How many of us have sat in a training room for hours on end and have come out wondering just what it is we were supposed to learn and if we can get by without ever having to put it into practice?

Whilst I understand the arguments for group training we must ask the question do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

Whilst group training means that everyone in the room has been party to exactly the same information and the time taken to disseminate information to the employees is reduced and therefore the cost is less, there are downsides.

Unless you are one of the lucky people who learns best in a classroom environment where quite often the simulations and examples mean little to your day to day working experience you may struggle to retain the information required to pick up this new element of your job.  This is particularly an issue with things like CRM, where everyone does it differently and so classroom training is “too one size fits all”.

Four years ago I embarked on my first real trainer experience when my previous firm rolled out InterAction. I spent some time shadowing the external trainer that had been hired, but then it was up to me. We used a classroom set up to go over the finer points with laptops for people to follow along. After the initial roll out it became obvious to me that only a small amount of users had picked up the basics and so I embarked on another round of training. This was also classroom based. Even after this second round there were still a lot of users who weren’t using the system. Was it me? Was I just a rubbish trainer? Was it the system? Was it too complicated?

When Lexis Nexis launched IMO (InterAction for Microsoft Outlook) a year later I thought now was my chance. If this new tool, where InterAction was brought into Outlook and you rarely had to visit the Web Client, couldn’t get people engaged then it must be me! After the big fanfare and the classroom training was over I sat back and looked at the stats. Yes they were using it a bit more, but it still wasn’t where it should be. So it was me, I was a rubbish trainer!

Or maybe not…

When I joined Stanton Allen a year ago I was asked if I knew how IMO worked, I tentatively said yes, dreading what would come next. Could I train on it? Um, Yes OK… I went into the client on the first day and stood in front of a room full of secretaries and imparted my IMO knowledge. Later that day I visited the secretaries and answered questions and most of them seemed to get it. The firm I was working at had asked if I could train the Partners on a one to one basis and I agreed, reasoning that this would give them more opportunity to ask questions that were relevant to them. Not having done much desk side training I was a little cautious at first. However, after my first couple of sessions the lightbulb went on and I realised this is where I had been going wrong the whole time. In a classroom you can’t personalise your training, you can’t make it relevant to someone’s day to day life.

I found the more relevant and personalised I made the sessions the more people were starting to pick up the system and appreciate what it could do.

In October last year I began training at Wedlake Bell. They had rolled out the system earlier in the year but a lot of the users where calling out for more training, having advanced quite quickly beyond the basics.   Karen Mosley, Head of Marketing & Business Development at the firm, supported by the Managing Partner, Martin Arnold, was determined to embed the use of the system in everyone’s day to day responsibility.

So we decided on a short and sharp approach where we would train one-to-one in half an hour snippets. This was on a voluntary basis and after the first few weeks we were inundated with requests for more and more training. Having worked on InterAction for 12 years, including one roll out and three re-launches I can categorically say Wedlake Bell are some of the best users of InterAction that I have come across and I think that in the first case comes down to Karen & Martin being behind the project 100% and secondly down to the personal approach taken with training.

When I do desk side training I look around at what people have on their desks, what do they like and dislike. If they like sport I highlight where they search for or add where their clients are interested in sport. If they have pictures of raucous nights out then I speak about capturing information about going out with clients and the benefits to the firm.

If they have a giant stack of business cards I show them how to find their contacts already in the system and get them to add one or two of the business cards in to show them how easy it is. There are always three or four areas I try and cover but I do it in a different order depending on the needs of the individual. I also find that in a one-to-one setting people are more willing to ask questions. There are no stupid questions, but when you get a group of people together most of them will clam up and not ask that thing which they think everyone will laugh at them for asking.

After 80 odd training session at Wedlake Bell almost everyone in the firm can add contacts, add activities, can monitor their Alerts and knows how to add contacts to a marketing list and search for who has accepted. Less than a year after go-live this is a triumph.

So will I be doing classroom training again? Probably. Will I recommend to clients to do one-to-one sessions instead? Definitely!

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