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?

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!

 

Know of someone who would appreciate this post? Be kind and share it!

Pinterest for Learning Professionals: A Starter Kit

Pinterest-for-Learning-Professionals

Are you on Pinterest? While this addictive, visual social platform has certainly made its mark when it comes to everything from home decorating ideas to recipes to hairstyling tips (and SO much more), it is also a terrific resource for training, instructional/eLearning design and talent development professionals.

I’ve been pinning for a couple of years now. Alongside creatively-titled boards, like “Food My Picky Family Might Actually Like,” “Champagne Wishes and Louboutin Dreams,” and “Clothes Before Bros,” you’ll find my “Learning and Development Playground” board…a repository for awesome infographics, links to helpful articles and dozens of other great nuggets.

Pinterest might not seem like a logical source for professional resources, but I can assure you that I have gained a number of ideas through this social media channel. So, if you are new to Pinterest, consider this post your starter kit. Check out these 10 boards, chock full of L&D nerd-approved resources:

1. Creative Learning

(Shannon Tipton)

Pinterest_-_Creative_Learning

 

2. Blogs I like

(Shannon Tipton)

Pinterest_-_Blogs_I_Like

 

 

3. Work Life: Using Pinterest

(Dawn Mahoney)

Pinterest_-_Work_Life_-_Using_Pinterest

 

 

4. ID/eLearning Books

(Tracy Parish)

Pinterest_-_ID.eLearning_Books

 

 

5. Learning Design

(Enzo Silva)

Pinterest_-_Learning_Design

 

 

6. 70/20/10

(Corey Maddux)

Pinterest_-_70-20-10

 

 

7. Blended

(Corey Maddux)

Pinterest_-_Blended

 

 

8. Checklists & Job Aids for Trainers

(Langevin Learning Services)

Pinterest_-_Checklists_and_Job_Aids_for_Trainers

 

 

9. Training & Talent Development

(Association for Talent Development – ATD)

Pinterest_-_Training_and_Talent_Development

 

 

10. E-Learning Examples

(Articulate)

Pinterest_-_eLearning_examples

 

There you have it. Whether you’re just getting started on Pinterest, or if you’re just looking for some creative, inspiring boards to follow, these 10 examples have a little something for everyone…regardless of your focus along the workplace learning spectrum!

 

Your turn: Do you follow any boards that other learning professionals would find interesting? Share the board name and/or link in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow Learning & Development Playground!

 

Know of someone who would appreciate this post? Be kind and share it!

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

 

Know of someone who would benefit from these posts? Be kind and share this post!

 

Bring phase(two)learning to your organization!

Does your learning program or onboarding process need an update? Bring phase(two)learning onsite to facilitate an interactive workshop for your training staff or non-trainers who facilitate training! Send an email for more information!

 

BYOWS (Bring Your Own Workshop Stuff)

successful-trainers-pack-accordingly

Exactly 566 days ago, I wrote this post about my favorite things to have on hand for a training session. Today, over 1.5 years later, my “favorites” remain the same, although this list has evolved over a number of years. As you’re about to read, I also keep a few other go-to items on hand that didn’t make the list in the earlier post.

The other day, I was reminded why having a well-stocked, well-planned facilitator toolkit is an absolute necessity.

Last Friday, I hit the road to facilitate a day of workshops for a terrific phase(two)learning client. I arrived in the assigned meeting room a little over an hour before my morning session was scheduled to begin so I could get set up. Within moments, I was digging out my toolkit because there were no supplies whatsoever in the room.

I was really, really glad I had these 10 handy tools on hand…

1) Sharpie marker – because I needed to label table groups, because the room was not set up in a logical way and I didn’t have an option to move tables around.

2) My own self-stick flip chart pads – because the room had no easel nor flip charts…really glad I brought my own!

3) Masking tape – because the texture on the walls didn’t allow the self-stick flip chart sheets to stick very well.

4) Mr. Sketch markers – because I never facilitate without Mr. Sketch.

5) “Hello, my name is” labels – because I had an awesome group exercise planned where I needed to stick labels on people’s backs, and I doubted there would be anything to use. Plus, they’re always in my bag because you never know when you’ll need them.

6) Cough drops – because my throat was getting scratchy shortly into the day. (I wrote this off as a full day of facilitating being tough on the vocal cords. By Saturday evening, I knew otherwise…I’ve been battling bronchitis, a sinus infection AND an ear infection ever since. Hooray!)

7) Extra copies of my handouts – because I knew I wouldn’t have an opportunity to make extra copies in the middle of the day.

8) Printed cards with the SlideShare URL for the session slides – because why lug around more paper when you can use a terrific tool like SlideShare?

9) Moleskine notebook – because there were several little nuggets throughout the day that I wanted to jot down and remember. And I always have it with me, anyway.

10) Business cards – because I just had some new ones made and they look ah-mazing! And yes, of course…to connect with people.

 

The point here, friends, is this: Whether you are an in-house trainer at your organization, or a road warrior who is constantly setting up shop in different places, it’s important to be prepared. Markers dry out. Flip charts don’t always stick. Having a well-stocked arsenal of supplies not only helps you facilitate with confidence, but you present yourself as a master of your craft (and come on, we all want that reputation, amiright?).

Next week, I’m thrilled to be presenting a session at a conference in Las Vegas. You can bet your casino chips that I’ll have my toolkit ready. By the way…are you a Skillsoft client? Will you be at Perspectives 2014 next week? Look me up, or follow me on Twitter – I’ll be live tweeting throughout the event!

Your turn: Maybe you weren’t following this blog 566 days ago and didn’t see or comment on the earlier post. So I’m going to ask again: What’s in your toolkit? Share your must-have supplies and trainer hacks in the comments below, then share the post with your network so we can learn from one another.

 

Have you subscribed yet?

Get a weekly dose of phase(two)learning goodness delivered to your inbox! Simply add your email address in the upper-right corner of this page. You’ll be glad you did!