July 18, 2012

5 Examples of Really Bad Training

A coworker of mine forwarded me this link and I couldn't help but post it to give tribute to its author. Thanks to Ralf Bakr for this article about unintentionally hilarious workplace safety videos.

From gratuitous violence, to horrible 3d graphics, to totally cheesy acting, these videos say it all!


Which one is your favorite? Post a comment below and let me know.

June 6, 2012

To Stay Competitive, You Must Revolutionize Your Training Program

You cannot train employees using VHS tapes, outdated manuals, and pieces of paper stuffed away in some file folder and continue to be successful in today’s ultra efficient and competitive markets. Everyone is aware that equipment advances, manufacturing enhancements, and the vast amount of science and information available today are moving companies forward at lightning speeds. With improvements in these areas, employees constantly need training to develop current skills, acquire new skills, and work safely. In addition, rollover is at an all-time high and new employee training is critical to get employees up to speed as fast as possible. If you don’t do something about the way you train your employees, you can be sure that your competition will beat you to it.

You Must Use Training Management Software
The next generation of training needs to be managed electronically, not in paper files. Data needs to be accessible for safety audits, employee qualification screening, and compliancy reports. You can’t be caught sifting through stacks of paper looking for information. You can’t waste time putting together packets and hand-grading paper-tests.

Your life without training management software:
  • You don't have time to search for completion records in file folders
  • You can’t see the training history of an employee from a different site if the files are sitting in a cabinet somewhere
  • You can’t determine which employees are qualified for that new job opening
  • You waste time scheduling and rescheduling classes and meetings based on all participants’ schedules
  • You may have multiple people unknowingly creating overlapping training materials

Your life with training management software:
  • You can setup Roles that automatically deliver the correct training to employees based on their job, department, or location
  • You can easily determine who is trained and who is not
  • You can view information from any PC
  • You spend less time scheduling because training can be delivered 24/7
  • Your records are stored automatically
  • You leverage instructor availability by capturing their expertise and knowledge and creating self-paced training courses
  • Your employees receive the same consistent message every time the training

What could you with the time you gain by using training software? How good would it make you look if you had this kind of software doing your work for you?

You Must Have Great Training
It is no longer enough to have out-dated power point presentations with cheesy clipart, bad photos, and clich̩ sayings. Effective training requires more than just reading through complicated user manuals or attending monthly safety meetings. Training today must include as much media as possible Рvideo, audio, 3d models, diagrams, and animations.

Most likely, you pay a mechanic to work on your car. Most likely, you pay a plumber to fix broken pipes. Most likely, you visit a doctor when you are sick or injured. But, most likely, you or people who work for you, are still spending hundreds of hours per year putting together documents and holding meetings or giving presentations that take time away from their primary jobs. And what happens after the presentation? Everyone walks away and gets back to work. Unless you video tape every meeting, the information disappears into thin air.

If you haven't heard, the next wave of workforce education is web-based training – training that can be delivered 24/7, taken at the users convenience, and used as a reference afterwards. In addition to availability, training must take advantage of new technology and new media. The advances in video equipment, high-quality cameras, 3d graphics programs, and editing software allow training companies to produce amazing training.

April 5, 2012

Are trainers doomed to be replaced by automated software?

With all the advances in technology and training management software, some trainers may be afraid that they may lose their job. The world still needs trainers, but their role is changing.

Gone are the days of printing and filing page after page of training records. No longer should trainers spend time compiling data from dozens of excel sheets into complex reports for management. Trainers should forget about keeping track of who checked out that VHS training tape.

Trainers now use software packages to ensure training requirements are being met, they contract 3rd party training companies to develop training, and they oversee the companies training program as a whole. Training Companies spend all day, every day, looking for better ways to create training so that your time and resources can be dedicated to the operations of your facility and the safety of your co-workers.

You can make a huge difference in your companies training program and be incredibly valuable by raising the bar. By using your knowledge of the company and what your company needs, you can put together a comprehensive training program that is efficient, cost-effective, and will give your company a competitive advantage going forward.

