Who Has Time For Boring Training?

Employee training in small businesses is horribly broken. It rarely happens, and, when it does, is usually ineffective because it is a) boring or b) too long (option c, both, is even more common). If you hear the word training and already have your eyes glazing over, you aren’t alone. Obviously my focus is on technology training, so what I see is usually software and systems training. Let’s just say there is usually no better sleep aid than those videos.

But does it have to be this way? Employee training, especially around technology, is increasingly not only a driver of business success but necessary to combat against ransomware and other digital threats. Your employees are your first line of defense, but too often they go into battle with cyber criminals armed with nothing. We’ve also noticed a skills gap where employees may know the very basics of the programs they work in every day, but with just a bit more knowledge they could massively reduce the time they spend on tasks. Employees are wasting hours, and your money, because they don’t know the most efficient way to work.

So training is necessary, even for small businesses where time is at a premium. But how do you get anyone motivated about training that is so boring? I’m not expecting Hollywood actors to conduct training or Michael Bay to direct a training film with a bunch of explosions for excitement, but the monotone and monotonous training that I see time and again isn’t going to keep anyone’s interest. Not when smartphones are just an arm’s length away. Well, I have some thoughts.

First, training needs to be geared around objectives. Overviews of things may be nice, but ultimately employees just want to get things done. Keep your training videos short and sweet with a focus on a clear task or two that an employee can complete at the conclusion of the training video. And for goodness sake, structure your training into a cohesive framework. Don’t just randomly scatter training around. Let’s say that you need to train on CRM (customer relationship management) software. What is the first thing I need to know? And what about the second? Module 1 can be entering my existing companies and contacts (or, even better, importing them from a CSV file or something similar). From there, show me how to add events in the system. And so forth. I don’t need an overview of all your system can do, except maybe as a review. As an employee, I need quick, focused videos that I can easily come back to when I need to review. And some cheat sheets for your software would also be nice.

Second, stop with the monotone. If you don’t have someone in your company who can conduct the video narration and change the inflection of their voice, then HIRE SOMEONE! Software training will never be sexy, but it doesn’t have to be so boring that I’m ready for the world to end if it meant I didn’t have to continue this training. You’re competing with a lot of things, even with mandatory training. Training someone on sorting emails in Outlook using rules may never be exciting, but it doesn’t have to be boring either.

So what else can we do to make training more engaging? How about breaking it up and allowing employees, as much as possible, to go at their own pace. One reason I love on demand video training is that an employee can pause, rewind, and rewatch the training when they need to. Different people learn at different paces, so it is helpful to accommodate this. All day training, even if it is sitting in front of a computer screen, isn’t fun for anyone. If your employees are having trouble understanding some of the concepts, piling on more for them to remember isn’t helpful. Returning to our CRM example, if I’m just getting started in the system, I don’t need to necessarily know anything about running reports and integrations right away. I’ll need that later, but not now. In fact, I’ll probably want to practice what I just learned, and then come back for more after I feel I’ve got some mastery. The drinking from a firehose approach for training is not useful.

One last tip that we have found to be very effective is to have your employees conduct a short training session at your staff meetings. Have them bring a tip they’ve learned that saves time or have them give an overview of how a new system will help everyone. This doesn’t have to be a long session, but having your employees conduct some of the training shares knowledge and makes it more credible with the rest of your team.

So what to do about boring training? I can’t make it all go away. But I do feel that too much technical training is dull, boring, and entirely too long. That’s why I’m focused on building out training videos for our clients that their employees won’t dread watching. Videos that use real world use cases and show employees how they are saving time and making their own lives easier. Videos that value an employees time, so they are brief and to the point. I can’t always make creating rules in Outlook fun, but at least I can show you why it’s a good thing, how easy it is to do, and make it quick to refer back to just that lesson rather than having to find the spot in an hour long training video.

For the next 12 months, our goal at Parkway Tech is to add 1 new training course a month. We’ve already launched our first one, Organizing Outlook, and made it available to our clients and their teams for no additional charge. Training doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t have to be something you never do because of lack of interest and time. Training your staff is essential for your long term success, and we want to make that much easier for you to do. I hope you’ll like what we develop!