11 Ways to Add Meaning to Your Training Session

So, you've purchased a training program. It's realistic. It's intelligent. It's funny. It's meaningful. (It must be a Media Partners production.) Most importantly, you're confident that it meets the needs of your business and that the training will positively impact the company. But, are you ready? Have you done everything you can to help ensure that your training will meet the unique needs of each of your employees?

11 Ways to Add Meaning to Your Training Session

By Michele Eby February 10, 2014

Even top-shelf training programs can be enhanced by your efforts to customize the content. To make it specific to your business world, tailor your training to add meaning, which is critical to adult learners. Adults need to know that you value them and their experiences. That’s why directly applying the training to their world is so important. It also increases the likelihood that training will be transferred to the work setting. But, don’t let the idea of customizing a program intimidate you; we’re not talking about rewriting anything or developing content. That’s why you purchased a program. We’re talking about little things that you can do to add company-specific relevance to your training. Consider these 11 things you can do before, during and after to enhance the training experience for every unique participant.

Before the Training...

  1. Interview key business people or department heads. If your training is targeted to address a specific business need or correct a problem, learn more about it. Then, help your participants understand the broader business perspective, where they fit in, and the benefits of the training.
  2. Use company-specific scenarios. Before a harassment prevention program, for example, talk to Human Resources about specific situations that the company has investigated. Use these situations as discussion points, or scenarios during the workshop. While you’ll have to talk in general terms without names or departments, the scenarios will be much more powerful because they really happened.
  3. Prepare fishbowl scenarios. Jot down common, realistic, scenarios and throw them in a fishbowl or hat so participants can work on real company-specific issues throughout the training program.
  4. Assign pre-work. Ask participants to write down a common scenario or problem relevant to the training and bring it with them. They can work on their own issue, or you can toss the papers into a fishbowl for participants to randomly draw role-plays or discussion problems.
During the Training...
  1. Ask participants to come up with their own case studies, role-plays, or scenarios. If you don’t want to assign pre-work, ask them to come up with the issue or problem during the workshop. If, for example, you want them to model a conflict resolution process, ask them to use a scenario from the workplace, either current or past. Because it’s specific to their work world, the participants will connect and relate as they work through the correct process.
  2. Ask participants to apply the learning point to their world. Ask, “How can we apply this?” or “What does this mean for our customers?”
  3. Ask specific questions to bridge the content. When you transition from topic to topic, use specific workplace examples. For example, if you’re discussing how to handle a difficult guest, set up the problem visually using your workplace setting and explain the next step. Say something like, “We’ve just finished talking about why it’s so important to listen to a difficult guest without interrupting. Let’s say a customer is upset that his food is undercooked. He tells you”
  4. Rewrite learning objectives so they are company-specific. This is a great way to customize the content while wrapping up your session. Ask participants to select one or two objectives and rewrite them to be more specific to their job. As a group, discuss all of the objectives and then, have participants sign and date a commitment to integrate the new learning objectives into their work setting.
After the Training...
  1. Have participants “teach” what they’ve learned. While you don’t want to create more work for your participants in an already busy day, taking a few minutes to hear about what they’ve learned strongly reinforces the content and connects what they’ve learned to their world. Ideally, a manager should spend a few minutes with the participants asking about the training and how it applies to their work.
  2. Create a company-specific follow-up. After 30, 60 or 90 days, ask participants to submit a testimonial in which they applied the training to their jobs. Make sure the request is simple and easy to implement. For example, e-mail a three-question form they can complete and return. Offer incentives or prizes to help ensure participation. Not only will you reinforce the training, and strengthen the relevance to your workplace, you will be able to assess the need for any follow-up or coaching.
  3. Catch participants applying what they’ve learned and use those anecdotal stories in your next session. Reward those who transfer the training. Catch them doing something right and encourage and celebrate their learning. Then talk about those successes during future sessions. People like to know that what they are learning really works.

Hope these methods serve to both facilitate and enhance your training sessions. Use the comments below and let us know examples of how YOU add meaning to your training programs! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more helpful training tips from your friends at Media Partners.


Michele Eby works for Media Partners as a writer and training advisor. She has worked in the training and development field for more than 15 years.