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Training and Fluency

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

Why do most people attend trainings? Common answers usually include things like:

“My job required me to go.”

“I wanted to learn how to do something.”

“I wanted to improve my skills.”

Aside from the first response, these answers all have something in common:

People attend trainings to learn how to do something and use that knowledge to accomplish something in the real world.

A training session can be fascinating, engaging, and even motivating - but if you can’t apply what was learned to your day-to-day life, the benefits of your training will be short-lived indeed.

Nearly everyone can recall an amazing class or training session that made them feel inspired to go do something new… before quickly realizing that they don’t actually know how to apply what they’ve learned to anything meaningful.

All of this begs the question: What should be the overall goal of training, if not to engage, inspire, and motivate?

The answer is to build fluency. To put it one way, fluency can be described as:

Fluency = Accuracy + Speed

Imagine that a doctor has to remove a patient’s appendix. The doctor takes the patient back into surgery, and completes the operation in record time. In fact, he was so focused on finishing the operation quickly that he actually removed a kidney instead of the appendix. Great speed, without accuracy, can have catastrophic results.

Another doctor performs the same surgery on another patient. She successfully removes the appendix beautifully, but takes so long to perform the operation that the patient’s appendix bursts before she can get it out entirely. As a result, the patient gets a very serious infection. Accuracy is critical, but most projects cannot be allotted an indefinitely amount of time (and resources), so speed is still necessary.

Neither of these doctors could be considered entirely successful at their goals. In any workplace, there are both business objectives and deadlines. Therefore, accuracy and speed are both necessary. This is where fluency comes into play.


Incorporating Fluency Into Training

Training is expensive, time-consuming, and resource-intensive. But without fluency, it’s incredibly difficult to get any value out of training efforts. To the end, trainers should always make sure that learning objectives always relate back to real world applications.

An onboarding training for new customer service agents may have the learning objective: “Successfully build rapport with customers.” It’s a good start, but the objective doesn’t specify how to complete this task, which is problematic. A better objective would describe when this skill might be used and what specific tasks are involved, such as: “When a customer calls the support line, be able to listen to the customer’s request and provide a solution within 5 minutes of receiving the call.”

Sound like overkill? At a glance, perhaps this objective seems too specific or even militant. But remember, this entire purpose of this training is to give new agents all the tools and information they need to successfully meet performance criteria and help the business retain its customers.

This objective lets trainees know several critical pieces of information:

1. How customers will be approaching them

Customers will be calling on the phone

2. What skills they will need

3. There are time management expectations

Clear objectives not only allow trainees to understand how their training is directly related to their jobs – it also empowers them to do their jobs effectively.


Following Through with Relevant Practice

Solid training objectives are necessary, but so is relevant practice. Without practice, it’s nearly impossible to become fluent at anything. Step one is to provide training that aligns with strong learning objectives. Step two is to provide opportunities for practice in an environment that is as close to “real life” as possible.

Going back to our customer service example, practice could include role playing with other trainees. This is preferable over reading transcribed exchanges between service agents and customers.

Think about this – when agents come to work, they won’t be reading about other people’s experiences. They will be speaking directly to customers. Therefore, it’s critical to have new agents practice doing that actual task before asking them to do the real job. You might even go so far as to time these role plays, to have agents experience what 5 minutes feels like when talking to an irate or confused customer. More than likely, the agents will need several attempts to be able to successfully complete their role plays within the time limit.


Meaningful Trainings = Happier Trainees

No one wants to have their time wasted. Even for people who are required to attend trainings, making sessions meaningful helps foster learning engagement and creates more satisfied trainees.

When trainings provide trainees with the tools they need to do something better in the real world, everyone wins. The trainees have accomplished what they set out to do when they signed up for the training, and their customers, clients, and workplaces will receive better performance from the trainees once they take their newly learned skills back with them to their jobs.

Keep in mind that good online learning can implement these practices too! Good instructional designers should know how to create learning objectives that directly relate to business goals, and how to effectively allow learners to practice what they’ve learned in order to demonstrate fluency and mastery.

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