September 3, 2009

Send Me Examples of Really Bad Training

Over the last few weeks, we have taken some time to look at some of the other training producers in the "industrial safety" or "elearning" categories. We've gotten some demo accounts and gotten a chance to see the material that our "competitors" have created. So far, I'm just astounded at how bad it can be. I don't think it will do any good to name names, but I would like to share some examples of what we've seen to highlight how lousy training can be.

1980s Clipart
I know graphics don't make the presentation, but they certainly can break it. A lot of the industry uses cheesey clipart, but we saw a course that goes from child-like clipart, to photos, to 3-frame animated GIFs. How can you expect someone to remain concentrated and take the training seriously when it looks like a joke?

Multiple Learning Styles
Most of the courses we saw didn't even attempt to provide support for multiple learning styles. The biggest example is when the narration doesn't match text on screen. There were several instances where the text was completely different than the narration, which in my opinion, makes it hard to follow along and forces a viewer to either listen, or look, but not both.

The "Interactive" lie
"Interactive" is a term that seems to be thrown around very loosely. It seems like some authors consider a multiple choice question "interactive". And while, yes, it does require an interaction, clicking a radio button isn't going to create any lasting memories or enhanced involvement with the subject being taught.

Challenging Thoughts
One of the courses we looked at consisted entirely of multiple choice questions. Besides being boring, the questions did not prevent you from moving forward until you choose the correct answer. A couple of random guesses per page and you are through in no time. Where is the challenge to think? Where is the actual measurement of what was learned?

On a professional level, I'm disappointed that so many of our competitors frequently highlight the same lousy, badly-produced, outdated training.
On a personal level, I'm disappointed that consumers are purchasing this type of training, thereby reinforcing these producers.

Send me examples of really BAD training you've seen!
If you've noticed any of these things, or others that I haven't discussed, I'd love to see examples. Click on the "X comments" below, or send me an email at kdellavalle@capstonetechnology.com

August 18, 2009

Mobile and iPhone Learning? or Just iHype?

It sounds like elearning and training on mobile devices is gaining popularity every day. Is it really valuable? I can imaging certain circumstances where it would be nice to have portable training, but with the capability of today's graphics software, and the cost of large monitors and laptops so low, why restrict your learning to a device with a 2" screen?

Granted, my company has mobile training application... it is geared toward task-based training. It basically works by replacing a clipboard or other printed task list. You go out into the field and your supervisor verifies that you can perform certain actions or procedures. It can also take attendance for classroom training or meetings. Our device also has a barcode scanner which we use for a variety of things including equipment identification and maintenance routes. Those activities are then uploaded to an LMS and voila, electronic records for a bunch of things that used to be stored in a file cabinet somewhere.

Back to training though. I loosely consider our use of the device as "mobile training". I can't imaging watching safety training, such as confined space, MSHA Part 46, or paper machine operator training on a mobile screen. The training we produce uses 3D virtual environments and lots of animation to teach and describe the training material. I just can't imagine how an iPhone would be used effectively to deliver training. Why is the user not infront of a computer? or even a laptop? For less than $500, you can purchase a really nice laptop that can connect to any web-based LMS, it could even run an LMS. It could install a free desktop-based LMS (mini or personal LMS).

It just seems like there is no excuse for forcing learners to squint and strain to see micro-sized versions of real training. Am I wrong? I would love to hear from people who have great ideas on how a mobile device can be used for training. What problems are out there that an iPhone will really solve in the training world? Please comment or drop me an email and help me understand!

July 22, 2009

Will Libraries Be Around in Ten Years? Twenty? Fifty?

I read a really interesting blog post on replacing library books and text books with digital textbooks. The article made some really good points, and I’d like to re-spin them here, of course giving full credit to Thomas Curtis, the original author. Read the full article here.

Here is a summary of what I took away from his article:

Why pay up to $100 for an average textbook that could be missing really important events only a short time after printing?
Electronic versions are cheaper and can be updated with current events such as the Iraq war, the country’s first Afican American president, and the decoding of the human genome to name a few that have occured in the last six years.

