Category Archives: Training

Three Risks of Skimping on Training

From a Fool With a Tool is Still a Fool:

How many companies pony up the money for effective training? Very few, which explains why so many companies waste money on newfangled tools that never deliver their promised results.

I’ve seen this first hand, over, and over. Here are a couple of risks you take when you skimp on training.

1. No Training

Does this sound familiar?

Well, the software is supposed to be intuitive, so we don’t need training, we’ll figure it out.”

The problem is, if you put someone in front of a new tool, they’ll figure out how to do the same thing they were always doing, and nothing more. People love their habits. They like to go back to doing familiar things. I’m betting you didn’t invest all that money on new technology so that you could continue doing the same thing you were doing before, right? The new tool is supposed to change the way you are doing things, making your staff more efficient and productive, if not out right giving them the capability to do some great new work. How are they going to do that without someone leading them and challenging them to not only learn the tool, but learn a different workflow?

Imagine it everyone tried to use Twitter as a replacement for email and Instant Messaging? Boy, they’d be missing a lot.

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People Don’t Just Want Tools

Saw an article the other day that reminded me of something I rediscover with every training class.

“I teach my people on day one…’People don’t want drills, they want holes.’”

There’s something very profound in that statement. The reality that “most” people don’t buy tools, or technology, just because they want the technology. They buy it to help them accomplish something. Technology training, then, becomes much less about what the tool does and more about getting the hole you wanted in the first place.

It can be tempting in a training class to make sure you cover all of the options. If you’re teaching someone Word, for example, it can be tempting to go through each menu and talk about what each item on the menu does, and move on to the next menu and do the same, all while losing the point of why someone wants to use Word in the first place.

Frankly, a training class that simple went through the features of a tool, in order, would bore the heck out of me.

Don’t teach me everything the tool does, understand what I am trying to accomplish with it and show me how to do that! Take the time to be in my shoes, and understand my pain points, and then teach me how this new tool can be used to eliminate those pain points and get me to my end result.

When I’m doing a custom training class with a new customer, one of the first things I do is get in touch with them and ask about what they do now, and what they are trying to accomplish. With that information, I can create a class that fits with what they need, that teaches them to get where they are trying to go using that tool. Sure, I might run out of time and not explain every single feature, but that’s OK. It’s highly likely they aren’t at a point where they would use that feature anyway, and I leave them with plenty of documentation to help them understand anything that we didn’t specifically cover when the time comes that they want to start looking at some of those other options. The important thing, is that they know how to get where they are headed.

Now if they bought a tool and don’t know what they are trying to accomplish with it, that presents a whole lot of other problems, but that’s a post for another day. I’m sure some of you have seen projects like that, right? ;-)


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Is The Trainer Responsible for a Student Learning?

Ant Pugh asks an interesting question:

Do you feel responsible for your learners and their development?

He spends the better part of that post making the case that yes, teachers, trainers and other educators are, in fact, responsible for whether the students learn or not. I tend to agree with him, to a point.

Yes, if we aren’t making the material relevant and educational enough to truly help those who wish to learn, that is absolutely on us. If the online learning tools are too difficult to use, confusing, or unclear and people aren’t learning anything from them, then yeah, again, that’s on us.

But the student has to bring something to the table too. Continue reading


Convenience Always Trumps Security

Even when people are fully aware of the dangers of using unapproved cloud services and personal email accounts, people still use ‘em.

And it gets worse! They’re more likely to email work documents to their personal accounts, move documents via cloud apps that IT doesn’t know they have, and lose devices that would give whoever found them unrestricted access to company data. Basically, in every way that Softchoice measured, the youngest workers were the most likely to lose data or leave themselves open to hacking.


But – here’s the kicker — they’re also the most informed about the risks. Younger workers were also the most likely to say that their company has a clear policy on the downloading of cloud apps; that their IT departments have communicated about the risks of cloud apps; and that their workplace has a clear policy on how to protect information.

So the theory that if we simply educated and trained people to take security seriously the problem would be a long way towards solved, appears to be just flat out false. They know the risks, they know they aren’t supposed to do these things, but for the sake of easy access to work information, they do it anyway.

I honestly don’t know that we can train for security. Even when a company has been involved in litigation, and had to review employees personal devices for relevant information, those employees still turn around and do the same thing. Personally, that’s the reason I don’t mix my personal and business information, but I work remotely and have access to cloud based tools, if I didn’t, I might be tempted, and I say that as someone who lives and breaths e-discovery. If anyone should fear the mingling of personal and work data, it should be me, and I still wouldn’t do it.

No, the only real solution is providing convenient, yet secure, tools at the Enterprise level. Obviously, we’re not there yet.


