The easiest tweak you can make to your training and orientation programs…

stocking-up-on-classroom-candy
How many of you put out candy for training attendees? I know we do at the day job…in fact, the photo above is a shot of my cart on a recent stock-up trip at my local Sam’s Club. Even when the cost of doing business continues to soar, this is an expense that we have curbed, yet kept.

Why?

Because people like candy.

Before the workplace health and wellness fans start to worry, we also provide fresh fruit and some considerably less-exciting snacks like granola bars and trail mix.

Until I attended a recent conference, however, I didn’t give much thought to the bowl of candy that graces our training tables. Then, a tiny little tweak transformed a simple snack into a learning tool.

I promise you now, whether you are a long-time phase(two)learning follower or this is the first post you’ve read, this is worth the price of admission. Which, frankly, is free…so what a deal, amiright?

Check this out:

tech-tip-on-candy-wrapper

Whoa! Mind. Blown.

How simple is this? All that is needed is candy or snacks, a package of printable adhesive labels and some tips or ideas to share to your participants.

Granted, I’m sure I’m not the first person to “discover” this little nugget, but in over 20 years of teaching and facilitation, somehow it’s new to me. Regardless, it got me thinking….how else could we use this easy tip in training or Orientation programs? Here are 8 beyond-simple ideas:

  1. Provide the URL for your organization’s intranet, wiki, or other learning sites.
  2. Share the Twitter handles for influential, must-follow people in your organization or industry.
  3. Post can’t-miss dates – like when your benefit paperwork is due.
  4. Distribute your company’s IT Help Desk email or phone number.
  5. Share interesting trivia about your organization’s history. (Bonus: Have participants piece together the trivia into a timeline!)
  6. Introduce your company’s mission or purpose statement. 
  7. Solicit simple, one-sentence quotes from other employees – tips on how to be successful at your organization
  8. Share “Fact or Fiction” statements about your industry, organization, products/services, etc. Have participants stick (literally!) the wrappers under one of two columns on a flip chart (“fact” or “fiction”). As the candy is consumed throughout training, the columns will grow. On the last day of training, see how accurate everyone’s guesses are!

Honestly, I could probably come up with a dozen other ideas…there are so many creative possibilities for this one!

Your turn: Have you used this type of interactive element in your training sessions? What tips have you communicated? And most importantly, what is the must-have candy in YOUR candy bowl?

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10 Things You Learned in Kindergarten That Will Make You a Better Facilitator

10-things-you-learned-in-kindergarten-that-will-make-you-a-better-facilitator

Do you remember the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Recently, I came across a copy of Robert Fulghum’s inspirational collection of essays and remembered a high school teacher had a poster with excerpts from this book in her classroom. While I recall looking at the poster, and even reading the simplistic statements…I was a teenager, desperately trying to be seen as a young adult, so any suggestion that I should revert to things I learned as a 5-year old didn’t interest me at the time.

But now, looking back at this idyllic book with a grown-up pair of eyes and perspective, I see how much truth lies in its simplicity. It reminds me of how unnecessarily complicated we tend to make things. Yes, in life. But also in career.

I flipped through the book, first in a general sense, but again as a learning professional. How could we revolutionize our interactions with training participants, with organizational stakeholders, with clients or our own teams if we followed Fulghum’s advice?

Thinking as a facilitator for the purposes of this post, here are 10 lessons we learned in Kindergarten, based on Fulghum’s book, that could make us more effective:

1. Share everything.

Transparency is key. Use your platform as a facilitator to encourage a collaborative environment. Share best practices. Discuss real-world scenarios and struggles. Celebrate wins. Be all in with your participants.

 

2. Play fair.

Maintain a level playing field throughout your sessions. Ensure that your content is relevant. Set learners up for success, not defeat or frustration.

 

3. Clean up your own mess.

Both literally and figuratively. Set house rules that allow for exploration, but also for accountability.

