Sourcing: Group Training Best Practices

Aug 12, 2009

image by via Creative CommonsWhat is the most effective way to train people in the art and science of sourcing?

One of the most common forms of group training in the sourcing community is the webinar. Some are free, others cost money. Some are internal corporate trainings, and others are delivered by 3rd party trainers. Although web based training is relatively easy to deliver and it offers the ability to train large numbers of people across multiple locations – the question must be asked – how effective is it as a training method?

The ultimate measure of any training method’s effectiveness is the extent to which trainees can reliably and properly execute the techniques, tactics, and strategies that they were exposed to during the training.  The reality is that most people do not absorb and retain information effectively by watching and listening to a trainer – this applies to web-based training as well as live classroom training. 

Research in occupational training shows that people retain about:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they hear and use
  • 70% of that they say
  • 90% of what they say and do

That means that any training that only involves reading, listening, and watching has about a 30% retention rate. Would you say that’s a good return on investment?

I’ve delivered many web-based trainings myself out of simple necessity – it isn’t always practical or even possible to perform live training for large groups of people who are geographically dispersed – and I’ve been amazed at how little people actually retain from 1 to 2 hour web-based training sessions. No matter how knowledgeable the trainer is, the simple fact of the matter is that people retain only about 30% of what they see and hear.

Retention might improve somewhat (research would suggest 50%) if people would leave a training session and immediately go try everything they were just exposed to, but in my experience most people don’t. Even if they did, without the benefit of an on-site expert/trainer to observe what they’re doing and provide the appropriate guidance, most people aren’t able to self-evaluate, particularly with newly gained skills.

The Missing Link

What’s missing from most training – web-based or live – is having the trainees actually use what they’ve been exposed to during training and while they’re doing so, explain what they’re doing and why. This is where the magic happens – the trainer/mentor can actually verify the trainee’s level of understanding by observing and evaluating the techniques, strategies, and thought process they apply when faced with a practical (“real world”) challenge. Only when a trainee can solve multiple challenges by properly applying the techniques they’ve been taught and they are able to explain WHY they used the technique/approach they did can the trainer have confidence that there has been true knowledge transfer.

The What vs. the How and Why

Most sourcing and recruiting training that I have been exposed to focuses heavily, if not exclusively, on the “what.” The “what” is domain knowledge – such as “here are a bunch of Twitter search apps,” “this is LinkedIn’s search interface,” and “here are Google’s search operators.” While this can be very good information, it’s not very different than reading an instruction manual, and instruction manuals don’t typically produce experts.

The “how” goes beyond simply how to use with something such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google to search for people  (e.g., syntax, fields, etc) and into exactly how to find the right people using such tools. This is process knowledge and can be quite valuable.

The “why” is perhaps the most critical aspect of training and knowledge transfer. Being able to go through the motions and copy what a trainer has shown you isn’t real learning in my opinion. If you are able to explain precisely WHY you’re using a particular site, syntax, or search strategy, then as a trainer I can truly assess whether or not you really understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

If you recall the occupational research statistics, people tend to retain approximately 50% of what they hear and use, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they say and do. What’s missing from most sourcing training is incorporating hands-on use of the training by the trainees into the training program/session, along with having them explain what they’re doing and precisely why. That’s exactly how a training session can go from 30% retention of material to 90% retention.

It’s no secret that the vast majority of people learn by doing, so for maximum knowledge transfer, it’s critical for training programs to allow for attendees to use and apply what they’ve been exposed to in the training. This enables the trainer to assess each attendee’s level of understanding and provide appropriate guidance to those who do not fully understand the training and techniques. While it may not be practical to incorporate this level of two-way interaction in some web-based training scenarios – especially with very large groups – it’s not impossible.

In Conclusion

For consumers of sourcing training, demand more of the how and the why, and whenever possible, choose training programs that allow you to use the techniques you’re being trained in under the guidance and evaluation of the trainer.  For sourcing trainers, be sure to incorporate some form of assessment into your training programs whenever practical.

Expecting to master sourcing techniques and strategies from web-based or live training that doesn’t involve interactive assessment and evaluation of your understanding of the content is like expecting to master golf by watching a golf video or by taking golf lessons where the instructor doesn’t let you actually swing the club in their presence and offer guidance and advice.

Expect more from your training!

image by via Creative Commons

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