Thursday, October 9, 2008

Training the trainer: A lesson from the trail

Today, Michelle Sterling from The Break Room shares a lesson on on-the-job training (OJT) learned during a recent hike: “Very often the most effective learning takes place in the field.”

I encourage you to read the story as Sterling tells it, but here’s a rough summary:

Shortly into her hike, Sterling encounters two teenage boys on mountain bikes, one instructing the other on how to bike to the bottom of a 10-foot hill. The novice biker is worried, but his experienced friend tells him to not worry, do as he was instructed and is promised safety at the bottom of the hill.

Both bikers make it safely down the hill, exhilarated by their accomplishment. The experienced biker continues his instruction, giving the novice biker some constructive criticism on what he could do differently next time.

After watching the interaction between the bikers, Sterling thinks it’s about time to blaze a new trail in corporate training:

If this is what engaged learning looks like, perhaps we have been focusing our training efforts on the wrong audience. Could it be that if we really want to impact the corporate learner’s experience, we need to stop focusing so much time and energy on the end-user/learner, and start spending a little more time teaching the learners’ leaders how to deliver engaging OJT?

... perhaps by spending more of our time helping managers become better teachers, we could ultimately end up with a better ROI all the way around. If we recognize that impactful learning takes place in the field and on the job, and that not everyone is a natural teacher, shouldn’t we do everything we can to develop a management team with a skill set that supports effective OJT?

Especially during tough times, a well-trained employee is your best asset in business, but not every manager is a natural teacher. Many need help learning how to be a leader and an effective trainer.

Train the trainer -- employees will benefit more from training delivered by a confident manager they trust is qualified. By giving managers the tools they need to improve their own skill set and boost self-confidence, the entire team will come out on top.

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