Making training work for everyone

Sometimes Paula and I are called upon to help clients with specific needs for specific audiences, like sales training on a new product for a group of sales reps or a retail sales team. These groups generally find it easy to relate to each other and see the value of training in a session as they have similar goals and similar work functions. When we work with an organization that is training a diverse workforce it becomes much more evident that training material must speak to each worker no matter their role.

Say you’re responsible for ensuring every individual in a company that builds widgets has WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) training. People working with chemicals in the widget manufacturing facility will easily see why they need the training. A janitor may be able to make the connection to their role. But what about the office receptionist or the accountant? You must tap into the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor to engage these people in the learning – without having this motivation, they won’t value the training, which means they won’t absorb the information and the transfer back to the job will be low.

In the ideal world we'd all do one-on-one training so that each individual's motivational needs are addressed, but this usually isn't practical or feasible. Here are three ways you can help ensure you are motivating all employees in a training program:

  1. To address in a simple and fairly inexpensive way, use images in your learning material that represent all the different groups of employees you are training. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's amazing how many times it gets missed. Sometimes it's challenging to find the image you need with the right type of employee to support the concept, but remember that the value of seeing an employee that learners identify with far outweighs their concern over high-end photography. Don't be afraid to pick up that digital camera and grab some workplace models to pose for you!

  2. A step beyond making sure you're addressing all learners with your images is incorporating plenty of examples that speak from the perspective of different types of employees. Examples can be anything from general comments within the learning material to a scenario set up in a paragraph and followed by review questions to a programmed scenario in an e-learning course that takes the employee down a different path based on what answers they give in different situations.

  3. If your budget allows it, an effective way to address different learners in one course - whether in a face-to-face training guide, self-study manual or e-learning module - is to have employees work through one of three or four pathways through the content. Each pathway represents a different group of learners, like manufacturing employees, maintenance employees and administrative employees in the widget company example . The core content is the same for all, but the images, examples and review exercises are all customized for the different group so the learning really speaks to them.

What methods have you used to make your training work for a diverse audience?