 

4. Take a nap every afternoon.

(I wish.)

Never underestimate the importance of taking a break. Your participants – and YOU – need time to recharge your batteries, get some fresh air, or take care of work issues that may arise. Building breaks into your agenda will also help ensure that your participants stick with you during the content.

 

5. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Okay, this book was first written in 1988, long before things like “lactose intolerance” and “gluten-free” entered our mainstream vocabulary. But the lesson I take from this statement is that little details make a big difference. Go above and beyond to create a positive environment and make your participants feel special. Warm cookies and cold milk are certainly a nice touch…even if you have to provide a healthy alternative.

 

6. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

Provide support opportunities after the session – whether through online resources, discussion forums, social media or other channels that work for your organization. Encourage participants to network and share with one another to continue the learning long after the lights go out in the training room.

 

7. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

As a facilitator, I interpret this as accommodating a variety of methods and learning styles into your session. Balance heavier content with lighter, interactive methods. Don’t rely on stale, wordy PowerPoint. Avoid lecturing for hours on end. Leverage group discussions and other engaging exercises to keep your participants moving throughout the day.

 

8. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Less talk, more walk.” That’s really what it’s all about. Live and facilitate with conviction, friends. Be an advocate for learning in your organization not only by what you say in meetings, but how you interact with peers, subordinates, stakeholders and bosses.

 

9. It wasn’t in books. It wasn’t in church. What I needed to know was out there in the world.

Amen to that. The most effective learning takes place through practical means – on the job, in the real world. Recognize that, and design your formal instructional time in a way that sets learners up for real-world application.

 

10. You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.

A self-aware facilitator understands that it truly is all about the participant, not about the facilitator. Yes, even those of us who have a flair for the dramatic and like to dazzle the crowd. But friends, please remember what a privilege it is to bring learning experiences to the workplace. You are in a unique position to add value to your organization – even though sometimes, on days when “everything is a training issue,” it can feel like a thankless, after-thought of a job. And my goodness, how rewarding does it feel to see the proverbial light bulbs switch on during a session, or to see tangible business results after a big learning project was implemented?

So, in a way, it can be **a little bit** about us once in awhile…

 

Your turn: What childhood lessons do you follow, when designing, delivering or managing the learning function in your organization? How have those lessons helped you throughout your career? I’d love to see your insights in the comments!

 

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Madonna, Snapchat, and the Art of Knowing Your Audience

madonna-snapchat-and-the-art-of-knowing-your-audience

There was some interesting news in the music and tech industries this past week: Madonna previewed her new Living for Love video. Via Snapchat.

Now, depending on your musical tastes, demographics and social media preferences, you may or may not have paid any attention to this headline.

As one who is snugly nestled in that little generation between Baby Boomer and Millenial, I was intrigued by this. Partially because I have adored Madonna for as long as I can remember – I’m laughing while remembering the time I got in trouble for singing the lyrics to Papa Don’t Preach a little too loud-and-clear in front of my conservative dad – I was about 11 years old at the time and really didn’t understand what the song was about. If you remember that song, chances are you’re laughing at why it made my dad so uncomfortable!

And now, here we are in 2015 – where I am in equal parts awed and jealous that she is so ridiculously fit for a 56-year old woman (do you *see* those arms in that photo above? Holy biceps, Batman.)

I’m also awed that she continues to put herself out there, blazing trails and being just so….Madonna.

So, that brings us to last week’s video release. The decision to release her video via Snapchat was met with mixed reviews. Are you on Snapchat?

Me neither. But my kids are.

Do my kids care about Madonna’s newest video? Probably not. In fact, I don’t know that my 13-year old even knows who that is. So, releasing the new video through that channel was an interesting call.

