Driving Towards Success: How to Create a Culture of Training

When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to drive a car. I begged my mom to let me steer our wood-paneled station wagon down Brewster Road. Not surprisingly, she only let me honk the horn.

As I got older, I was so excited when it was time to take “Driver’s Ed.” Finally, it was time to drive! However, I quickly realized that while Driver’s Ed is useful, I wasn’t going to learn how to drive a car by sitting in a classroom. It wasn’t until I was able to go out on the road and practice behind the wheel for hours that I noticed my skills take off. The repetition led to mastery and before I knew it, I didn’t have to think about all the steps needed for parallel parking. 

In the workplace, for employees to do their job efficiently, managers need to provide an essential level of training. Companies must create opportunities for employees to “drive the systems” and innately learn what the capabilities are and how to use them effectively. And while this seems like a big task and can be overwhelming, it is relatively easy if the training process is ingrained in the organization.

Here are four things organizations need to create a culture of training:

1. Establish a well-thought-out training plan

Driver’s education has a curriculum and so should your organization’s training plan. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Who needs the training? Is it one person in the department or multiple people across multiple departments?
  • What is the content? Is it a new or existing software that employees use daily or less frequently? Is it a business process or a sales training? Whatever the content is, it requires an agenda of training items to cover.
  • What type of documentation does the training need? Do you need to create long, detailed guide? In that guide, are step-by-step instructions needed with photos? Should you create a “cheat sheet” for the team to access when they need extra guidance?
  • With regards to documentation, who in the organization is responsible for that? Do they have the time to complete the documentation? Would it make sense to bring an external partner in to help them with this tedious part of the process?
  • Can the organization prepare the training yourselves or do you need external help? If so, where? As a consultant, I typically support the documentation process and present it back to the client. It’s okay to ask for help if you don’t have the time or the resources to do the heavy lifting.
  • How will your organization deliver the training? Conference room with a team lead? Will you hire a partner to help train employees one-on-one at their desks? Is a WebEx needed? Are there remote employees who need training?
  • Does the training provide your employees the tools they need to be successful? Or are you just scratching the tip of the iceberg and they’ll still need to hunt and peck for the right information? The idea behind training is to give employees the majority of what they need and you can avoid repeated questions. Teach a man to fish, as they say.

2. Get true buy-in from managers and leadership

From a culture standpoint, training is invaluable and an attitude shift needs to happen. Managers and leaders need to treat training like the high-priority it is and follow-up on progress. If managers and leaders treat training like a second-class citizen, it will become one.

I’ve seen employees “blow off” learning for a “more important” meeting countless times. Or, they put learning the new system on the backburner for so long that they are practically immobile when it comes to generating any reports.

Imagine parking a car once and being told by your parents “Don’t worry. You’ll never need to do it. Can you mow the lawn instead?” You must practice the skill to master it. If my parents didn’t support me and schedule time for me to learn, I’d still be riding my bike down Brewster Road.

3. Create 1:1 opportunities

Like Driver’s Ed, the most impactful training wasn’t in the classroom with 30 other teenagers. It was when I was in the car, driving, and an instructor was giving me pointers. It was when my parents would take me out and (despite their white-knuckle hold on the seat) let me drive around.

When it comes to thinking about how best to train your employees on a process or software, most employers feel obligated to create a formal training program. The reality is that training doesn’t need to be flashy or formal, it just needs to happen.

I repeat: Put your tuxedo away. Training doesn’t have to be formal – it just has to happen!

That’s usually what happens. I’ve seen many people nod their heads in a formal group setting only to find someone later and ask all their questions. The one-on-one is less formal, spontaneous even, and it allows people to feel comfortable. Moreover, it’s customized to the learner’s needs. The instructor and the employee can agree on where to spend the training time. These informal conversations and discoveries can lead to better training for others – and none of this could happen in a group setting.

4. Have clear objectives and checkpoints

What do employees absolutely need to learn in the new system? Create detailed objectives and checkpoints for them to complete.

For example, one client asked for all employees to know how to run a certain report. I spent the one-on-one time with each employee teaching how to generate the report. After we met, the company required the same report from them a few weeks later. This ensured that the training “stuck” and kept the training an active process. If someone slipped up or had additional questions, we met again. There was no judgment and the culture was clear: the company didn’t want processes to suffer and more importantly, leadership didn’t want their employees left to shoulder the burden.

By having employees share status reports on their training, they know the expectation is for them to complete it. Remember: People are busy and companies need to keep people accountable for training and the upkeep of documentation. There are even ways to be creative around training (gamification, certificates, prizes) and sometimes, by offering a little something extra to those who participate or carry out the training can encourage a true culture shift.

Companies that truly ingrain training into their culture can prevent additional issues down the road. When companies empower employees, they feel comfortable enough in the system and can identify new changes or “snags” in the process. As a result, they alert managers to ensure everyone receives an update on the new process. They are agile enough to shift and confident in their ability to learn, and don’t feel the burden of trying to figure it out on their own.

It’s just like a driving a car. When you first start to drive, you notice all the bells and whistles. The radio. The engine’s power. The moon roof.

And you need to know what all those lights mean. When the engine light goes on, you should act.

Don’t learn the hard way what happens when you neglect your system’s lights. Through training and documentation, most “snags” are easy to prevent. Empower your employees to use the system and learn what all those lights mean.

If you don’t, well, now you’re calling a tow truck!

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