamification—using various aspects of gameplay to engage people in training. Game elements include feedback, story telling, rewarding people. Another thing is the idea of cloud-based learning management systems, so companies don’t have to worry about purchasing software because it all resides in the cloud.
Bulletin: What training method has recent research supported as the most effective?
Freifeld: It depends on the material and types of learners. If you are doing customer service training or leadership development, we have found that a more blended approach works. Something that might have some prework on computer modules, and then a classroom component, some roleplaying, some networking opportunities.
Bulletin: What learning theories apply to training?
Freifeld: One approach is called mastery learning. It talks about really looking at how quickly learners learn and giving you the time to learn what is needed. For example, if you are in a 12-week training program and at the end you are not grasping all concepts, the company would allow you to continue training. But they are not going to send you through the same program again because that is not what you need. They will redesign the program or tweak it. I think we will see a little bit more of this.
Another thing that you do see is thinking-style assessments and personality assessments. The purpose of this is finding the best people for a role and finding the way that person thinks. You can learn how to work with people who think the same way that you do and with those who think opposite than you.
Bulletin: Who are the most difficult learners to train?
Freifeld: The ones who are difficult to train are the ones who don’t think they need training or the ones who feel they are too busy for training. In that case, you need to make the case for training. Explain that this is going to make you do your job better. You really have to sell them on that training.
Bulletin: How can you reach multiple learners within one group?
Freifeld:Let’s say you are doing a classroom lecture. I’m a big fan of making extra materials available. Give people a podcast or have materials they can read through an online module or wiki. Put them in touch with others who have gone through training or do the job to give more advice. If there is any opportunity to do a job shadow, it is going to help those who really need to do something to learn it. By offering different ways to gain the information, you will be able to reach different learners.
Bulletin: What are common challenges that professional trainers encounter?
Freifeld: Short attention spans. Particularly, for students who are attached to their smartphones, tablets, laptops. Having them go into the classroom and not look at that screen for even five minutes may be an impossible task.
Bulletin: Do you have any recommendations on engaging those with short attention spans?
Freifeld: As a trainer, you almost have to be a performer. You have to get their attention from the minute they walk through the door and hold it. You have to make it interactive. They don’t just want to sit there and listen. They want to answer questions. They want to answer polls. They want to brainstorm. They want to network. You have to remember that.
Bulletin: How can peer-to-peer training be effective?
Freifeld: Anybody who has been doing the job for a while has instant credibility. They are going to know the ins and outs. Those students coming in are going to think, “This person clearly knows what they are doing.”
We are big fans of using subject matter experts when it comes to training. The downfall of that is that sometimes subject matter experts are not the best trainers. I would certainly suggest that if you have students doing the training, you provide them some type of guidance in terms of presentation.
Bulletin: How should one’s manager be involved with training?
Freifeld: The manager needs to be involved before the training starts because you want the manager to tell the employee why the training is important. It shows that your manager understands that your time will be spent on this training and not doing your other tasks and that they are on board with that.
Once the training is finished, the manager needs to come back and ask, “What did you learn from that training? How is it going to help you do your job better?” Then two weeks later, the manager should check in again and ask, “What are you using from that training?”
If it is too much to touch base in person, maybe something you can do as part of an online training system is to have automated emails that ask these questions, or push information out that reminds them what they should keep in mind from that training.
Bulletin: Do you believe recognition within training is helpful?
Freifeld: Recognition seems to work. But it does not always guarantee that training is successful. That goes back to a point that I always make. If you go to training and get a gift card or get recognized in some manner, you remember that training. And you probably will tell everyone that the training was great. But if you go back to your desk and keep doing your job the same way you did before, the training didn’t achieve its purpose.
I think carefully thought-out recognition within training can certainly make it more engaging and help make some of the points stick. Think about the types of recognition you are going to do. Peer recognition is a great one to do. Most people like being recognized in front of their peers.
Bulletin: Training and professional development are often the first cut to budgets. How would you recommend arguing against this?
Freifeld: When someone goes through and slashes the budget, they don’t know what programs are available and what those programs and doing. You should come back and say, “Let me tell you what this professional development/training program does and the results.”
The key here is to be able to show how important it is. A lot of times, people will be amazed by the benefit. Or if the benefit is not enough, then you may have to consider how to deliver the program and achieve results in a less expensive way.