Did it convert other Boomers and Gen Xers to join Snapchat? Did it entice current Snapchat users to watch the video to see who this Madonna person was? Well, as I was learning about this, I caught wind of this tweet, sent from the Twitter account of the Material Girl herself. It made me laugh:

madonna-snapchat-tech-support

So, there must have been some feedback from people who had no idea how to use the app, so Madonna took it upon herself to act like Snapchat Tech Support and help them locate and launch the video. This tweet got me thinking about the situation, and reminded me how important it is to know our audiences when we develop and deliver workshops, training classes and other sessions.

Friends, one of the most important parts of what we do is to ensure relevance, so our participants can carve out a meaningful learning experience to help them be more effective in their job today…or prepare them for wherever their career might take them in the future. To set the stage in our sessions (the 10% of 70-20-10!) for participants to carry the content out to the job, so they can apply it in the real world (the 70%!) and work with others to master the content and build context (the 20%!).

Was the decision for an artist with primarily a non-Millenial fan base to release a video through a Millenial-heavy channel a risky one? Sure. Did it pay off? I think the jury is still out on that. Am I going to start Snapchatting now? Nah. But I can certainly appreciate the fact that technology is changing the way we do things and the way we learn.

As learning professionals, we need to remember that – and like Madonna, blaze our own trails, continuously evolve, and shatter the status quo in our organizations.

 

Your turn: What are your thoughts on how Madonna launched her new video? In your opinion, was it a hit or a miss? Share your comments below!

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3 Facilitation Tips from Jimmy Fallon

3-facilitation-tips-from-jimmy-fallon

Confession: I have been a little smitten with Jimmy Fallon for quite some time – since he was  a young SNL player, giggling uncontrollably during sketch after sketch. His easygoing, likeable style has kept me coming back, show after show. I was thrilled when he visited Indy for a week to host the Late Show when our city hosted the Super Bowl a few years back. I was even more excited when it was announced that Jimmy would be Jay Leno’s Tonight Show successor.

So, the Tonight Show. An institution in American television, right? For many years – since 1954, in fact – people have tuned in to watch a similar agenda: The host delivers a monologue, often inspired by current news and pop culture events. This is followed by a celebrity interview or two – sometimes a standup comic. The show often concludes with a musical act.

And millions of people faithfully watch, and are entertained. Myself included. Then a few years back, Jimmy Fallon burst onto the late-night TV scene, and shook up the status quo.

While there is still a monologue, celebrity interviews and many of the other mainstays of a successful late-night talk show formula, he added in a few elements that are more reflective of his personality, and really ushered in a new generation of this television genre.

Because when have we been able to witness an Oscar winner (Diane Keaton) playing beer pong?

jimmy fallon diane keaton 1

jimmy fallon diane keaton 2

 

Or cut up in the now-famous “Ewwww!” sketch with Will Ferrell and the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama?

jimmy fallon will ferrell michelle obama ewww

Or make up games like Faceketball?

jimmy fallon bradley cooper faceketball

Or sing hit songs with kids’ classroom instruments?

jimmy fallon idina menzel the roots band classroom instruments

Or play Antler Ring Toss?

jimmy fallon antler ring toss
I could definitely go on, but my point is this: He is a master at having fun, engaging his guests and audience, and being a little bit (or a lot) silly.

And yes, he manages to make celebrities look a little ridiculous. “Egg Russian Roulette,” anyone?

jimmy fallon tom cruise egg russian roulette

Look at the celebrities’ faces in the photos above. They are having fun. This is clearly not just another interview to promote their newest film or project. Sure, they have the opportunity to promote during the show, but I think it’s obvious that they also have a pretty good time when they hang out with Jimmy Fallon.

And as a facilitator, I want to be like that.

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t try to convince a participant to smash an egg on his head, but I would love for that participant to walk out of a session I facilitated confident that he not only learned something, but also enjoyed himself.

