8 Training Mistakes to Avoid

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Normally when we write about training here, we write about how to design, create, and deliver effective training.

You know-training that works.

Meaning, training that’s designed and delivered in a way that helps your employees learn. That helps them understand, remember, and later apply that training on the job. Training that builds real job skills and changes on-the-job behaviors. Training that makes your workers better at their jobs and more successful. Training that helps your business reach its business goals (which is why you’re providing training, right)?

But today we thought we’d have a little fun and turn our normal blog post on its head by listing some ways to create bad training. And so we’re offering you some tips of training mistakes to avoid.

We all have some ideas about this, no doubt. And so we ask you to please use the comments section below to give some “tips for bad training” or “bad training you’ve observed.”

How to Create Bad Training

Here are a few tried & true methods for creating bad training. They’re really not all that secret. In fact, you see some of these quite a lot.

Again, we encourage you to add your own by using the comments section below.

Have No Real Idea Why You’re Creating the Training

All training should ultimately support a business goal. That might be something like increasing production, efficiency, or profits. Or it might be something like reducing costs, wastes, or defects. Or maybe it’s compliance with a government regulation, or a reduction in safety incidents.

Whatever that business goal is, it’s a good idea to know the goal BEFORE you create your training materials. That way you can make sure the training supports your company’s efforts to make progress toward or reach that goal. And you’ll also want to know the key performance indicator(s), or KPIs, used to measure progress toward that goal.

Here’s some additional information you might want to read about this:

Here’s more about business goals, KPIs, and training.

Here’s how to perform a goal analysis.

Don’t Bother to Learn More about Your Employees/Learners

The best training is learner-centric. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s designed with the learner’s needs in mind. In particular, it’s designed to make it easier for the particular employees who will receive the training to learn from that training.

The best way to create learner-centric training is to take the time to learn about the employees BEFORE you create training. For example, what do they already know? Do they prefer e-learning or instructor-led training? How do they speak, communicate, and interrelate with other people? Do they prefer self-paced learning or do they do well in a larger training environment?

To illustrate the importance of this, let’s look at one example: are your employees complete novices to the topic you’re about to teach them or are they quite familiar with it? Research shows there are (at least) two significant differences between learners who are novices and learners who are experts or well-versed in the training topic. First, although both can process only a small number of new “information chunks” at any one time (as few as four), the chunks that experts can process are much bigger than the chunks novices can. And second, novice learners benefit much more from training with visuals than experts do.

Here’s more information about this:

Get some great universal tips for creating learner-centric training materials from one of our favorite learning books, Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen.

Learn more about “chunking” training material and the difference between novices and expert learners.

Read about adult learning principles and how to create training that applies them.

Get some information about how people learn.

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Don’t Study the Job Task the Worker Has to Learn

Much of the job training you’ll provide will be task-based (yes, this is true even if you’re training workers about “soft skills” and yes, for the moment we’ll side-step the interesting debate about knowledge-based v. task-based job training). By task-based training, we mean you’ll be training workers to perform the tasks they need to complete as part of their job roles. Maybe it’s to start a machine. Maybe it’s to generate a particular spreadsheet analyzing company financials. But it will be a task.
The most important thing to know about designing and creating task-based training is you’ll want to analyze that task first. During the analysis, you’ll break the task down into smaller steps and learn the best way to perform each step. And later you’ll use that information to create training materials that teach workers how to perform the task correctly.

Click to read more about performing a job task analysis.

Click to read more about Training Within Industry (the training program arguably “at the heart of lean manufacturing”), Job Instruction (the part of Training Within Industry directly related to teaching job tasks), and the Job Instruction Method for Teaching Job Tasks/Procedures.

Have  No Real Idea What the Training Should Include or How to Know if Employees Have Learned the Necessary Knowledge and/or Skills

It can be easy to jump into the training creation phase too quickly, before you really know what you’re doing. How do you know what should be in your training (and what shouldn’t be)? What do you really to teach the workers? What’s necessary information and what’s just a nice-to-know?

