7 Tips for a More Successful Training Program

Training Tips AutoCAD

You have a training program, but is it performing as well as you need it to? From retaining and hiring new employees to meet workload demands, pressures abound. If ever there was a time a more effective training program could benefit your teams, this is that time!

Unfortunately, for many, a “more successful training program” sounds like a whole lot of time they don’t have. But does that have to be the case?

I think not.

In this post, I outline seven simple tips to help elevate the effectiveness of your training program in meaningful ways. So sit back. Take a breath. We’re all in this together. Let’s jump into the seven tips that will help us be better.

Tip #1: Diversify Your Program and Find Balance

Training is often thought of as the stuff that happens in a classroom or while completing an online course. While these formal learning activities are undoubtedly important, I find they tend to get 90% of the attention while delivering just 10% of the results.

Take your journey as an AutoCAD user. No matter how awesome the person who taught you to use AutoCAD, I’d wager you didn’t see yourself as a competent user until you spent years “earning your stripes” by applying it to real-world projects.

Fundamentally, experience is the teacher of all things.

In my experience, formal training is the spark, experience is the roaring fire we’re trying to achieve, and mentoring is the bridge between the two. Recognizing this, a common breakdown of these three elements is the 70-20-10 model.

The 70-20-10 model tells us that 10% of learning and development comes from formal training, 20% comes from coaching and mentoring, and 70% from experience. By itself, formal training, no matter the provider, is little more than a commodity.

The value of formal training comes from how well you can put it into practice. To achieve that, balance your efforts, and don’t forget the mentoring and experiential aspects of training. Ultimately, they are what will determine the success of your program.

Tip #2: Democratize Content Creation

With experience as the teacher of all things, the deepest pool of expertise available to you will always be your organization’s people. Don’t ignore how valuable your own people can be to your training program’s success (or failure).

I find successful training programs have two things in common. First, they give their team a say in training. Secondly, they invite their team to contribute what they know. Establishing an employee mentoring program is a fantastic way to make this seemingly lofty goal a reality.

Built rapport with your mentors and take every possible opportunity to recognize their contributions to your companies training program. Speaking of contributions, make sure your mentors have the tools they need to author and contribute content.

Using tools you already have, this can be as simple as providing well-built Microsoft Word and PowerPoint templates so your team can focus on sharing their knowledge, not document formatting. If you want to significantly step up your authoring game for a relatively modest investment, check out TechSmith Snagit. It is an outstanding screen capture software that you can record simple videos and take, edit, and annotate screenshots.

AutoCAD Mentor Training Tips

Tip #3: Celebrate Imperfection

With 90% of the training conversation so often focused on formal training, it’s no surprise that we often impose an unrealistic expectation of perfection upon ourselves. Despite over 15 years as a trainer and author, I still fall into this trap. The number of edits I’ve made to this very post reflects that reality.

While some topics warrant a formal structure and a higher degree of polish, most don’t.

Your team cannot benefit from what they do not have access to. The longer your great idea stays in your head, the longer your team doesn’t have access to it. Ask yourself, how much will your team not having access to something they need to know cost your company?

In my experience, that cost is almost always higher than the occasional need to revise something you’ve already published. Do yourself a favor and push yourself to publish new content slightly before you’re ready.

Tip #4: Schedule Training Before It’s Done

Parkinson’s law tells us that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Under the right conditions, a three-minute task can take all day to complete.

In this way, a goal to create great training without a plan (deadline) is just a wish.

I’m particularly susceptible to this when I need to offer training on a topic I haven’t fully learned yet. Experience has told me that if I wait until I have mastered a topic before scheduling training, then the training will never be scheduled.

If you want to consolidate the time it takes to develop and deliver new training, schedule it. Put a reasonable (1-2 month) deadline in place and watch you and your team get it done. We can’t finish what we don’t start, and scheduling something ensures you do just that—start.

Tip #5: Smaller Is Better

There’s only one way to eat an elephant, and that’s one bite at a time. The best training programs I’ve seen didn’t get to where they are overnight, but instead one bite at a time. Draw inspiration from that. Take what you have, however small it might seem today, and build upon it in bite-sized pieces.

Instead of weighing yourself down with creating a 4-day AutoCAD fundamentals class out of the gate, start by recording and publishing a 5-minute video about drawing setup. Once you have that, make another about layers, and then another about using drawing templates.

Breaking down massive topics into 5-minute videos does several things. First, it’s far easier to approach the creation of a 5-minute video than it is to create 30-hours of video. Secondly, procrastination usually creeps in when a task seems impossible or unattainable. Recognizing this makes creating training something you have no doubt you can accomplish.

Not only does breaking tasks into 5-minute topics make the content creation seem more attainable, but it also more closely aligns with what learners want. Today, people want to spend minutes, not hours, finding what they need to learn, learning it, and then using it.

Training Tips

Tip #6: Track Training Performance

You’ve put in hours of work to deliver lots of training, but has it made a difference? There’s but one way to find out. Ask the people you’ve trained.

To gain a more complete perspective into what about my training is working, I like to develop Likert scale questions that center on three areas:

  • Engagement: Was the course and instructor interesting?
  • Efficiency: Was an appropriate amount of information presented?
  • Quality: Was the information shared of high quality?

By measuring engagement, efficiency, and quality, I can gain invaluable insights into what is working and what could be improved. No matter how big or how small, I always send a post-training survey to attendees to get their feedback. Not just that, but I also prioritize the time to read every response.

Beyond the post-training surveys, I find public relations about your training is nearly as important as the training itself. If you got a training idea from an post-training study, say it. Tell your audience the session they’re attending is because of their feedback. Suddenly with a 5-second plug, your post-training surveys went from something that’s perceived as only benefiting you to something that also helps your audience.

Tip #7: Make It Fun

Just because it’s a highly technical topic doesn’t mean AutoCAD training must be dull and otherwise sleep-inducing. I often refer to what I do as a trainer as “edutainment.”

My best bit of advice here is to be excited. If you’re excited to be teaching, there’s a strong chance that excitement will be contagious for your audience too. Don’t believe me? Listen to just the audio of something like Winnie-the-Pooh. Even without visuals, listening to Tigger is far more fun than listening to Eeyore.

Find your style, throw in a few CAD Dad jokes to lighten the mood, and whatever you do—have fun!

Donnie Gladfelter

Donnie Gladfelter is a highly visible and respected thought leader in the CAD community. Named one of Autodesk's Top 35 Young Designers Under 35, he is well known for The CAD Geek Blog, six Autodesk Official Press books, and dozens of Autodesk University classes since 2007. An award-winning and top-rated speaker at Autodesk University and other industry events, Donnie has presented to audiences of 60,000+ people, and provided training to thousands on Autodesk design technology. As an Eagle Scout, he helps design teams be prepared for whatever their projects throw at them as the Design Technology Manager at Timmons Group (an ENR Top 500 Firm), and as an Autodesk Expert Elite Member.

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