How to Get Everyone on Your Team 'Up to Speed' Really Fast
Some might say I have a thing for speed. Yes, I like fast cars, flying, and riding a mountain bike in a downhill race.
When it comes to the corporate environment, I leveraged that need by pioneering speed interviews, a twist on group interviews that gives each candidate an opportunity to be interviewed by five-to-six people for five-to-ten minutes each before rotating to the next hiring manager. The efficiency of such a practice can’t be denied, both on the part of the company and the candidates.
Recently, we experimented with the same format on a much larger scale for our quarterly, companywide Rally. The result was what we fittingly christened “speed training.”
Much in the same way that speed interviews help us review a lot of candidates in a positive, productive way, speed training is an interactive way to engage a large group of employees in a mass education exercise, with smaller teams of employees circulating among the training-module stations every 15 minutes. The goal is to improve your company’s bottom line by improving employee knowledge.
It’s an exercise that any entrepreneur or business owner can replicate, as it’s a fairly straightforward process. All speed training involves is crowdsourcing module content and instructors from your own workforce. The training topic should be based around a theme that is timely for your business, and employees should be organized into small teams.
The teams then learn and move from one station to the next at the strike of the clock, every 15 minutes, until the training is complete. If you want to take it all a step further, coordinate a rewards program, such as tickets for correctly answering the quiz at the end of the training at each station; the tickets can be traded in for relevant prizes at the end.
Turn everyone into a product expert.
Speed training is great, but there's also the issue of who's been trained and who hasn't.
If you work in the knowledge economy, it's imperative that your entire organization have a baseline set of knowledge. Sales and customer service representatives have in-depth product knowledge. But non-customer-facing roles also benefit from having a greater understanding of the features and benefits of your main products.
When human resources staffers are recruiting, for example, they want candidates to know what they will be selling or providing support for. They want to explain what a “day in the life” of someone in a prospective role looks like. So, equipping the recruiter and hiring manager with details about your company’s products is as important as training a new employee.
This is why, at our first off-site quarterly Rally, we featured eight products that we offer our customers. We also created stations our staff could rotate through to learn from leaders on the team. While getting information into the hands of our workforce is our primary goal, highlighting our internal staff as product experts is also an intangible benefit.
Indeed, while much of the knowledge you share may be familiar to some, for others, the content will be brand new. This is particularly true of growing companies that have hired a lot of people in a growth spurt and then need fresh ways of shortening the learning curve. Identify the experts on your team, and leverage their experience to help you train, or refresh, the rest of your staff.
Find a training format that works.
For an employee group like ours, with 100 individuals, I suggest the following format: Divide everyone up into eight teams of about a dozen people each. The product experts are then positioned at eight product tables, called stations.
Make sure that each training station represents each product or service you have to offer. For larger organizations with hundreds or thousands of items, I'd suggest that you group by product family.
Once this is all sorted out, hopefully ahead of the day of training, teams should be instructed to visit a specific station for 13 minutes. The presentation given by your selected employee expert-turned-instructor is timed to exactly that time frame. A good rule is two minutes per slide, so the presentation will be limited to no more than seven slides. Each slide might present a single idea or, at most, three.
In addition, to save time and avoid issues with Internet connectivity, integrate screenshots of specific products and web pages. While live demos might be effective, they will require a lot of back and forth and waiting for pages to load. Screenshots suffice and allow you to overlay your image with arrows, call-outs and other highlights pertinent to the training of your staff.
You can create your training presentations in Google Drive, working from a single template that will help keep everything looking uniform and therefore easy to read and understand.
Make it competitive with prizes.
Want to raise the stakes? At the end of each presentation, save one-to-two minutes for the product experts -- your chosen staff instructors -- to ask questions of the audience.
You can arm each product expert with a roll of tickets that they can give away for correctly answered questions.
During the closing comments and thank-yous at the end of the training, the employee who earned the most tickets can choose first from a line-up of prizes. Then, the person with the next most tickets gets to pick next, and so on. It’s up to you to what the prizes are, based on your company culture, training theme and employee interests.
So, did the team learn anything? Absolutely. In our own case, we got amazing feedback, including comments that the session was "definitely engaging," and that "training has never been so fun!" Your employees may have similar things to say, or something more constructive as you figure out what parts of the suggested process work best for you, and what doesn’t. Just be sure to request feedback immediately afterward so that employees' recollections are fresh, and timely.
In today’s business environment, we don’t have the luxury of as much training time as we'd like, but we also can’t afford not to have a strong degree of product knowledge at all levels of the company.
Speed training is a great solution, and strikes the perfect balance, whereby you invest in an efficient use of time, to create a maximum and enduring impact.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer