U.S. manufacturing businesses are generally lean organizations as a matter of efficiency — they don’t pay for things that don’t contribute to profitability — but for this to work the individuals working in the organization must remain alert to changes, adept at decisionmaking, and focused on strategic goals. It also elevates the importance of “training” in manufacturing, because effective training not only keeps individuals alert, adept, and focused, but it ensures they remain informed about the steady wave of technological and regulatory changes that (along with profitability) guide organizational strategy.
But what is “effective training”? Imagine two professional trainers—let’s call them Joan and Jack. Both of them are energetic trainers who get their audiences laughing quickly. They will both do whatever it takes—using props or asking trainees to do silly things—to illustrate a concept or get their trainees excited and engaged. And when trainees leave at the end of the day, they feel energized and happy.
But there are significant differences between these two. A few weeks after training is over, the performance of the people who trained with Joan has improved notably; the performance of the people who trained with Jack has not. They quickly reverted to “business as usual.”
In other words, Jack’s training is edutainment. Joan’s is not, because it gets results, and that is true even though someone who peeked into either of their training rooms wouldn’t notice much difference.
The first step is to understand that although good training is often entertaining, it is not entertainment. In other words, training is supposed to achieve demonstrable results, not just make people laugh or enjoy themselves. The wrong kind of training can be called edutainment. It's entertaining, and it does well on the “smile sheet,” but doesn't actually have long impactful results.
Here are some steps that manufacturers can take to help ensure that trainers and training program reach that goal:
Think of training as a strong combination of education, engagement, and use. Training must educate by teaching skills, transferring knowledge, cultivating attitudes and hitting other specific targets. But training that is purely educational doesn’t get results. That is why training must present information in ways that are engaging, interactive and require the learner to think and use the information learned.
Apply the VAK Attack model to increase learning. VAK is an acronym describing the three ways that people learn, and your live training should make use of all three. Visual learning happens when people watch materials that can include videos, PowerPoints, charts and other visual elements. Auditory learning happens when people learn by listening to people who might be other trainees, compelling trainers, visitors and others. And Kinesthetic learning happens when people get out of their seats and move around as they take part in work simulations, games, and other meaningful exercises.
If you’re hiring an outside trainer, speak with other organizations where he or she has worked. When you do, ask for specifics about what the training accomplished. Did average sales orders increase by a certain percentage? Did customers report measurably higher levels of satisfaction when they were polled? Did thefts and losses decrease by a certain significant percentage when training was completed? Remember to look for hard data about results. Statements like “We loved Paul’s training!” might be nice, but they don’t tell you much about whether Paul’s training was worth the money it cost.