Setting: Conference room with oval table enough to seat 14 attendees

Time: 1pm EST

Facilitator: Audrey Halpern

Topic: Barriers to Communications

I introduce myself to each incoming person with a handshake. I have them record their name on a sign in sheet. I summarize the timing and how the workshop will proceed.I go over the practicalities, housekeeping and ground rules: turn off cell phones, be back from breaks on time, bathrooms locations and key codes.

  • We will all undertake to state our opinions honestly so that we can benefit from frank discussions
  • Participants may ask questions freely at any time
  • One person speaks at a time
  • Comments should be made to the whole group: we undertake not to have side conversations.
  • We will discuss ideas or opinions, not the person expressing them

I introduce the session with a brief overview of the training subject’s main points. I explain what trainees are going to see on the PowerPoint in order to create a better learning environment and I guide them to what to look for and what to remember.

Then I start around the table with introductions. Usually, I ask everyone in the group to take a turn to state their name, where they work, and their title. I make note of names as group members introduce themselves.

I explain that you are your own best resource. Much of the content of the training will be coming from you. Each one of you brings a wealth of experience to the program. The workshop can only be successful if it is a two-way process and if everyone participates fully. I structure this interaction time into all my sessions.

All trainees will get more out of sessions by hearing about their co-workers’ experiences with the subject. It is useful for me as a Trainer/Facilitator, to gain an understanding of individual and collective expectations. One of the greatest dangers for me as a Trainer arises when the participants’ expectations are set badly or not at all. Knowing these expectations in advance allows me to tailor the training to ensure their needs are met. It can be useful for me to refer back to people’s expectations. So, I then ask each of them to consider the topic and what their expectations of the workshop.

Let’s discuss the following question: What are your expectations for this workshop?Let’s go around the room. Can we start with Yvonne? Hmmm, I don’t know.

What about Kelly? Pass

Tricia? Nothing

Kristen? I expect to improve

Sara? Yea me too. What she said

Tim? Well, I would like to get better at my job

Any workshop can involve unexpected and difficult situations. Sometimes these are unforeseen practical problems, like fire alarm practice in the building. At other times, they’re down to group dynamics or behavior. I sense a pattern. So, I ask: ‘did you have to sign up for this, or were you told that this is mandatory”?

In unison, everybody shouts “Mandatory”!

Me: “Okay, so what were you told about the topic”?

Silence

Then one attendee speaks up… “we were only told to show up, we didn’t know anything more”.

Me: So, nothing, you were told nothing about the topic? No description, no objectives, nothing?

Trainer Tip: I find that it helps to explain at the start what I am aiming to achieve with it, and how it fits in with the overall aims of the workshop.

My response was not to apologize, “Oh, I’m sorry that you all have to be here. I know you’ve heard this before, but we have to do it again.” That is an entirely wrong message.

I summarized again the reasons for the session, knowing that employees are more willing to participate if they understand the why.

Effective training is more than just a tool to alter people’s behavior. It’s also a highly concentrated and efficient form of communication. But training itself must be communicated well to be effective. HR if you are reading this inform employees about the training you have planned for them. It would be a good idea to communicate and give employees an idea of what the program is about and what the trainees can expect from it.

You may also want to mention that the program should be taken seriously considering what the company’s expectations are. A company’s communications effectiveness is the single most important driver of employee commitment and motivation.So, be sure to communicate, communicate and communicate to employees about the training.

Getting employees motivated for training can be a challenge enough however, when they are told nothing about the training, except that it is mandatory then any training can loses its impact and importance and make it harder for the trainer to solicit expectations What d’ya expect if you didn’t communicate to the employees ?

I invite you to share your experiences or thoughts, or comments. You can email or call for more information on soft skills/interpersonal skills workshops that can transform employees.