When junior trainers are about to start their day shadowing me in the corporate classroom, they will often ask, “What is required to deliver a good training day?”
My answer is to highlight the 3 S’s –
- State – The energy and focus in the room and what you wish to do with it.
- Style – What is the preferred learning style of the overall group and each individual? And,
- Structure – How are you going to set out the day to land your material, take the participants on a constructive learning journey in such a way that the lessons from your content are going to stick?
Let’s develop this and see what’s important…
**1. State – A 1,000 external factors affect the state of the room at the beginning of any facilitated session – weather, the economy, day of the week, company performance, the politics of the company – redundancies / rapid growth / merger or acquisition etc.
And, if you have a room full of introverted people or workers that do not see your topic as vital, interesting or even relevant, then you can assume that the room will feel cold and distant. So, what can you do about it?
The simplest method and one that has yet to fail is the solo – pair – group formation. It starts with you asking something simple such as, “Working on your own, remember back to your worst customer experience from last year. What were they like and what was difficult about them?” If they are an extremely withdrawn group you don’t even have to debrief the exercise with shout outs.
This will engage the participants whilst maintaining their sense of security as the work is private and kept in their heads.
Next phase, “In pairs, share your stories and compare them to see if there are any common themes.” Here you have overcome most of the reluctance to speak as everyone has generated some content that they can talk about. Facilitating a share or two in the debrief can start to get the crowd moving.
Then, the big one. Arranging the delegates into groups of 3 (for the quietest of groups) up to 5 or 7 people, ask them to discuss actions, brainstorm suggestions or analyse what is going on – either using one of their generated scenarios or a case that you have prepared that has some obvious treasures in and some hidden gems as well.
**2. Style – When it comes to how we take in information, process it, use it or remember it, people react differently. There are 4 main styles emerging from the research of Kolb, Honey and Mumford. The main types can be responded to in your training to make sure you catch everybody and create a successful day.
Activist – Doer – An inductive and practical person that learns as they do. They will be best engaged with a brainstorming, divergent exercise, solving a problem, discussing in a group, attempting a puzzle, or being given a competition or role-play to perform.
Reflector – Watcher – An observer, chewing over that has happened – Their favourite activities in the classroom include a self-analysis audit or questionnaire, taking on the official observer role in a game, being the feedback giver to others in a group, or, using the interview format.
Theorist – Thinker – Probably a deductive thinker. Theorists are best engaged when the facilitator provides a model, facts or statistics to crunch. They appreciate plenty of context and background information and then being given the chance to apply a newly learnt theory to a particular scenario.
Pragmatist – Feeler – The opposite of Theorists and Reflectors, these inductive thinkers like to get stuck in and do something, experiencing the world and coming up with theories as they go. For them a practical application such as a simulation will work well, or a case study that they find relevant. They appreciate the opportunity of getting down and dirty with a problem and figuring things out for themselves. Get them building a tower with multiple iterations and you will hit the spot.
An intake form sent our before the training can help you assess the largest style present in the group allowing you to adapt your material and exercises accordingly.
**3. Structure – Whilst the design of a classroom day will be tailored to the mission, the company and the group in the room, there are common elements that will help you get your group to a great learning outcome.
Introduction – Meeting the audience where they are NOW, promising a specific benefit to them as an outcome and, vitally, agreeing the rules of engagement for the day, especially with a more volatile or testing group.
Warm up – Something to get the brain going and for you, the facilitator, the chance to assess their styles in real time. How many activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists are showing up in the room?
Win – You do need to make an impact as “the teacher” fairly early on – Saying something profound, uncovering the cause of some strange behaviour within the group, or introducing a life changing model, shortcut or a new way of tackling an old problem.
Model – Framing your main input within a robust structure that the delegates can relate to, understand and remember.
Feedback – This is a confident move. After about an hour of class, ask the group, “What should I change? Do you want me to start something, stop something or do more of something?” Best to find out if you are missing the mark as a facilitator with plenty of day left.
When you do this and get some stinking feedback – not to worry. In the worst case, say thank you and take a 10-minute time out to restructure your approach and get back on side with the group before they mutiny.
Best case – they appreciate the chance to give input on their needs and will rate you more highly as a confident and flexible trainer.
Practical – Activity is the key for all types to connect the theory with their particular situation. I do favour gaining real company cases to work on here, wherever possible. Made up cases never ring totally true and will not gain 100% engagement from your cohort.
Investigation – Handing over control to the group is an important stage in any training. Letting them explore, self organise, access materials in the own way and even storm a little will make them feel they have had a deeper and more significant experience.
Reflection – The oldest teaching trick in the book is to ask (just after a break or lunch), “So, what have you learnt in the last session that you will apply in your day jobs?”
Application – An entertaining training day with no impact on work will be remembered as just being a shallow jolly and may prove harmful to your professional reputation. Transfer from the classroom to the shop floor is what is required. Flipping the classroom and asking the participants to come up with great behaviours that everybody agrees to and wishes to encourage and reinforce and a list of undesirable and destructive behaviours that are to be extinguished from the company’s workplace can be profound.
Summary – Telling them what you are going to tell them, telling them it and then telling them what you have just told them is sound advice (from the Army.)
Follow up – I like to get a conference call going to debrief the participants a couple of days or weeks after we training day. I ask 3 simple but important questions, “What do you remember?” “What did you learn, try out, and, it’s working?” And, “What did you learn, try out, and, it is NOT working?”
So, what have we talked about today?
To summarise, you will inherit a state when you walk in to the training room and it is your job to decide what to do to build their energy level and engagement dynamic to get the job of teaching done.
People have individual preference for experiencing activities, taking in knowledge and applying themselves to tasks. You will also find a predominant style in one department that will colour your choice of task and exercise selection.
Finally, Structure – these are the elements that must be included in your training day, if you wish to get good feedback, achieve a learning outcome and transfer the key behavioural change elements to the delegate’s workplace.
Good luck with your next training day.
Matthew Hill has 10,000 hours of training, coaching and speaking experience and has worked in 30 countries with some of the best corporations in the world. He has had the pleasure of working with more than 80 nationalities and for 3 Governments.