Getting the Most from Training Sessions

Training is an integral part of my job as a rep. Over the years I have had the opportunity to train well over 1,000 people in the industry on cabinetry and on design software. I have trained in hotels from Four Seasons to Hampton Inns. I have trained in computer labs, tech centers, universities, dealer conference rooms, dealer showrooms, on the hood of my car and at a table in a TGI FRIDAY's. I thoroughly enjoy training but, more importantly, training is essential to the dealers and distributors.

You already know how essential training is to your company. You take advantage of seminars at industry shows. You send your people to regional industry training sessions, to product- and tool-specific trainings and to manufacturer-sponsored trainings. Plus, you regularly invite your reps to hold trainings in your showroom. You plan, you schedule, you travel and do all that is necessary to arrange the best possible trainings for you and your employees. However, one question that you may consider is are you getting the most out of these trainings?

Getting the most out of trainings involves more than just scheduling and showing up. They must be prepared for, effort has to be put forth during the training, and afterwards there needs to be reinforcement of the ideas that were covered.

Much can be done prior to a training session. Preparing for the training can give you focus heading into it, and allow you to learn more from it. When I hold training classes for people who are new to the subject matter, I recommend that they review the product on their own before attending.

Though I teach introductory training with the assumption that the participants are absolutely unfamiliar with the subject matter, they will learn more if they have taken the time to explore it first. By preparing, you will develop a base level of knowledge and a degree of comfort. The training will then reinforce what you have developed and more easily build upon it. You will have the opportunity to walk away from the training with a higher level of expertise than someone who has not prepared.

Benefits can also be derived from preparing for training on products that you already know. Prior to training, sit down and make a list of questions and objectives. If you have thoughts and questions from your previous experience; make sure that you organize them in your approach to the training. If you have your list, you'll be sure to have your questions answered and your objectives met.

During Training
You scheduled a training session, did your homework and got there on time. Now, how do you maximize your experience during the session? My recommendations are to have a good attitude, limit your distractions and ask questions.

Walk into the training with the right attitude. Want to be there and be willing to learn something new. If you don't want to be there and you're convinced that it is a waste of time, that's exactly what it will be for you. Be open and go into it thinking that there is something there that can help you and improve your business and be ready to take advantage of it.

Distractions also need to be limited during the training. Mute your cell phone when you're in a classroom setting. When I have a room full of people, nothing is more distracting than the William Tell Overture playing every two minutes or hearing "Chuck, are you there?" blurted out through a Nextel.

If you're being trained at your office, make sure that someone is covering for you. When you're taking phone calls, waiting on customers, scheduling deliveries and so on, you are not concentrating on the training.

Asking questions is imperative, as well. Give the instructor the opportunity to finish his or her thoughts and then follow up with questions.

When I hold training sessions, I encourage questions, but I also put boundaries on them. I inform everyone that when they have questions, give me the opportunity to finish my thought and I will respond to it then. If the question is on subject, I will answer it. Otherwise, I will request that it be written down so that it is not forgotten and we'll cover it later.

I have learned that if I take indiscriminate questions, it takes the class off course. When people bring a list of questions I advise them to keep the questions, handy and check them off as we cover them. I'm confident that I will cover the majority of them in the course of the training, but if I don't, we will systematically go through them at the end.

Your actions after the training are as important as the training itself. When I train on design software, I advise the students to spend all day in the class, but if they don't go back and use it right away, they will have wasted the day.

I also stress that they cannot remember everything from the training, so if they run into any difficulty, they should make a list of their stumbling blocks and ask customer service for help. Be willing to ask for help as you start to implement what you have learned.

One last suggestion: Consider attending training sessions more than once. I do this with my own products. Every time I have a chance to take a factory tour, I do. I learn something new each time, and that makes me a better rep for that line.
Any time my software company offers me training, I take the opportunity to at least sit in.

Though I may think that I know everything there is to know, there is always a new process or option that I discover while I'm there. I become a better rep every time I learn something new about my products, and you and your staff will be better each time you learn something new, too.

Are you getting the most out of your trainings? Do more than just schedule and attend them. Prepare for them in advance. Bring a good attitude while limiting your distractions, and don't forget to ask questions. Most importantly, use what you have learned from your rep and be willing to ask for help. Maximize your trainings.Getting the Most from Training Sessions


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This article originally appeared in Kitchen and Bath Design News 10/2003

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