It is a little cliché to start off a blog post or any sort of writing with a dictionary definition . . . So, I made sure to give you this little warning that I am about to do exactly that.
According to Merriam Webster the definition of the transitive verb train can mean several things such as “to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient” or “to form by instruction, discipline, or drill.” Based on my educational background the second definition offered by Merriam Webster does not quite fit what I consider training to be; better put I do not believe that the latter is effective training. Once I started working I was put through so much training. Once I became a resident assistant I was introduced to the sheer agony that August brings so many student affairs professionals and paraprofessionals. Training is a season that my body expects. Just writing about it brings pain to my joints. That being said . . . I sort of liked training. Note the past tense.
I really enjoyed training when I was a student staff member. I felt connected either as a learner or someone who could offer their experience to a younger member. I was and still am not a fan of teambuilders or anything involving the usage of limited social energy, but I was not miserable during these times. As I attended graduate school and began working as a part of my assistantships I was introduced to Safe Zone and Green Dot training. These were fantastic trainings and because of them I was able to work with a Dean of Students on the development of a hybrid training curriculum for Title IX and Safe Zone training at a small, private, Catholic, liberal arts institution. While building these curriculums I was taking a course on e-learning through my graduate school. I was learning the basics of how learning works and how to adapt these foundations and apply them with curriculum design. To this day, I feel it is one of my best accomplishments though could use some updates.
After I had taken Green Dot training I felt the need to learn about how to be trained as a trainer. I remember thinking “This is my thing. How do I find a job where all I do is training?” This feeling is no longer a part of my persona. I have become critical of training and its usefulness. Context is important, so I will indicate that I am residence life professional returning to a third year at the same institution. I am introverted. All my thoughts on training are ripe because I have been in training from July until last Wednesday. Below I am going to indicate several of the mistakes that I have seen, experiences, or noticed throughout my years of being trained.
Changing the fonts, but not the content
The number one critique that I have about annual training is that it is the same exact information that I received the first year, then the second year, and now again. My dislike of this practice may stem from a pet peeve that I have: I do not like to be told information that I already know. In many cases, my pet peeve is irrational because how is (insert third party) to know that I know the information? However, in the cases when the third party knows that I know because they have already trained me in the process there is little reason to make my presence a requirement.
There are laws and rules requiring persons to undergo the same training annually. It is a standard protocol for Title IX, alcohol, or consent trainings. However, this is not a practice that is generalizable to all trainings. There are no national trends indicating that students do not know how to file maintenance reports that the state or federal government has spent thousands of dollars to implement a mandatory training. Re-read the definition of training above: are you training or are you drilling information?
- Utilize curriculum design principles to build on the experiences a staff member receives, especially student staff members
- Ask returning professional staff members what their professional interests are and arrange “training” meetings around these content areas for that specific staff member
Designed to Deplete
If you design a training that puts people together for over 10 hours a day you are inherently building an ineffective environment for introverts. I am an introvert and have a relatively small amount of social capital to exert. I am also in a leadership position meaning that the expectation is that I am always “present.” There is very little time to recharge. A training session after dinner? My ability to pay attention to details is gone and I am more likely to make a mistake. If your training schedules requires 10-12 hour days, you are not effectively training and are setting up your staff for failure and exhaustion come the academic year.
- Learn more about humans. Want to know more about how introverts function? Check out this link.
- Cease repeating the cycle of exhaustion by building schedules that allow staff members to just be people
Two Places at Once
As I write this blog post I have been in “training” for nearly two full months. The only days that I have to work in the office are Monday and Friday both of which are the most unproductive work days ever (Well, according to this source Friday is the least productive, but Mondays are terrible too). While I am being “trained” there are dozens of tasks being left unattended to, several other administrators frustrated that I am not in my office, and preparations that need to be made. It is frustrating to be in a position when you are being training to do your job and your campus partners already feel that you are not doing your job because they cannot get ahold of you. Build a schedule where employees feel like they are doing and learning their job not learning how to do their job while not doing it.
- Ensure that you are giving effective time for persons to do work in their own offices (8:00-9:00 AM every day is time, not effective time).
- You’re not training returning staff, you’re developing them. They are already trained to do work. Let them.
I could go on for several dozen more pages, including specifically nitpicking the trainings I have been through recently – but I think that these general comments with assorted suggestions offer a lot of content to consider. Ultimately, there is a need for training our employees and ourselves, but my observations of the status quo show that there is a need to do better. If we expect students to grow and do better in college it is more than reasonable that we can do the same over a career.
What suggestions do you have? What do you do to effectively train? Share in the comments.