8 Hacks for Tech Training

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every bit of training we receive were absolutely “dead on”, targeting the exact things we need help with most, and at the exact point in time when that help was needed? Those are worthy training goals, but often don’t materialize.

Here are some key points to help ensure your technical training is the best it can be. These are not just for those delivering training; these tips are intended to help those involved with obtaining and/or arranging training.

#1 — How we learn

We should not assume people learn like we do. Education generally recognizes 7 different styles of learning. Think of these as languages, some understood more readily (native tongues) than others. Each person will have more than one learning style, although one may be preferred.

Visual (Spatial)
Aural (Auditory-Musical)
Verbal (Linguistic)
Physical (Kinesthetic)
Logical (Mathematical)
Social (Interpersonal)
Solitary (Intrapersonal)

Consider where most of the trainees will fall. Male technicians for example are likely to fall into the Visual, Physical, and Logical style categories. However, it’s also important not to assume others’ learning preferences. When developing and delivering training it is critical to cover as many of the learning styles as possible. Switch it up; don’t stick to only one mode of delivery. This helps ensure as many recipients as possible will receive the learning in their “native tongue”.

#2 — The menu

It’s good to offer the “customer” of the training a menu of training topics from which to choose. However the responses (selections) on that menu must be carefully considered, and then incorporated such that the training ties back to specific tasks to be performed. Resist the temptation to include material based on someone’s opinion that student graduates should “know this” or “know that” unless the topic is specifically tied to a task the student must perform.

#3 — A full week

When the menu comes back with all boxes checked, well… that’s a big appetite! You may also hear, “How long will this training take”? That question is sometimes voiced from students’ managers or those who keep the training cookie jar. In the interest of ensuring training efficiency it’s not a bad question. However, with almost all training development, concessions become necessary. When you’ve got 20lb. of material to fit into a 5lb. week cuts will be required. It comes down to which topics deserve to be to cut. In order to decide what is and what is not appropriate, I suggest asking these questions.

A. How frequently must the task to be performed to solve the specific problem being experienced?
B. Does this teachable item fall into the category of “need to know” or “nice to know” material?
C. Could the student perform the task if he or she we’re forced (coerced) to?
D. What is the liability (risk) associated with performing the task incorrectly?

Let’s address these one by one, in their order above.

A . Frequency: Did you notice the word “task”. Ask if the topic up for consideration is actually tied to (required for) performing a task. Training development starts with a task list, not a list of what students should know to be considered “trained”. Example: if task A needs improvement, and if knowledge of items 5, 8, and 10 are necessary to perform task A, then items 1–4, 6, and 7 may be safely set aside (for now) during this point in the curriculum development process.

Assuming a task list has already been generated, ask how frequently each task is to be performed. Prioritize that list. At this point, only items with top priority status should be considered for inclusion. We might look at it this way, if a task is to be performed only rarely, it might be wiser to let more seasoned employees handle that task or to include it the next/advanced level of training.

B. Necessity: Today’s world expects efficiency. It is doubtful that room in the curriculum will be available for “nice to know” (fluff) material. If we don’t get the message during training development, end-of-course evaluations are certain to bring home this point when students (the customers) feel they didn’t get what was promised.

Could they do it without training if necessary?

C. Compulsion: Let’s assume there is a lack of training time and resources (somewhat typical). In this case it makes sense to eliminate training for tasks that could be performed if the student were forced to complete them (under duress). If given the time and resources (books, access to online material and mentors, etc.) the task could be performed, even if inefficiently, then perhaps this topic should be dropped from the training topic menu.

D. Risk (liability): As difficult as it may be, try to quantify in terms of currency the cost of not properly performing the task. Could people die (severe), or will this simply cause hassle and aggravation (less severe)? I’m not suggesting the training insure the insurance policy. However, if a lack of proper task completion will obviously cause major equipment or financial damage then that training information should rank high on the list of training menu items to include.

Provide students with learning tips

#4 — Provide learning tips

It is not wise to assume students possess good study habits. It is important to guide students in obtaining the most from the class. Provide tips to help them learn, to memorize, to recall material, etc. For example, physically writing with the hand has been proven to help a person recall what he or she has written. In this case, brain activity, motor skills, and hand-eye coordination are used together to reinforce what is being written.

#5 — Why

To quote Simon Sinek, “Start with Why”. Teaching why (not just how, not just steps) helps students buy-in to the deeper level concepts. Teaching “why” is as important as teaching “how”, maybe more so. For example, don’t teach procedural steps if those steps are clearly described elsewhere, they are readily accessible, and the students can already interpret those steps. Rather teach “why” so that they want to follow the steps because they realize how crucial it is to do so. “Why” provides motivation to learn and perform tasks.

#6 — Troubleshooting

Somewhere on every training menu is the word troubleshooting. Trouble is unavoidable, but it can be minimized. One goal of training is to teach concepts to encourage pro-activity, not re-activity (i.e. teach people how to avoid trouble, as much as possible, in the first place).

#7 — Review

The military knows that a message sent is not necessarily a message received. It must be confirmed. Repetitive review is necessary to ensure that the message sent was received as intended. The message received can be verified by requesting students restate or reproduce the material they were to have received. This can be done via homework, testing, verbal discussion, etc.

#8 — Image

Image is important. Those delivering training should look, act, and speak as they would have students look, act, and speak while performing their tasks. Professionalism must be modeled in the classroom. Display the image that you would have the students recreate. Professionalism also assumes keeping the verbal environment clean. Don’t let it degrade. In our recent State of Industry report (get your free copy here), one interviewee did a great job of explaining what professionalism means for service technicians.

It is the little improvements that make something already good into something great. Whether you are the recipient of training or helping to organize training for others, consider the tips in this article when selecting a trainer or company to work with. To learn more about the Instructor-led, On-Demand, and Bootcamp services we offer visit the SnackLearning website.

Founder/CEO at SnackLearning | Skills Gap Learning Solutions for Manufacturing and Oil and Gas | SnackLearning.tech