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When You Really Need To Know

Angel Green

by , Instructional Strategist

An interesting thing happened at lunch one day this week. The hostess seated me next to a table where restaurant employees were participating in a training program on alcohol safety. Though, to be honest, “participating” is about the worst word to accurately describe what I was observing.

Propped up at one end of the table was a portable DVD player, playing what appeared to be a well produced video on the restaurant’s policy on alcohol. Certainly this is very important and (likely) legally required information that employees at a restaurant need to know. However, not a single person at that table even glanced at the DVD.

As I watched, the trainees at the table next to me chatted, laughed and stole French fries from one another as the video played on.

Obviously, this program was created with the intent of actually teaching the learner something. However, the problem is, this very expensive program did nothing more than keep those employees hostage until the box could be checked indicating training was complete. So, how will these team members actually learn what they need to know?

Shaker - Custom e-LearningMy theory is that an experienced team member will say, “Oh, you took that Alcohol Safety training? Well, let me tell you what you really need to know.”  This seasoned employee proceeds to share tips on spotting fake IDs and tells the story of Joe who was arrested for serving a minor using a fake ID, some questions to ask guests to determine if they are intoxicated and finally some enthralling stories about the police being called to regulate issues when patrons have had one-too-many.

So, as training developers and designers, how do we ensure that the programs we create do not simply hold the learners captive? How do we develop training that’s of the “what you really need to know” kind?

Think back to what the seasoned team member shared: how Joe was arrested for serving a minor and how to spot fake IDs, how the police needed to become involved when guests had one-too-many and some good questions to ask to ensure you aren’t serving intoxicated patrons. These stories and consequences made the learning meaningful to the new employee. The listener develops a sense of motivation because of the potential consequences from his or her own actions on the job.

What once was a set of arbitrary ideas and laws had now become real enough to alter behavior. And, isn’t that the holy grail of training – presenting information and facts in a way that it is worthy of altering behavior? When you create interactions that mimic these real world consequences, you offer your employees the opportunity to learn and to change their behavior.

Present your learners with an interaction in which they try to sell a new product without appropriately identifying the buyer’s needs. What happens? Will they get the sale and get that commission check? Not likely. Show a bartender a series of IDs and have them decide if they would choose to serve the patron.  What happens when a fake ID slips past? The learner gets “arrested” for serving a drink to a minor.

When designing your training, start by identifying the consequences – positive, negative, neutral – instead of identifying the topics that should be included. Then, create a risk free environment where learners have the chance to make a decision and experience the impact of that decision. In doing so, you will move light years closer to creating training that shows the learner “what they really need to know” – and they won’t feel as if they’ve been held captive; in fact they just might have a little fun!

You've Made Your Bed...
Designing e-Learning for Maximum Motivation

About Author

Angel Green
Angel Green

Angel Green is a senior instructional strategist for Allen Interactions’ Tampa studio, where she is responsible for providing consultation and instructional design expertise to clients, partnering to build engaging, interactive learning experiences. With nearly 15 years of experience, Angel has worked for organizations such as IBM, MetLife, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and holds both MS and BS degrees from Florida State University. An accomplished speaker, Angel has held positions as an adjunct instructor of public speaking and is past president of a Toastmasters International chapter. She also frequently blogs on Allen Interactions’ e-Learning Leadership Blog. Angel is the co-author of the Leaving ADDIE For SAM Field Guide. Find Angel on Google+.

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