How does Jimmy do it? I’ve noticed these techniques that training facilitators can leverage:

  1. Try something different. As the photos in this post indicate, you really never know what you’re going to encounter on the Tonight Show. Have you been using the same icebreakers, energizers or group exercises for a long time? Maybe it’s time to retire the old and bring a new activity into your rotation.
  1. Have fun with your participants. Get involved in discussions, do something silly and unexpected. If something is funny, laugh! Humor can be an effective way to connect with your audience – just keep it appropriate, of course!
  1. Extend the conversation past the classroom. Jimmy Fallon not only engages his guests and the studio audience, but he keeps the viewers engaged as well. A good example is “Hashtags” – Jimmy encourages people to tweet personal experiences or anecdotes to a particular hashtag; he includes some of his favorites on the air:

jimmy fallon hashtags why I'm single

jimmy fallon hashtags my worst birthday

jimmy fallon hashtags my worst birthday 2

 

I may just “steal” the Hashtags idea to use as an icebreaker….I’ll keep you posted, Phase(Two)Nation.

Your turn: Jimmy Fallon has found a niche among the noisy late-night talk show space. He always looks like he’s having the time of his life…which draws people in. So, fellow facilitators, let’s shake up the status quo in the noisy space of training classes and other learning events. What can we do to convey passion for what we do, genuine interest in our audience, and have fun? Share your ideas in the comments below!

 

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Just for fun!

Did you happen to catch the special episode of the Tonight Show after the Super Bowl? There was another epic Lip Sync Battle (not a new thing) between Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Absolutely hilarious – if you’re looking for a hearty laugh, check out the video below!

How Being a Mom Made Me a Better Facilitator

happy-18th-birthday-Meghan

Today – January 28th – is my daughter’s 18th birthday. As this milestone has approached, I have been exceedingly reflective (read: sappy and emotional). Naturally, I’ve been thinking of how quickly she has grown up and what an incredible young adult (gulp) she has become, and how many exciting things are in store for her this year – a trip to Haiti in March to work in an orphanage, high school graduation in May and starting college in August, just to name a few.

Also, while I’m reminiscing, I’ll put this out there: I actually went into labor with her on Sunday, January 26, 1997 – Super Bowl Sunday (yes, it took that long). The New England Patriots LOST that night (!!!). So, no offense to any of you New Englanders, but maybe history will repeat itself THIS weekend, even though they’re playing the Seahawks this year; in 1997, the Green Bay Packers hoisted the Lombardi trophy.

Yes, I’m from Indy and a big Colts fan. No, I’m not rooting against the Patriots because of the now-infamous “Deflategate” controversy. I’m rooting against them because that’s what we do here in Indy…we love the Colts, and whoever beats the Patriots.

I digress. This post isn’t about the Colts. Or the Patriots. Or Deflategate. This one is dedicated to my best girl, Meghan.

mom-and-meg-january-2015

Meghan was a very little girl when I began my career in workplace learning. I’ve learned so much since those early days. Technology has changed as well – making our jobs easier in some ways, more complex in others. Through it all, the fundamental rules of adult learning and leading engaging training experiences haven’t changed that much, but I have learned how to be a more effective facilitator…and I believe being this girl’s (and her brother’s!) mom has contributed to this in a few ways:

1. I’ve learned how to prioritize.

Whether managing the day job + kids’ sports + household chores + homework + this blog + a multitude of other activities, it’s critical to prioritize the need-to-happens and balance the want-to-happens. The same goes for leading a training session – often, we are faced with more content than we have facilitation time. Or more requests than we can allocate resources. We must be skilled at not only asking good questions during the needs analysis/instructional design processes, but carving out learning opportunities to maximize the time spent with participants.

2. I’ve learned how to put others’ needs ahead of my own.

As a parent, it never really seems to be about you, does it? The same goes for facilitation…sometimes, facilitators tend to embrace the “stage” aspect of the job. While that’s great, it’s important to remember that we are there to support and engage learners. It’s all about them. All the time. The best learning professionals understand and embrace this.

