July 02, 2019
6 Ways to Step Up Your Professional Training Game
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She’s doodling on her notes. He’s continuously clicking his pen. The one at the back is scrolling through her phone.
Sounds like a disengaged high school classroom? Unfortunately, these ‘bored students’ are your people while undergoing professional training.
Since training is essential to spotting and grooming future leaders, how do you actually inject some fun and engagement into your instructions?
We asked for top tips from the following professional development leaders and here’s what they have to share.
Setting objectives can actually help drive employees to strive harder to accomplish their goals. Amy Geffen, Director of Professional Development at the Council for Economic Education says, “Be specific about your topic and what you plan to cover in your agenda.”
This sentiment is also shared by Jairo Borja, Director of Business Development at Berkeley College. Borja reveals, “I try to be clear with the agenda” and “I ensure some type of theme or illustration in the beginning. I’ll have my presentation and then tie the type of theme in the end to drive my point home.”
Goals and objectives help to give employees a sense of purpose and achievement once they’ve been accomplished.
We get it. You’ve painstakingly planned your training sessions to a tee. You HAVE to carry out everything that’s been scheduled. However, bear in mind that the employees aren’t robots and that the average person’s attention span is about 20 minutes.
So how do you dodge the snooze?
Maureen McAndrew, Senior Director of Professional Development at NYU College of Dentistry suggests, “I chunk information and show short relevant video clips and tell stories at intervals to break up the lecture and illustrate whatever points I am trying to make.” These give time for participants to digest and process the material. Videos are also great for visual learners too!
A bit of banter doesn’t hurt either. Borja shares, “I try to start off with humor. Can be weather or something related to sports usually.” John Bacsik, Director of Professional Development at Partnership Schools agrees. “I like to keep things lively and joke with participants to keep the mood in the room upbeat, especially for longer presentations,” says Bacsik. Remember, it’s good to keep the mood light when needed to avoid overkill.
Classroom teachers have long known the benefits of active learning. Even for adult learners, research shows that engagement during learning stimulates critical thinking and gives meaning to learning experiences. Borja says, ”I try to make my presentations engaging. I get the audience to participate and really be a part of the presentation.” Examples of meaningful learning experiences according to Bacsik includes “some sort of activity that gets people moving, talking, and laughing” such as “analyzing examples of student work and engaging in conversations around student data.”
McAndrew even tries a technique called ‘Peer Pauses’ where she asks a question and has students think of answers alone and then turn to their peer to compare. This “helps folks get to know one another, too!” adds McAndrew.
It also doesn’t have to be all serious. Ari Stawis, Director of Professional Services & Development at Zimmet Healthcare Services Group, LLC says, “Thought provoking fun is something people really enjoy. People always want to feel engaged and accomplished but that can be done in a fun setting.”
To boost their areas of expertise, employees need to integrate what they have learned in real life. Geffen states, “The topic has to be practical and useful. Educators [or participants] want information and activities they can use immediately the next day.”
The ultimate goal most likely involves dollars and cents, but a leader with heart produces something far more intangible. As Debra Diana, Director of Experiential Learning and Professional Development at New York University puts it, “I have found that adding a component of mindfulness which supports participants to connect to their values as leaders sets them up to develop a platform for how they lead themselves, act in relationships and make meaningful contributions that support their team, organization and ultimately the world.”
In the words of Bill Gates - “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Feedback is one of the best form of communications. McAndrew uses ‘pre and post IF-AT (Immediate Feedback Assessment Techniques) scratch off cards’ where “five pre-test questions prime the audience to points to be covered and then five post-test questions. This technique keeps folks listening throughout. It also gives the audience a chance to see what info they have retained.”
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