CVPM, SHRM-CP, CSSBG
Claire Pickens is national senior director of operations for Thrive Affordable Vet Care, a former practice owner and a veterinary management professional. She is Fear Free certified.Read Articles Written by Claire Pickens
Training employees can be challenging. Differences in each person’s learning style can make your goal of reaching everyone feel a bit overwhelming.
So, what is the secret to a well-trained staff? How do you effectively deal with different learning styles and different personalities? The secret is how you engage people during the training process.
Let me introduce you to eight kibbles of secrets. When you put all the kibbles together, you’ll have a bowl full of staff training success.
1. Size Up Your Training Program
Staff training is not one size fits all, though we often take this approach. The error occurs when you train everybody as if they have the same role on the team. A football team’s quarterback and punter have different training programs. A veterinary hospital should do the same thing. The kennel assistant should be trained differently than the receptionist. While some topics should be covered universally during meetings, an effective training program targets a position’s specific needs.
2. Communicate to the Learner’s Style
Just as some dog breeds have a different capacity for learning, so do humans. We all learn and absorb information differently. Some of us are auditory learners, some are visual, some are hands-on and some prefer to read.
To effectively train people, you need to get to know the style of the learners. Ask them their history with training and what helps them absorb information the best. Get to understand the best approach so that they learn successfully and that time is used efficiently. As you develop your program, make the effort to have more than one learning style. Use a combination of auditory, visual and hands-on exercises so that if a learner does not know her preferred style, you will discover it and make use of it.
3. Get Comfortable With Discomfort
Growth is an uncomfortable process. Often during training, the receiver of information may appear uneasy or dislike the process. Don’t be too quick to be critical of your process. Leave room for the possibility that the program is challenging and is pushing the receiver to go outside his comfort zone to keep up with the content.
Sometimes when discomfort is noticed, the trainer internalizes the response and assumes the instructional style is bad. That is not necessarily right. When discomfort is noticed, an opportunity arises to open dialogue about the content, resources, delivery speed and learning style. This communication will allow you to determine whether the program needs to be adjusted or if the learner simply needs support to push through any discomfort.
4. Train the Trainer
Do not give all the answers to a learner during the training process. Allow him the opportunity to find information and tell you what he has found. If you want an independent thinker who proactively seeks solutions to problems, you need to initiate this type of behavior during the training process. Set up opportunities to give him a desired result and ask him to innovate the process. Having him verbalize the process will help him perform the task better and become a better trainer himself in the future.
5. Care About the Journey
Being dismissive of the growth process shows a lack of appreciation for what someone will have to do to succeed. An effective trainer cares about the learner’s journey. A trainer will share stories of her own training process so she can bond with the learner and build a training relationship. A dialogue is opened to address the stresses, fears, accomplishments and goals associated with the training. Taking the time to show the learner that you care about the journey builds trust that extends beyond a singular training experience.
6. Personality Matters
In addition to different learning styles, each of us has a different type of personality. It is important to become familiar with personality types so that you understand how to maximize your communication to each type.
For example, some people are data driven. They need to have all the nitty-gritty details and data before they formulate an opinion or act. Don’t be frustrated by the time this may add to the process. Instead, relish the opportunity to identify situations in which a person with this personality can benefit the practice.
Some people are the opposite and value the social aspect of training more than the technical aspects. This person will enjoy stories about your training experience. She will accept a mentorship program with ease, as she is naturally drawn to wanting to be very relational. Others naturally want to take the lead and be decision makers. To effectively reach this type of person, set up an opportunity for a trainee to lead part of the process.
If your communication style clashes with that of the person you are training, the solution can be as simple as making small adjustments to smooth out the differences.
7. Set Goals Together
The completion of tasks is vital in a hospital environment. The successful completion of training is just as important. Have the trainee review what he will be learning and have him summarize what he understands the training process to include. Then, work together to set training milestones.
For example, if you are teaching someone to run a fecal float by centrifugation, break the process down into at least four portions. Then give a timeline for how those four portions will be taught and when you will review the process to prove an understanding. Have the trainee track his progress and be accountable for coming to you to initiate the next step.
8. Take Ownership of Knowledge
A trainer must allow staff members to own the process and their accomplishments. Build a culture in which people can be proud of what they accomplish. Doing so helps them become excited to use their skills and teach the skills to someone else.
Instead of saying, “Look what I taught you,” flip the script to say, “Look at what you’ve learned.”
Though each kibble is small, together they fill a bowl full of staff training secrets that result in a positive experience. Which kibbles will you start with?