While many distributors proclaim that training and development techniques are the backbone of their organization, those learning initiatives can often slip through the fingers of well-meaning industry professionals. It might be time to ditch the “one-size-fits-all” approach in favor of more targeted, goals-based training for employees, said Jinny Kcehowski, associate director of training and development at Curbell Plastics.
2021 marked the 6th consecutive year Curbell, under Kcehowski’s leadership, received the Gold Level Education Circle of Champions award from the International Association of Plastics Distribution for its training resources and programs.
“When you invest in training and development, you hope to achieve some desired end result,” Kcehowski said in a recent MDM podcast. “And so, partly, I think sometimes organizations fail because they don’t know what that end result is. And maybe they haven’t clearly defined that upfront. And then, really look for someone in training and development that can meet that goal.”
Kcehowski said training in distribution has changed dramatically over the past decade since she took on the role at Curbell.
In prior years, companies sometimes relied on ad hoc styles of training and development techniques that weren’t very efficient, including having subject-matter experts run through identical trainings over and over. As a new batch of professionals enter the industry, however, there’s an increased focus on reaching new learners on their level, Kcehowski said.
New learners who are straight out of school may be used to engaging, short video training modules, for example. “They say the average span that someone watches a YouTube video now is three minutes,” she said. “So, if you can’t grab them and keep them and interact with them every three to four minutes, you’re going to lose them.”
The business training and development environment has evolved from ad hoc, paper-based approaches to “now very technologically based,” Kcehowski added.
Training and development techniques
Companies looking to beef up their training and development techniques also must avoid common pitfalls if their efforts are going to produce results. Among the possible mistakes, the No. 1 error is often not laying out goals and objectives ahead of time, Kcehowski said.
“I remember a time I sat down with a gentleman and he said, ‘I put this PowerPoint slide deck together and this is what I’m going to do in the training.’ It was a manager of a group. And gosh, he meant so well by putting this together. And I remember saying to him, ‘What do you want your group to know or do at the end of the presentation?’ He kind of stopped for a minute and [said], ‘Hmm. I don’t know. I didn’t think about that.’
“And I said, ‘Well, how did you decide what kind of information to put in your slides?’ [He responded,] ‘I just put the information in there that I thought they would need to know.’ And that I think is the No. 1 mistake that trainers make or people that maybe are new to training and development make.”
Instead, Kcehowski said, training and development techniques are best when they are intentional and directed. “What do you want them to know? What do you want them to be able to do? And then, you build your content around that objective,” she added. “Because they’re never going to remember everything that you say.”
New formats for learning
Once goals are established, trainers also must consider new formats for learning, including remote sessions necessitated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the rise of remote training and Zoom is the mistake that people make that you can just take a classroom experience, and now all of a sudden we put it on Zoom and it’s the same experience,” Kcehowski said. “That could not be more false.”
There are pros and cons to converting the classroom training experience into a remote setting. “Be really mindful as you make the switch,” said Kcehowski. “It’s not a clean cut over.”
Kcehowski said Curbell lists “learning” as one of the company’s core values, which can set the stage for a heathy and productive culture for new hires and current employees seeking to learn more.
“The key to success is creating a learning culture,” she said. “You know, is it a core value in your organization? Are you talking about it on a regular basis? Are you willing to put the investment in place?”
To listen to the complete podcast conversation, click here.