Training: Too Much Information...

You’ve probably heard the feedback from your technicians when they return from a training seminar: “They tried to cram ten pounds of potatoes into a five-pound bag” (or something along those lines). Information overload can ruin a training experience and reduce training effectiveness.

Let’s face it… you have a limited number of days available for your employees to participate in training. Therefore, the training must be as thorough and complete as possible. However, the human mind can only store so much information obtained in a short period of time, and there is a “point of no return” where a class becomes too thorough.

In most surveys I have conducted, the majority of technicians stated they would prefer several shorter training sessions per year over one or two longer sessions. And most learning experts would agree that segmenting training into smaller “chunks” of learning elements facilitates the greatest retention.

For example, Deborah Bowers writes on Training’s Agog Blog that training material “can be given in small chunks; as little as an hour each. The advantages are that the information can be highly topical, and can be used to address immediate [learner] weaknesses in a timely fashion.”

This concept is also referred to as “bite-size learning.” The trend across many industries has been away from four- to five-day seminars and toward shorter and more “granular” courses. This is certainly true in the vehicle and equipment training world.

Of course, reduction of in-center training time puts more of a burden on the student (and his or her employer) to acquire necessary knowledge by other means. A one-day, hands-on intensive class that covers troubleshooting an advanced vehicle system has little value to the student who has not mastered skills such as using a volt-ohmmeter and/or pressure gauge. Much of the preparation for these focused classes can be done through self-study (e.g., e-learning), short “tools and technology” training, or coaching/mentoring on the job.

Developing a relationship with your training providers can be invaluable. For example, e-learning can be a useful tool for class preparation, but not all training providers have e-learning courses. If this is the case, ask for as much reference material as possible on the products or systems in question, and have your employees read up on the subject matter prior to the training event.

Also, much instructor-led training still tends to have a lot of “information transfer” from the instructor to the students. Information is not training, and valuable training time should not be used to transfer it. Reference materials, hand-outs and job aids should be where required information resides. Trainers should refer to these materials as they apply to course activities, but should stop short of simply presenting the information they contain. Hand-outs can also serve as sources of important follow-up information or memory-joggers when the employee begins putting the training to use on the job.

If possible, you should ask to see a syllabus and course materials before scheduling a class. Vehicle systems training is often “one size fits all,” and the needs of a fleet are often different than those of an OEM dealer.

Review items such as demonstrations, hands-on activity lists and worksheets, and see if you can tailor the training to the individual employees you have.

The great Henry Ford once said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Whenever possible, you should apply his concept to the training you request!

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