When studying a textbook, how often do you read the entire thing versus manually searching for specific pieces of information?
Every wish you could use CTRL+F (the keyboard shorcut for 'Find') on a textbook and search for information? :)

What hours is your library open, and how many copies can they have of each book?
Digital textbooks could be available 24/7 and available to an unlimited number of people (possibly limited by licensing)

I really liked the ideas in the article and hope more people can think outside the box on the future of textbooks for our students. Similar questions can be asked to paper mills and industrial facilities:

  • How many copies of user manuals or safety books does your site have sitting in a room somewhere?

  • If someone needs access to it, can they get it?

  • Can they quickly find the specific information they need?

  • What if someone else has it checked out or sitting on their desk?

  • How up to date is it?

Has your site done anything outside-of-the-box to help make information accessible? Let us know!

June 22, 2009

IN-Sourcing Reality Check, Letter to Shareholders

After participating in a lengthy discussion on LinkedIn, Randy Kohltfarber wrote a clever and humorous letter from a ficticious CEO to his imaginary shareholders. The letter suggests that in-sourcing is not a solution for everything and that companies should really determine when it is best to hire companies for its needs that require specific and technical skills rather than relying on internal resources.

Download the letter here in PDF format or keep reading:

Dear Share Holders,

I recently spoke with a fellow on the phone who worked for an organization that developed training that seemed to be a good fit for one of our current corporate training initiatives. The level of experience, approach, methodology and price all seemed like a good fit for us, so I directed him to speak with our training director to further determine if leveraging his organization as a resource might make sense. When I followed up with our training director, I was surprised to find out the conversation lasted less than 3 minutes. When I inquired as to why this was, she explained to me that “we have very smart people and she was sure that we could develop as good a program internally.” She also explained that she was annoyed by the phone call and she is tired of sales people calling her, so she felt it was best to dismiss him right away. All at once, this “outside the box” thinking brought to me a moment of enlightenment.
Now, I know in the past we have based most of our business model on “good logical decisions”, however after speaking with our training director it became evident that we need to put emphasis on our own interests and avoid speaking with greedy sales people. So effective immediately, we will be changing how we do business.
  1. Since practically everyone has a car in the company, we will no longer be using our courier service to deliver packages. It seems we have good enough drivers with sound transportation so we see no reason to use this external service. Besides most of us really do enjoy a nice drive and an opportunity to get away from the stuffy office anyway.
  2. Most of you know Bob Smith in accounting, well it turns out he is a pretty handy carpenter, so instead of purchasing new office furniture, Bob is going to take measurements and customize each work station to suit employees needs. Bob thinks he can have this project done before his retirement in 2015. In the interim we are hoping some employees will cooperate by standing or sitting on the floor for the next couple of years. We really think this is a minor inconvenience, because when employees finally do receive the furniture – it will be “Just Perfect”. This approach will allow us to avoid speaking with sales people and Bob will be doing something he really enjoys “being creative”!
  3. Many of our employees have also been complaining about the variety of the snacks in the vending machines. We think it is time to have those removed! Instead we are going to have Betty Johnson from HR (who is an excellent cook ) setup a short order kitchen on the second floor. Each employee will be able to place custom orders and she will make them their favorite treat right on the spot. Once again, we will no longer have to deal with sales people making calls and asking us if we want to try a different vendor or product!

Now you may be asking yourself, “how is he going to pay for all of this?”. After all we are going to have to hire to backfill for Bob and Betty in accounting and HR. We will also need to bring on some temps to cover for each of us as we make our scheduled courier deliveries. Rest assured, I have already thought of this and I have the answer. I have told Jim Thurston, our sales director, that he is going to have to leave “no stone unturned”. We need our sales guys to double their efforts and call both new and existing customers to see if our products and services might be able to help them achieve their goals. Once they see our product, I am confident they will see it makes good logical sense.

We will continue to look for other areas where we can replace external vendors with home grown solutions. After all, we have many skilled, smart and capable people and by using their talents we may never have to deal with another greedy sales person ever again.

Best Regards,

If you would like to comment on this article, drop me an email or you can reach Randy Kohltfarber, Director of Product Development for Convergence Training, directly by email or phone at 360-834-0991 x216.