3. I’ve learned how to listen. Like, really listen.

Sometimes, it’s not about what’s being said….it’s about what’s not being said. I’ve been there for my kids through sniffles and puppy love, homework stress and sports drama. Kids don’t always just come out and say what’s on their mind (particularly when they become teenagers!). Consider your participants…they don’t always speak up when they don’t understand. They don’t always know what to ask. Anticipate this, be observant, and listen with intention.

 

I don’t know if Meghan will ever see this post…high school seniors aren’t exactly the target demographic for this little blog. But this post is dedicated to my beautiful, dynamic daughter. Pretty much the funniest person I know. Wise beyond her years. Responsible AND adventurous. Happy 18th birthday, sweet girl!

Meg-18th-birthday-collage

Phase(Two)Learning Encore: Assume Nothing

phase(two)learning is taking a week off…so for today’s post, please enjoy this encore of a favorite phase(two)learning post from 2012. See you next week!

dont-assume

This afternoon, I went to my friendly neighborhood convenience store for some caffeinated refreshment (if you’ve checked out my About tab, you’ll remember that I have a “wicked caffeine addiction”).  While I was in the store, I overheard one of the two cashiers (loudly) remarking that she “didn’t trust the guy at Pump 4.”  She was making a rather large spectacle about how people who drive that kind of vehicle (a white Jeep Cherokee) and wear camouflage are just the type that might drive off without paying for their gas.  Not exactly sure about her logic, and I was insulted FOR this guy, but intrigued nonetheless.  I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew the guy, or if he was a repeat offender.  I slowly milled around the store, getting my drink, and meandered to the cashier so I could see if this guy would come in to pay for his gas.  Of course, I really had no doubt, but I was even more curious to see how the cashier would treat the guy when he came in.

Fast-forward about 2 minutes:  The guy DID come in, of course.  And he promptly greeted the cashier with a friendly voice, paid for his gas, bought a lottery ticket, wished her a good afternoon, and left.  Hmmm.  I wanted to express my disappointment in her behavior – from both a customer service perspective and a DECENT HUMAN BEING perspective.  But I didn’t…I just paid for my drink and left.  It did get me thinking about how similar attitudes can plague a veteran trainer:

Check out the rest of the post

 

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Top 10 Posts About Training and Facilitation Skills

top-10-posts-about-training-and-facilitation-skills

It’s summer vacation for phase(two)learning! Please enjoy this recap of some favorite phase(two)learning blog posts! Look for fresh, new content returning next week!

 

Last week, we recapped the Top 10 phase(two)learning blog posts about onboarding – I hope you enjoyed it! Since the other topic I love to explore in this blog is training and facilitation skills, tips and tricks, I thought it was fitting to devote the second “summer break” edition to that very topic.

Whether you are a novice trainer or a master facilitator, it’s important to continually sharpen your skills, add to your bag o’ tricks and refine your craft. Here, ranked in order of popularity (according to blog metrics) are the top 10 phase(two)learning blog posts for trainers and facilitators. If you like a particular post, please share it!

10. Adult Learning Principles: A Quick Refresher

9. Trick Out My PowerPoint!

8. Before Your Training Session: 3 Simple Things to Remember

7. BYOWS (Bring Your Own Workshop Stuff)

6. 30 (More!) Recommended Reads for Learning Professionals

5. 10 Tips for Facilitators (and why I hate public speaking)

4. The Introvert’s Guide to Being an Awesome Facilitator

3. 5 Books New Trainers Should Have on Their Reading Lists

2. 3 Training Icebreakers That Don’t Suck

…and the #1 phase(two)learning blog post about training and facilitation skills (and actually the top-ranked post on the site altogether) is…

1. 11 Adult Learner Turnoffs (AKA – don’t be THAT facilitator!)

 

Bonus! Here’s an oldie (a VERY oldie) but goodie you may have missed:

3 Reasons Why Taylor Swift Might Just Be a Training Prodigy

 

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Bring phase(two)learning to your organization!

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