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A Training Solution for Today’s ‘Distracted and Impatient’ Employee

According to Meet the Modern Learner, a presentation by global industry analyst Josh Bersin, “Today’s employees are overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient.” They check their phones constantly; they won’t watch long videos; and they really don’t want to sit through lengthy classroom lectures. Instead, they want to learn from their peers and managers, as well as experts, and take control over their own development.

As a training professional, how do you manage modern learning–especially when some classroom training is required?

Flip the Classroom

Blended learning is one solution; in particular, a ‘flipped classroom.’

This teaching approach moves traditional content out of the classroom and enables employees to watch lectures and other instructional content at their convenience, on laptops and mobile devices.  And instead of attending lectures in class, they work interactively with instructors in the classroom to do homework and discuss the topics interactively. Also known as ‘flipped learning,’ this strategy transforms the trainer from the ‘sage on the stage’ to the ‘guide on the side.’

Instead of devoting precious classroom time to static activities such as lectures and presentations, the initial knowledge acquisition takes place before the learners assemble in a classroom. Sales reps learn basic concepts on their own time–e.g., from mobile videos and role play exercises delivered to their smartphones–and then come to the classroom to engage actively in problem-solving activities, in-depth role-playing, feedback sessions, etc..

Focus on Practice, Not New Information

With support from modern learning tools, flipped classrooms are one of the best ways to develop skills while keeping reps engaged.

Classroom time is well-suited for discussing complex topics, getting feedback and sharing ideas with peers, and presenting demos about what ‘good’ (and bad) looks like. It’s also a prime opportunity for brainstorming and Q&A.

To maximize productivity in the classroom, keep the presentation of new information to a minimum. Instead, mix and match high-value activities like the ones described above, so your reps spend as much time as possible applying what they’ve already learned by practicing their skills, rehearsing their pitches, and obtaining group feedback.

Employ Different Role-Play Formats

If you have only enough time for one type of interactive learning, make it role playing. But don’t limit the group to just one format. One-on-one role play is an excellent practice tool, but it’s not the only arrow in the quiver.

A common role-play format is ‘the triad,’ in which one rep plays the salesperson, another plays the customer, and a third serves as a neutral observer.

In the ‘fishbowl’ format, one person (or two) role play in front of the entire group, which then provides collective feedback after the exercise.

There’s also single-skill practice, which helps reps improve just one skill–such as how to open a meeting or address a customer concern.

Another format is the ‘round robin.’ Here, you assemble a group of people in a classroom – or online – and move from one pair of salesperson-customer role players to the next, and the next, etc..

In a ‘case study scenario role play,’ you drop people into a realistic situation, and they have to figure out how to apply the skills they’ve just learned. This is commonly used at the end of training programs, but there’s no reason it should be limited to that time slot.

Rather than spraying trainees with an ‘information firehose,’ flipped classrooms focus on interactive learning. They stress activities that are best accomplished in groups. And they help foil the forgetting curve by reinforcing new knowledge with repeated practice.