As long as people work with one another, professional skills will be essential. No matter how great one’s technical knowledge, the ability to interact with others is critical to overall success. Job-specific knowledge from every book, article and course has limited value to the individual if there’s difficulty sharing the knowledge in team situations.
Technical training has significantly outstripped most organization’s professional skills training in the past decade. As a result, it has caused professional skills to be overlooked and bypassed as key training elements.
After blips on the customer service radar screen, companies decide to bring back professional skills training. Technicians need skills in talking to non-technicians. Managers and associates need understanding of what makes teams succeed. Individuals who work constantly with others in intense situations can use some help in developing conflict resolution skills.
However, bringing that training back to the classroom or the computer is not so simple. Exposure to specific, content-dynamic, focused training makes us expect those characteristics in all training. The goal is to have training that is relevant to every individual.
Here are five ways to guard against any and all professional skills training from coming across as generic training.
Guard 1: Keep your training student-centric, not content-centric.
You can guard against generic training if you apply some student-centric tactics rather than focusing solely on content. Encourage training participants to see the content through their personal filters. These tactics apply obvious questions such as, “In what specific work situations can you foresee using this skill?” and follow-through instructions such as “Select an instance of your job. Identify how you will apply three actions this training has covered.” Keep in mind, applying this guard is a responsibility shared by developers and trainers.
Guard 2: Wrap company and job jargon around the training.
Truly generic training can be delivered off the shelf to any job group at any company. One reason for that is the complete absence of any names, labels or buzzwords unique to a specific company. Guard against this. Work specific product names, job titles, company history references into the training. Relate the company to the training and vice versa.
Keep in mind, the more specific the words and phrases are, the more effective it is.
Guard 3: Allow students to personalize their learning experience.
Invite participants to put their job situations and challenges into the training content. Have them create ownership by “personalizing” the training content. Keep in mind, the developer and deliverer need a pre-designed set of such fill-in-the-blank questions.
Guard 4: Include company-specific stories and examples.
When developing and delivering professional skills for employees of a specific company, guard against content seeming generic by weaving in company-specific stories and examples. Find examples of individuals who needed specific professional skills. Thread these into the courses that attend those needs. Locate stories of successful skills application by people from the company. The success may be as a result of the training but need not be. You want your participants to see these skills at work in their company, by their peers. Keep in mind, these stories must connect to the specific training conten