In the world that we live in today, we are constantly reminded of how things advance. There is the progression in technology, food, fashion, education and some could argue that we can even throw jobs in that bunch, especially when you combine it with the advancement in technology. Although there have been many advancements around most traditional workplaces, there is still room for progression. The improvement that I am referring to has nothing to do with better computers, telephone systems, and other supplies that most people think of when it comes to upgrades at the workplace. The improvement that I am referring to is better training for employees.
I have always had trouble figuring things out right away. It has always taken me time to fully master the information that has been provided to me. Whether it be from my early childhood struggles in school to struggling for the first year at almost every job that I have had in my life. As a creative, I have had the pleasure (or the pain) of working a ton of jobs to make ends meet until my creative side provides me sufficient compensation. It has been easy for me to compare multiple corporations and how they treat their employees when it comes to their training model.
There are multiple types of training methods that companies can choose to use when it comes to new employees or even veteran employees who have to learn new things. Unfortunately, many of these companies fail to take a chance on any training method outside of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations or the old-fashioned job shadow training method. I would like to examine the effectiveness of these methods from an employee’s point of view. Lets’ dive into the PowerPoint side of things.
If you have participated in any type of class, training, conference, or convention within the past 25 years, then you have probably sat through several PowerPoint presentations. This is because PowerPoint was designed over 30 years ago to be used as a tool to quickly get information to a group through multiple slides, with an unwritten rule of no more than 40 characters per slide. If you are anything like me, more times than often you find yourself wondering if you learned enough from PowerPoint presentations, even though you feel like you should have.
Tor Refsland wrote in 5 Reasons Why PowerPoint Can Harm Your Learning that “few things are more misleading than when a PowerPoint presentation is oversimplifying and skipping essential points related to a topic. This can make the audience believe that the topic is far simpler than it is, creating a huge gap between the reality and the perception.”
The limitations of PowerPoint are that it was designed to only highlight what seems to be the important things, almost giving the idea that nothing else matters besides what’s on these slides. This is dangerous because many workplaces choose PowerPoint as their main tool to train new employees. When you train your employees to only focus on the major elements of the job that they are being trained for, then why should they be held accountable for the mistakes that they make later on down the line, especially when the mistake is related to small details. Unfortunately, companies are not looking at it like this. Companies are saying that PowerPoint presentations should provide you with more than enough detail to grasp how to perform on your job. Besides, you went to the PowerPoint presentation training, you sat through the slides as the trainer read each one word for word, you signed the paper which indicated that you understand, and then you received a copy of those slides to look back on if you ever get stuck. Congratulations, you are now trained and are considered a master of your domain!
Job shadowing (or work shadowing) is on-the-job learning, career development, and a leadership development program. It involves working with another employee who might have a different job in hand, has something to teach, or be able to help the person shadowing him or her to learn new aspects related to the job, organization, certain behaviors or, competencies. Organizations have been using this as an effective tool for learning. In my opinion, this is a far better method when it comes to training new employees. However, there are still a couple of flaws within this training system that I would like to point out.
The first major flaw of job shadowing is that the person who is being shadowed has already developed their system when it comes to working the job. Imagine starting your first day at a job and they let you know that you are going to shadow someone and to bring a notebook to take good notes. You go over to that person’s office and they immediately start rattling off details about what they do in a day, how much work they need to get done, and the steps that they take to get that work done. Most of the time, the trainers don’t even realize the pace at which they are providing this information to the new employees. It can be overwhelming to grasp all of those details from a person who can work this job in their sleep due to being employed with the company for years while you just started.
The other flaw is the complete opposite of the one that was previously mentioned. What if the trainer is not providing enough information? What if the employee that was selected to be shadowed has developed some pretty bad habits that have gone unnoticed over the years? Now you have a new employee that is in danger of learning the job incorrectly. This trainer could teach all of the shortcuts that they have picked up throughout the years. They may say things such as “you don’t need to do that” or “oh, don’t worry about doing this because nobody ever does it anyway”.
This is the danger in placing your new employee in the hands of somebody else. Unfortunately, this goes undiscovered repeatedly in the workplace. It is never the trainer’s fault because the company will side with who they are more familiar with and who they believe does good work. There is a high percentage of employers that are out of touch with the actual work that the company is responsible for producing. But hey, you were placed with someone to shadow and you signed off on the slip that says you understand how to do the job after a week. Congratulations, you are now trained and are considered a master of your domain!
Rethink the Process
Companies would have less turnover and run more efficiently if they took time to find out more about their new employees on a personal level. Find the most efficient way to help them understand the information, which will ultimately help them learn the job and help the business run more efficiently. I believe that if past employers would have talked to me within the first couple of weeks of my hiring to find out more about my learning style and the most efficient way for me to grasp information, I probably would have learned the job quicker. This would have ultimately helped me thrive in the position that I was in at the time. Overall, companies need to understand that everybody learns differently. Employers continue to box employees into the same category by providing the same training while expecting the same results. People are different, just because something has worked for the last 10 employees, it doesn’t mean that the same method will work for the 11th.
Corporations also need to rethink the process and the time frame in which new employees are being trained. It takes 10,000 hours to master anything, so why do companies insist that it takes only 40 to 160 hours on the job for employees to master whatever they were hired to do.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using PowerPoint or the job shadowing method, it just can’t be the only way that employees are taught. Some employees can learn from PowerPoint and job shadowing, but what about the employees that can’t? If they can’t learn from these 2 training methods, does that mean that they are bad employees? Of course not, they just may need to be able to express to their employer how they learn effectively.
Unfortunately, most employers won’t diversify their training methods and exercise interpersonal communication with their new employees. They will talk about how much money they invested in their “proven training system” and how there is no time to dedicate to learning each new employee personally. I believe that if companies put more time into understanding how the human mind works and how we all think differently, there would be less turnover, fewer unhappy employees, and fewer companies wondering why they had to fire yet another employee who seemed like a good fit, but just couldn’t grasp the training.