Training is a part of life. We submit ourselves to it for our paid jobs, for our volunteer roles, and as we seek to pick up new skill sets (birth classes, anyone?). But if we’re honest, the vast majority of training events feel like they were an afterthought at the hand of the organizer. Think back to the last training you sat in on at your job, your church, wherever. How many of these things were true?
- There was little to no communication prior to the training.
- The facilitator was late.
- The facilitator was unprepared.
- The room was messy.
- Supplies weren’t readily available.
- The training seemed to meander rather than follow a specific path.
- The material wasn’t actionable.
- There was no follow up after the training.
- The training was painfully boring.
In one of my favorite books on employee / volunteer onboarding, author Doug Lipp says “Training needs to instill a spirit, a feeling, an emotional connection.” In order for this to happen, your training can’t be a begrudging afterthought. It must be thought through, well-planned, and expertly-executed. Here are six things to think about as you put the “event” back in your next training event:
1. Get the purpose crystal-clear in your own mind. What is so important that you ask an employee to rearrange their schedule, ask a volunteer to give up a night with their family, or ask your team to set aside important projects in order to meet? How can you justify the man-hours that your training will take? What are the two or three things that you want people to walk away with? Many times, we love the idea of training, but we have no idea why we’re training. And if it’s unclear to us, that will be painfully clear to our people.
2. Decide on the “when,” “how,” and “how often.” Let’s just admit it: a lot of trainings we force people to attend probably aren’t necessary. Can we communicate it through email or via video? Is a mandatory monthly meeting ridiculous overkill, or can we accomplish the same thing by gathering twice per year? If we’re honest, most of our trainings happen not because we need them to, but because they’re on the calendar.
3. Over-communicate prior to the event. When the training is advertised, tell people what they will experience when they show up. When they sign up, be ready with an automatically-generated email to give them more details (arrival time, specific meeting room, what to bring, info on meals, snacks, childcare, etc.). And a day or two before the event, send a reminder with a few quick bullet points recapping all of the above. I’ve found that many of our volunteers ditch training not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know: they honestly forget about the things we’ve asked them to attend.
4. Excellence matters. Clean up your meeting space. Set out directional signage if the room / location may be unfamiliar. Recruit some greeters to help people find their way. Provide snacks or food (and make sure you display it neatly…don’t just rip the top off a Costco box of granola bars and call it a day). Turn on some music. Make sure your dry-erase markers work. If you provide handouts or slides, format them in an attractive way and check for splling erorrs.
5. Keep it fun. Pro tip: if you’re a boring person, people will be bored. (Might wanna write that down.) Training is not a time to “get through the material.” Keep the mood light and the atmosphere energized. Provide discussion opportunities. Don’t seek to cram in all of what you know, but allow time for interaction. Your team’s best learning opportunities won’t come through what you expertly teach, but what you lead them to discover.
6. Answer the “what’s next?” question. If you’re providing a information session for potential volunteers, let them know what their next step should be. If you’re introducing a new initiative for your team, outline the timeline. If you’re raising questions that aren’t easily resolved in the training, set a deadline for when those questions will be answered. In an attempt to rush on to the next event, don’t fail to give closure to your current event.
Want to know more? We host a One-Day Workshop on Volunteer Culture, where we talk about training, on-boarding, and more! Find out more.