June 3, 2009

Get Your Training Produced -Internal or External Resources, Training Context

This is the second part of an article written by Roman Battan, a co-worker of mine at Convergence Training. If you would like to contact Roman directly, he can be emailed at: rbattan@capstonetechnology.com or give him a call at 360-834-0991 x241.


Internal Resources or External Resources?

Allocating resources for training is not an easy decision during tough economic times. Like everything else in business, it always comes down to money. By using internal employees to develop training, you spend money indirectly on wages and if you hire an outside firm or consultant there are direct contracting costs. These may both sound bad, but keep in mind that if you don’t spend money on training now, you’re going to lose money through poor product quality and downtime and be worse off in the long-run anyway.

Internal and external training resources both have their merits and drawbacks. For example, internal employees have an intimate knowledge of production processes, but usually lack the skills to develop an effective training program with adequate instructional design. They might be able to write a manual, teach a class, or design a PowerPoint, but the transfer of knowledge may be diminished or ineffective based on their inability to appeal to the diverse learning styles of other employees.

External training providers are usually located on the other end of the spectrum. They know how to design training in general, but may not have the intimate knowledge of your manufacturing processes. This is typically where we encounter the two different kinds of trainers providing Soft-skills and Hard-skills.

Hard-skills trainers who are specialized in your industry and have a proven track record are ideal candidates as an external training provider. They require little or no guidance from internal employees, they understand essential equipment and processes, and have working knowledge of proper instructional design. Trainers with these essential qualifications are more difficult to find than Soft-skills trainers that are willing to take a crack at building training. Don’t be fooled by these unqualified characters.

Training in Context

It is not surprising to find that most training vendors in the sea of providers have based their business models on teaching Soft-skills. Why? Because – in my humble opinion - Soft-skills are easy to teach, they don’t require an in-depth technical knowledge of a particular process, and they are usually based on common sense and theories wrapped in jargon. If by now you’re thinking that I don’t care for Soft-skills training, then you would be correct…mostly.

The decision to move forward with any training company or training consultant should be solely based on the context of your business need. If you have a poor management or leadership team, then Soft-skills might be the answer. If you have poor product quality then Hard-skills training for your production workers should be your focus.

All too often the rule of ‘training context’ seems to be ignored. Almost every new client that I encounter says the same thing, “Our current training provider relied on us to write the training. Then they charged us a boatload of money to turn it into a video or PowerPoint presentation.” When pressed, clients usually reveal that the trainer was a corporate preferred, soft-skills vendor that tried to develop training when they had no understanding of the subject matter. In other words, the wrong tool was used for the job.

Choosing a Training Provider

Choosing the wrong training vendor for the job is occurring at an increasing rate everyday as the workforce turns over and demand for ‘real’ training continues to grow. Companies are desperate for quality training programs yet continue to fall prey to bogus training providers. This is when it’s important to be patient and keep a few things in mind when selecting external training resources.

Just because you or your corporate office has a preferred vendor for training doesn’t mean that you should always use them. It’s important to scrutinize their technical know-how and demand that they are experts in your field of business. Always demand their qualifications and don’t be shy about evaluating some of their past work. Finally, be sure to shop around. There are plenty of competitive companies out there.

May 7, 2009

Soft Skills in Hard Times? NO WAY!

This is an article written by Roman Battan, a co-worker of mine at Convergence Training. If you would like to contact Roman directly, he can be emailed at: rbattan@capstonetechnology.com or give him a call at 360-834-0991 x241.


Over the past few months, I’ve read numerous articles about the importance of soft-skills training for leadership and interpersonal relationships. Not surprising, almost all of these so-called ‘articles’ have been written by soft-skills training companies and consultants bragging about how they trained office workers on listening, become better leaders, and blah blah blah… After a while, I began to realize that they’re all just a bunch of sales pitches disguised behind good feelings.

So…let’s get this part out of the way now then shall we?

Soft-skills = Emotional intelligence to handle interpersonal relationships
Hard-skills = Technical knowledge and ability to perform specific tasks

Here are some real questions to think about:
• What the heck happened to the emphasis on Hard-skills training?!
• What happened to training people to do a job?
• Who handles transferring technical knowledge from older employees to new employees as the national workforce continues to turn over?