Thoughts From Vacation – Some Customers Will Never be Happy

Another random thought I had on vacation back in November.
Watching our fellow cruise passengers on group excursions or at
meals was an interesting experience. Most, like us, were simply
excited to have some time away and saw the whole thing as a big
adventure, but there were a few who simply seemed to find something
to complain about at every turn. Some of the time it was something
that one of the crew could fix for them, but they typically only
complained to themselves instead of asking for help, or refused
offers to make it better, and sometimes they would complain to the
staff and expect them to fix things that were well beyond their

Sure it’d be
great if every time to you took a trip to photograph nature the
weather cooperated, but sometimes you have to make do, and
complaining about it won’t make the sun shine

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Thoughts from Vacation – Everyone is in Customer Service

As part of the on going series of things I took the time to notice while away from work and computers for a couple of weeks, I want to talk about cruise ships. Namely, I want to talk about the people who work on cruise ships, because no matter what your job title might be on a cruise ship, your number one priority is making sure your passengers have everything they need. That means that, even if you’re “just” doing laundry or stocking one of the bars, or any number of other behind the scenes types of duties, you should always be aware of what passengers are around you, and make sure you greet them in a friendly manner, and are responsive to any requests that they have.

I found this to be an interesting dynamic. Cruising in a highly competitive industry. I mean if you want to take a cruise in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, for example, there are a ton of options for you.  It’s not like only one cruise line can take you there, and it’s not like you don’t have a ton of different options for your itinerary. There’s a high probability that aside from schedule and ports, the deciding factor for which cruise line you choose is going to be which one you trust to give you a good experience. And, once you do have a good experience on one cruise line, you’re very likely to stick with them. So, there is a lot of pressure to make sure passengers are having a good experience, and the responsibility for that goes all the way through to every member of the crew.

I’m not sure that other industries quite understand that they are, as well, in the business of making sure their customers come away with a good experience. Far too often I’ve heard people who work behind the scenes in law firms, or technology companies, who really don’t have any idea who their customers are, or what kind of experience they are getting. That’s someone else’s responsibility. I’m here to fix the computers, deliver the mail, write the code, I’m not responsible for customer service.

Yet, you are. If you write code that doesn’t work the way a customer expects it to, you’ve just failed at providing customer service. If you are unorganized about getting the mail to the proper person who can get your mail and handle it correctly, or you’re lax in keeping technology running, thus preventing your attorney from responding to an email you are responsible for a lack of customer service.

Heck, if you just aren’t providing a friendly greeting to customers in the hallways or meeting rooms of your office, you’re missing out on the chance to improve their customer experience. Your organization exists to give your customers an experience that makes them want to pay you. If you don’t see providing customer service something that every single person is responsible for, someone else will be giving them a better experience very soon.


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The Art of Articulation

Assumptions. We all make them. We all stereotype certain people, and make assumptions about others every single day. We can’t help it. It truly is part of our DNA. Our brains are hard-wired to make assumptions about people in order to determine danger as quickly as possible and allow us time to protect ourselves.

As someone who both speaks for a living, and lives in the South, I have one particular area that interests me, and that is how different people speak, and the assumptions we make about them. Here in the South, of course, people tend to speak with a certain accent, one that is generally viewed around the rest of the country as being inarticulate, and a definite sign of a lack of education. Since I’m not a native of this area, and travel extensively for my job, I have managed to avoid picking up this accent for the most part, but occasionally it sneaks in. Usually it’s with a nice “ya’ll” when speaking to a classroom full of students. Of course, being born and growing up in NYC, I can also occasionally through out a New York accent too, but most of the time those 20+ years in Ohio leaves me with that generic Midwestern accent that works fairly well as I travel around.

The reason I bring this up, is that oftentimes the people who I hear end a sentence with a preposition, or speak with a real twang in their southern accent, really aren’t the dumb hillbillies that many others would judge them to be. In fact, some of them are actually more educated and smarter than I am, despite the fact that their speech can sometimes make me cringe. They are simply a product of their environment. Everyone around them speaks that way, so they’ve developed that habit as well. In fact, you could say that they are simply adapting their communication style to meet the needs of the listener, which is actually a very smart thing to do.

Of course, as much as we shouldn’t judge anyone, when you do some public speaking as part of your job, it doesn’t matter how smart you really are, it matters how smart you sound. You simply have to be well-spoken in the classic definition or your audience will tune you out. Those instinctual judgements will kick in and they will infer that you are uneducated and not very bright. If you’re in training, the second the class makes that judgement about you, you’ve lost them.

So, if you want a career doing training, you should probably leave the casual misuse of the English language at the door. Sure it might not seem very natural, but it’ll make you much more effective. I’ve long believed that the trainer doesn’t have to necessarily be the smartest person in the room, but everyone should think they are. Once they don’t, they stop listening.

Have you ever had a trainer who left you feeling like they weren’t very smart? How did you react? How about people who don’t always use the correct grammar, do you tune them out as well?

