Do you want to make your training more scalable and effective, but don’t want to lose the "personal touch"? In-person or classroom training can be a great way to get together employees who are spread across different departments, job sites or offices. It gives trainers a prime opportunity to reinforce secondary messages, such as the corporate culture or the vision of leadership.
But keeping the “personal touch" can come with a hidden price. Often, employees feel this type of training takes too long, happens too frequently or doesn’t apply to them. And as the size of the group grows, it becomes easier for employees to tune it out and becomes harder to measure effectiveness at the individual level.
If you want to keep the personal side of training but are looking at ways to make it more effective, consider a "hybrid" (also called "blended") learning model that includes online elements. Hybrid training can be a great way to prevent “training fatigue.” With a little bit of strategy, and a three-step approach, you can easily increase the effectiveness of your training while keeping the high-value face-to-face training component.
Here's an easy three-step model to build hybrid training. We'll use the example of training for a new inventory tracking software (ITS) system to help you understand what this model might look like for you.
Step One: Use online training to establish a common foundation
Whether you're training for something new for your employees or giving a refresher so that they're clear about the right way to do something, first make sure everyone is on the same page. In-person training for this type of information can unfortunately tend to bore people so much that they tune it out.
With our ITS system, you want employees to demonstrate that they know how to use the basic features of the system, are comfortable with the overall setup of the system, and understand how to access the parts of the system most pertinent to their job. In a classroom, you're likely addressing a group with a broad range of software skills; this means you'll probably teach at the pace of the least tech-savvy employees. Others with more software skills may feel like the training is a waste of time.
But consider designing this “pre-training” as elearning. In this way, your employees can access it ahead of time, watch videos, view demonstrations, answer questions and even interact with the new software in a test environment days before the in-person class begins. Those who are less knowledgeable can proceed through the pre-training more slowly, while those who are knowledgeable can complete it more quickly. Be sure to add a knowledge check at the end of pre-training so that everyone has a common foundation of knowledge. Give firm deadlines and reminders, and follow through on them.
Step Two: Prioritize key elements for in-person training
After everyone has gained the common foundation, bring them together for your in-person class. In this step, offer training in key areas:
Parts of the system or concept that need more explanation or nuanced understanding
Things that should never be done, or it could cause the system to malfunction or report false data
Clarification on which employees or departments are responsible for the new system
Reinforcement of why this system or concept is important for everyone
Any team-building, reinforcement of culture or vision that needs to be addressed
For our ITS example, the in-person training might cover more difficult operations of the system, what would cause it to report incorrect inventory, which parts should be used by each department, why the new ITS is better than the old one, and how it will help the company meet its long-term goals.
Step Three: Reinforce your training with virtual follow-ups
One of the keys to success for any type of training is following up for reinforcement. For a hybrid model, this follow-up can be easily implemented virtually. As a trainer, you’ll want to prioritize the skills or concepts you want your employees to retain. Then, find different avenues to communicate the highest-priority material in small, frequent chunks. This could be something as simple as a daily text message that includes a key concept, or more technically robust like a game that rewards employees for recalling key information.
If you already have an online pre-training program, you could offer a final module, which employees must complete by a certain time after in-person training. With something like our ITS, the system could give a new tip each time someone logs on, or track how individuals are using it and offer suggestions for greater effectiveness.