April 26 -

If you have ever been on a backpacking trip, then you know that a backpacker has to deal with competing goals when packing. The only way to successfully complete the trip is to balance the competing requirements of what you will need vs. what you can actually carry.

Many times when we are preparing to on-board new employees we begin gathering information about everything they will need to know and then put it in a PowerPoint deck. The resulting training is rarely successful. Attendees either tune out or they are overwhelmed, furiously taking notes on everything that is being said.

A teacher that only focuses on the list of requirements, but doesn’t consider the limitations of what their employees can understand, absorb, remember and apply, is like a backpacker who is trying to overstuff their pack.

One of my favorite books is “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. In terms of teaching and training employees, essentialism is really just accepting the fact that you are going to have to make trade-offs. You can’t teach it all. Your employees can’t remember it all.

The real work is not creating more PowerPoint slides, but instead taking the time to make the hard decisions about what you will teach and what you will leave out for a later time.

The key to making this work is to rethink your training approach.

  • Create knowledge resources that students can access later
  • Teach them, during the training, how to use these resources

By creating a knowledge base with how-to guides and checklists, your employees no longer need to “remember” everything. They just need to remember where the answers are. Your training can focus on key, high level principles and then rely on your knowledge base to fill in the answers for the questions that will come up later.

Think of your last training. If you asked one of the attendees to tell you the three most important things from that presentation, would they be able to respond quickly and clearly? Would you?

If not, then think about your next training task. Ask yourself what is essential. If you could only teach three things, what would they be?

As you do this, remember that the best thing you can do as a teacher is to focus on progress instead of perfection. Don’t make the mistake of trying to cram too much into the backpack. Embrace the trade-offs that exist and you will make a lot more progress in moving your organization to where you want it to be.

Note:  This tip is provided Greg DeVore from ScreenSteps (http://www.screensteps.com). He can be reached at greg@screensteps.com.