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The Struggle For Brevity

This recent NPR story on the brevity of the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln’s 272 Words, a Model of Brevity for Modern Times got me thinking a bit about training. I’ve often compared training to public speaking and the importance of having those skills, and this is definitely one of those skills.

As Pascal said well back in the 17th century ,” I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

It was true of letters then, it was true of speeches given in the 19th century and it is still very much true of public speaking now. It takes a lot of hard work to say something in fewer words. That’s why the truly best public speakers don’t go over their time. They know how much time they have, and they make sure what they have to say can fit into that time, and if it can’t, they keep working at it until it can. They break everything down to the core message and choose their words carefully to make sure they convey that message without wasting the time of the listener.

It’s not easy, but it can make the difference between an ok presentation, and a memorable one. The same is true of training. A class that takes all day to get around to teaching you what you need to know, is not as good as a class that can get straight to the point and focus in on exactly what you need to know to leave the class ready to dig in using the new tool you are learning about. Granted, training classes can be great and also take multiple days. Sometimes there really is that much to learn. But, even in those classes, it’s important to keep them moving, to break each subject area down to the core and identify exactly what needs to be said here, versus what is superfluous verbiage. I feel like the best trainers can say more, in much less time. Some times, all that extra time is there so we can talk, and keep talking, to make sure we talk about everything, not because you need to know everything, but because we don’t really know what is important, or were too lazy to stop and think about what really needs to be said.

So, the next time you’re sitting in training and the class seems to be dragging on forever, remember Pascal’s words. It’s possible that the training is taking longer because no one took the time to make it shorter.


Training or Multitasking?

Students, you have a problem. I see it frequently, and when in online classes, I can tell when it’s happening, and it almost always happens.

The problem is that you are trying to pay attention to your training, but you’re also trying to get work done. You are being sent to this training class because the people you work for have decided that this is very important stuff for you to learn, it’s just not so important that they are willing to let you focus on it.

Look, I get it. I’ve been in your shoes. When I went off somewhere to attend training, that meant there was no one in the office to cover the work I would normally be there to do. Especially when you are trying to get your whole team trained on new technology. If they are all at training, no one is back to handle the “emergencies” that come up in the office, and there are always “emergencies”. So, you wind up with one eye on training and one eye on your email or your office VPN connection. Of course, as every study out there will show you, no one can truly multitask. If you only have one eye on training, you are not getting the most benefit from your training. You will be only partly involved in the class. That is just a fact, no matter how good you think you are at multitasking. Even the best multitaskers will miss some.

Think of it this way, when you are fully involved in a training class you are doing more than watching the clicks. You should also be actively thinking about how the technology works, what you would be using those features to accomplish, how they fit into your current workflow, and where you might be able to make changes to your workflows. You can’t be focused on these thoughts if you are also answering emails or doing work while the class is going on.

For employers, I also get it. When the whole team is off somewhere and you need something done, it’s easy to simply reach out by email and ask them to help you out with something while they’re in class. Just understand that every time that you do that, a kitten dies. Ok, no. But every time you do that, you are taking their attention away from the training. You know, the training you spent so much money on. Seems like a waste to spend the budget on training and then undermine the training by distracting the folks who are supposed to be learning.

Have you ever gone to training only to wind up multitasking and getting less than the full experience?


Storytelling as Business Skill

According to this article, storytelling will be the number 1 business skill of the next five years. I don’t know that I’d make it the number 1 skill, but it’s definitely higher than most people think. When it comes to training, storytelling is a huge part of being successful.

The dirty little secret of training, especially in the technology sector, is that much of what we have to teach people is dry and boring. The mechanics of using technology, just isn’t that exciting. Think about the first time you used email for example. The mechanics of clicking “New Message”, finding the address to send it to, typing up your message, learning how to attach files to it, and finally sending it are boring. The exciting part of that technology was not in the how you construct an email, it was in what that technology allowed you to do that you couldn’t before, send an electronic letter to someone half the world away in a matter of seconds!

I often remind myself that as much as I am here to show my students how to use our technology, I’m also here to help them understand why they would use it. It’s one thing to talk about how to use a feature in our platform, it’s quite another to show them how to use it, and drive that knowledge home with a story about how they would put it to use in an everyday situation. I find myself drawing on the time I spent working in law firms frequently, looking back on cases I worked with, data I had to wrangle into a review tool for attorneys, searches we had to conduct, oddities we found, ways we dealt with ediscovery burdens and so on, and then looking at our current technology and thinking about how it would have applied in those cases, how it would have made things easier.

It’s those stories that get people thinking not about the dry technical details of what they are learning, but the possibilities for how they could use the technology. If I can get my students thinking in those terms, they are now engaged in learning how to accomplish those things, instead of only learning the boring details.

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