If you’re new to instructional design or training, you may not be familiar with learning objectives. But learning objectives are the answers to all the questions we just listed above–and to more questions too. Learning objectives are the things your employees absolutely, positively have to know and/or do after training is over. They’re the stuff you need to include in your training materials. They’re the things you’ll test or assess your workers on after training. In short, they’re the roadmap of your training material creation process.

Without learning objectives, you’re likely to create flabby, overstuffed, “spray-and-pray” style training. Or maybe leave critical stuff out. But you’re likely to create ineffective training either way.

Click to read more about learning objectives and a download a comprehensive free guide.

Click to read a more focused approach but very similar approach to “performance-based” learning objectives by Robert Mager.

Create a Passive, Tediously Boring Training Experience

What do you like more? Being an active participant in training or sitting back in your chair nodding off while someone lectures for an hour?

That was a rhetorical question. Because nearly everyone likes an active learning experience more than a passive one. And it’s even more true that people learn more from an active learning experience.

Active might mean doing instead of watching. It might mean being asked to answer questions or even lead the training. It might mean participating in group problem-solving exercises or case studies. It might mean completing scenario-based training in “real-world” simulations (such as having coworkers pose as potential customers for sales training) or in virtual exercises (such as e-learning courses that incorporate gamification or require the learner to solve a mystery or answer a problem).

But whatever it is, we learn more when we’re active and engaged. We learn less when we’re passive. Keep it in mind.

Click to read more about adult learning principles (active learning is one of them).

Click to read about the use of checklists in task-based, OJT training.

Ignore the Opportunity to “SHOW” and Be Content to Just “TELL”

A well-supported theory in learning & development holds that our brain has two “processing channels”: one for words (spoken or written) and one for visuals (pictures, videos, things we see in the “real world”, etc.).

That exquisitely boring lecturer mentioned in the section above is a teller. A person who takes advantage of only one of those two processing channels.

Don’t be a teller. Be a show and teller, like back in grade school. To do this, add visuals to your training material.

Please note: it’s not enough to just add any visual to your training material. Make sure it’s:

  • Related (seriously, we’ve seen lots of clip art in training PPTs that have NOTHING to do with the topic at hand)
  • Large enough
  • Not blurry
  • Not confusing
  • Not distracting

Remember, the goal of adding visuals to training is to explain and clarify.

Click to learn 25 graphic design tips for creating effective training visuals.

Click to learn about six different types of graphics to support different types of training information.

Click to see some engaging use of audio and visuals in job training e-learning courses.

Deliver. Report. Manage. Convergence Training EHS Course Library

Don’t Create Training That “Speaks To” Your Workers

Your workers have their own way of talking. They have a certain vocabulary and a certain tone. They have some shared experiences and knowledge.

Don’t go and mess everything up by creating training that uses a different language than they do.

Sure, we mean that literally. If your workers speak English fluently, train in English. But if you’ve got workers who speak Spanish, German, Thai, Russian, or another language more effectively, arrange training in those languages.

But we also mean this is a less literal sense. Don’t talk over your workers or don’t insult them by talking down. Just talk TO them, like you would at the water cooler or at a company BBQ.

Click to read tips for writing training materials.

Click to see some examples of e-learning courses in multiple languages.

Never Figure Out if Your Employees Learned from the Training

Have a training session. Pass along a sign-in sheet. Have everyone present print their name and the date and then sign.

That’s no way to determine if employees have learned from training (note: we’re not opposed to the sign-in sheet, but we are opposed to using nothing but the sign-in sheet in all training).

In many or most cases, if it’s important enough to create and deliver training, it’s also important enough to create some form of test or assessment to see if your workers can satisfy your learning objectives. You remember those, right?

As you may have guessed, your tests/assessments should be based on those learning objectives. Your learning objectives are what you want people to know or be able to do when training is over. So your tests should be about that (and not about other stuff).

Click to read about creating tests and assessments for training.

Click to read about evaluating training at four levels.

Learn more about creating better “smile sheets.”

Your Training: What Makes Training Really Bad?

OK, now it’s your turn. Let us know about some bad training you’ve been in. Or let us know about some of the tough lessons you learned as a trainer. Just use the comments section below.

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Manufacturing Training from Scratch: A Guide

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

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