Training the Trainer using Story Problems

I was “promoted” to trainer in my 6th year in credit unions. Why? Because by then I had held the positions of teller, MSR, loan officer, share draft coordinator and worked briefly in the call center. I had mad skills – in operations and member service – but no training on how to be a trainer. That’s pretty funny if you think about it – the only position we have zero training for in the credit union is that of the, er, the trainer.   Yet like so many before me I was thrown into it and within a week found myself with two young new hires staring up at me like baby robins – feed me! Feed me!  By noon I could see their eyes glazing over and by the end of the first day I was so bored I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

First let me say, if you happen to have a formal training program I applaud you. This is the last department credit unions typically add and the first they will axe when times get tough. If you don’t have the luxury of a full time trainer you probably rely on the “shadow” for the bulk of your training. I am not a big fan of shadowing. I was in a California Pizza Kitchen last month to grab a quick bite for lunch and the waiter came over with another young lady standing/hiding behind him. There was no explanation of why I had two people taking the order for just me – then I figured it out. She was shadowing. It’s creepy and I don’t want to be part of her training. I just want my chicken salad and iced tea please.

Adults don’t learn by shadowing. There, I said it. According to Malcolm Knowles who might be considered the founding father of adult learning, the adult learner:

1.     Needs to Know: Adults need to know the reason for learning.

2.     Experience: Adults draw upon their experiences to aid their learning

3.     Self Concept: Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education, involvement in planning and evaluation of their instruction.

4.     Readiness: The learning readiness of adults is closely related to the assumption of new social roles

5.     Orientation: As a person learns new knowledge, he or she wants to apply it immediately in problem solving

            See why shadowing is not effective? I came up with a training tool that I believe addresses most of the drivers of adults learners and I’m pretty dang proud of it.  Here’s how it works:

Step One: If you haven’t done it already, create a persona for your target audience. I had one credit union client actually introduce their target audience to the entire staff at an all staff meeting. They were real people in their field of membership. Jen and John. Because they had all “met” Jen and John they were able to ask themselves, “Is this something Jen and John would like?”, “Did we just piss Jen off because this process took too long?” Speaks to adult learning concept #2: Experience.

Step Two: Create scenarios or story problems that can only be answered by finding the information on the credit union’s website. For example: Jen is a nurse that works the night shift. She is likely sleeping during our branch hours. List all the ways she can get cash or deposit a check without ever having to come into a branch. #5: Orientation and problem solving.

Step Three: Have the employees share their answers to validate the learning, discuss decisions, and the bonus round in all this – if the website was not clear, hard to navigate, or all of the options are not listed – you’ve just helped the marketing department. But this piece also speaks to #3: Self Concept and the fact that adults are self-directed learners. This is the Google generation after all.

As my gift to you, I want to give you a free Story Problems Worksheet:

- Denise