Keep reading and I’ll tell you.

Out with the Old in with the New

In today’s economic downturn, manufacturing companies are hemorrhaging money and it is not because office employees aren’t motivating their teams well enough. The problem is that an increasing number of experienced machine operators are leaving the workforce and new employees don’t know how to make products and/or keep their machines running consistently. You can forget about Swine Flu because this is the real pandemic!!

Manufacturing firms are working vigorously to reduce their expenses in an effort to offset slumping sales revenues. Many are making major cost cutting efforts by offering older ‘baby boomer’ employees incentive packages and signing bonuses to retire early. On the surface, this approach seems like a logical step to reduce costs but this is usually where the baby goes out with the bathwater.

Precipitously shedding older employees and replacing them with new workers offers a temporary reprieve on the balance sheet, but almost always comes back to bite companies in the proverbial backside. Younger workers seem appealing because they are new and highly motivated, but they also have less experience which contributes directly to increased downtimes, poor or inconsistent product quality, and increased workplace injuries.

The short-term benefit of replacing aging employees with new or inexperienced employees typically turns into a zero or negative net gain if not managed properly. This is not to say that new employees are bad for business. However, it does indicate that a plan to transition new workers in and older workers out of the workforce plays an essential role in minimizing short-term losses and maximizing long-term gains. In fact, if new employees are well trained and given the right knowledge and skills they are likely to be more motivated and effective over time than retiring workers.

This is where the challenge shifts from reducing wage expenses to committing the right amount of internal or external resources to train your new workforce.

Soft-Skills vs. Hard-Skills

Soft-skills will not solve the problem of rapid knowledge loss and the lack of knowledge transfer to the incoming workforce. If you’re relying on interpersonal relationship skills to build, warehouse, and ship your products, then my friends, it’s time to do yourselves a favor and close the doors now. Aside from making your employees feel better about losing their jobs, you will only be prolonging the financial losses your company will incur.

The fact is your workforce needs technical knowledge and that can only be gained through hard-skills training. This means learning how to handle raw materials, operate machines, and convert various components into saleable goods. It seems pretty straight forward doesn’t it? Just grab Joe or Jane supervisor and have them throw together a quick classroom activity with a few PowerPoint presentations right? Wrong! Unfortunately it’s just not that easy.

Hard-skills are more involved than soft-skills training because they are based on real actions and real outcomes and less on theory and feelings. Training employees on a company’s specific process not only requires a true knowledge of the work at hand, but also good instructional design to be effective. Without those two critical components you may as well continue teaching employees Soft-skills to be friendly instead of Hard-skills to build your goods and services.

Next month, Roman will be discussing the decision on allocating internal vs. external resources to build training.

April 2, 2009

Basics of Education

One of the blogs I subscribe to is "Corporate Elearning Strategies and Development". Recently there was a thought-provoking article posted by Brent Schlenker and I wanted to post a link and make some further comments myself.

Here is a link to the article:
We don't NEEd more teachers. We need more people TEACHING!

I think the whole article is good and valuable, but the "Basics of Education" points got me thinking about the web-based training I produce, and how I may be able to add value to my projects by including other education-necessary components.

Anyway, here is my thoughts on how my projects fit into the required components:

  1. Defined Curriculum - Web-based training usually does a decent job of listing what is included. Personally, I always try to make sure we include an outline of the entire course and each course includes up-front learning objectives.

  2. Administrivia - Courses are all self-paced, and can include due dates and qualification periods, no problems here.

  3. Connect to Others - This one is tough for a SCORM course. Ideally, it would be nice to have a comments or discussion forum for others who have taken the course. How to accomplish that contained in the course.. thats another post. Potentially an LMS could supply that as well.

  4. Access to Experts - I think this is another feature that could be provided by an LMS, but maybe a course could have an end section that was moderated by experts that was continuously updated to include more knowledge. This could also come in the form of linked documents or contact information inside of the course.

  5. Access to Resources - The course is the main resource, but, as above, can also link to external information.

  6. Proven Competence - The quality of available test questions these days makes this a strong point of computer- and web-based training. With all sorts of questions, users must prove by passing a test that they understand the information that has been discussed.