They say ‘old ways won’t open new doors’. Whilst it’s certainly easy to use tried-and-true methods, doing the same old thing is not always effective. When it comes to your business, it sometimes pays to think outside the box. You may discover, for example, how unorthodox training methods can benefit your employees.
Learning a different way
Professor Chris Imafidon is not a fan of textbooks. He’s not against the information inside them — far from it — it’s just that he prefers a more innovative approach to learning. If he had control over our schools, Maths would be taught through computer games, and cartoon delinquent Bart Simpson would be quizzing GCSE pupils on Shakespeare. Imafidon’s proposed methods are certainly unorthodox. Some might think they are too strange to work, yet the professor speaks from experience. He has raised five Maths prodigies, the oldest of which, Anne-Marie, is Countdown’s newest maths expert.
Anne-Marie is a great testament to her father’s innovative teaching methods. She passed her GCSEs whilst still in primary school, speaks six languages, and started an Oxford degree at just 15 years old. Her success was clearly enabled by her father’s out-of-the-box thinking. “I never wanted to limit my children’s curiosity,” Imafidon says, and it seems like that was an excellent approach. Now his children are adults, the professor has turned his attention to his pupils. Some of his students are 11, 23 and 13 – and already studying for their GCSEs.
Be curious… about everything
So what lessons can we learn from Imafidon’s unorthodox teaching methods? Perhaps, like his students, we could embrace curiosity — and creativity. After all, training is an everyday part of business but that doesn’t mean it has to be run-of-the-mill. Instead of watching the same PowerPoint presentation that employees first saw in the 1990s, perhaps a different approach could work better. Here are some innovations that have worked for other companies:
Idea 1: Gamification
They say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It also probably makes for a dull company, which is not the best learning environment. Gamification — the process by which employees use games to learn important skills — is a way of solving this problem.
Learning through gaming combines elements of fun with necessary training information. It has been proven to hold an employee’s attention for longer, and if used correctly, it can motivate them to finish a course.
Gamification can be as simple as creating a virtual checklist that explodes with digital confetti when a task is completed. Or it could be an interactive quiz, tailored to a suitable topic. Or, it could be a simulation game, such as those used for Fire Marshall training. These simulations create a digital scenario whereby your employee must choose the right extinguisher to fight a particular type of fire. It is excellent proof that gamification helps knowledge retention. If your employee sees a virtual character go up in flames because they selected the wrong option, they are far less likely to make the mistake in real life!
This is the truest value of gaming. It’s fun and informative, but most importantly, it allows your employees to make mistakes. This can sometimes be the best way of teaching someone the right way to do things.
Idea 2: High Feedback Levels
Feedback is vital for growth. Companies should encourage it from everyone: customers and employees alike. They should also incorporate it into their learning so that training can evolve naturally.
Customer feedback is particularly useful. Constructive criticism from end-users, or case studies, may be invaluable for new employees. They can show perceived weaknesses that newcomers can focus on resolving.
Whilst customer feedback is important for employees, employee feedback is important for the leadership team. It’s always a great idea to get feedback from people undergoing the training, so you know what worked for them and what didn’t. You may find there is a trend that needs to be addressed, or that a particular method is yielding poor results.
Leadership can only discover these problems if they foster a culture of openness. Develop your employees by listening to what they have to say, and respond to that.
Idea 3: “Blended” Learning
Speaking of responsive training, remember everyone learns differently. In order to increase knowledge retention, most trainers and tutors will tell you use a range of methods. It is not enough to know what you are teaching. You must also understand who you are teaching, and adjust your methods accordingly.
For instance, Employee A is of the Boomer generation. They thrive in a one-to-one learning environment and don’t find the use of technology helpful. Employee B is from Generation Z. They learn better by reading digital sources instead of hearing someone speak for an hour. Employee C is a Millennial, who learns best by physically performing their set tasks. These three employees need to learn the same skill. Instead of favouring one method over the other, thus alienating two of your employees, why not try a “blended” approach to make sure everyone is on the same page?
Kirkwood Training and Skills: Flexibility and knowledge
Kirkwood Training and Skills provides bespoke, effective training for a wide range of businesses. The reason we’re so successful at what we do is that we’re flexible and responsive – and a little unorthodox ourselves.
Unlike our competitors, who offer one-size-fits-all training, we take the time to understand who your company is, as well as what they want to learn. Knowing who our clients are as people (and as a whole business) is the key to successful training. It allows us to implement ‘blended learning’ effectively, with tangible results.
So, the next time you’re dusting off that faithful 90s PowerPoint, stop. Think. Is this what Professor Imafidon would do? Is this the best approach? Or, crucially, is there a better way?