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3 Keys to conducting effective live team training during a pandemic

At Ampogee, we often find ourselves in a manufacturing environment conducting a training session in person. When you are supporting an operation, the most effective trainings happen in person. For one, most of the operators don't have access to a computer on the floor, but even if a computer was present, they wouldn't be able to hear the zoom call due to the manufacturing ambient noise and quite frankly it’s tough to focus on a zoom call anywhere, much less on the factory shop floor.

So along the way we have perfected the art of live team training. I'm talking about a dozen or more people getting together to learn in person. Here are three key ways to conduct an effective live team training even in the midst of a pandemic.

1. Create a "How to" guide which will cover all the main points in the topic

How To Guide for Factory Shop Floor TrainingThe first thing I do when creating a training is to create a follow-along guide for the training. The act of creating this document will help you simplify your message. Start with a template which includes an instruction section, a FAQ section, and finally a reference section.

Instruction section

You will want to lay out the details on what you are training in an instruction section. Remember to number the pages of your document at a minimum so that you can say "Moving to page 3" and verify that everyone is literally on the same page. Pictures are your friend! Add pictures when possible.

FAQ section

When you are training in a room with masks on and potentially on the factory floor, the questions from the audience are often hard for all the participants to hear. When you get asked a question, first repeat it for the audience and then answer it. Remember to add it to the FAQ section of your training guide if it isn't already there.

When you frequently get asked the same questions, take it as a sign that your instruction section is unclear. You should continue to add to the instruction section to make it more clear for trainees, and create newer versions of the training document.

Reference section

The reference section might sound similar to a FAQ section, but they serve different purposes. The reference section is where a trainee will return when they need to look up the highlights of your training. Rather than combing back through the instruction section, you will want to put the big points and top references in this easy section to aid them as they are looking back at the guide.

2. Plan for socially distanced logistics

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way that we view group events. We have trained teams through the pandemic, and we have learned a few tips to help prevent your team training from turning into a super-spreader event. Of course, you should have everyone wear masks, aim to stand as far away from each other as possible, and wash their hands before and after the training.

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Standing trainees reduce post-training cleaning

If you have the trainees stand during the training, you will naturally distill your verbal training to the most important points. Leave the minor details in the instruction guide and consolidate what you actually need to say out loud. Our rule of thumb is no more than 30 minutes for a training session. Your employees have a lot on their minds today with a pandemic, an election, and everything else.

Also, if you have the trainees stand, you won't need to wipe down any chairs or tables after the meeting because they won't have touched anything. If you conduct the training in a hallway, standing will feel more natural, and you will benefit from the air flow movement versus in a stagnant room.

Print the handouts for every trainee

Print a copy of the handout for each trainee. While this may seem like a waste of paper, you won't be able to articulate every single item in your verbal presentation, and your team will need a more thorough guide for when they are trying to remember the training information.

Tell them the training guide is theirs to keep, and they can take notes as you speak. Since they won't be handing it back in, you don't need to worry about cross contamination with the training guides.

Choose a speaker with a loud voice

Picture this, you have 12 people in a hallway in a manufacturing environment. The noise of the environment isn't loud enough to require ear plugs, but it'sits loud enough that you need to pay attention to the person speaking in order to understand them. Now everyone has on masks and lip reading is out of the question.

As the speaker, you can still rely on eye-contact to determine if the information is clear or confusing. You should also remember to cite the page that you are on as you turn the page, i.e. "Now moving on to page 3." Consider bolding the exact words in the instruction guide that you will say during training, to help your team follow along.

3. Learn something from each training

The most important part of this process is to get better every time you do it. I had a training the other week where we had a 4 shift rotation and we broke the teams up into two sections to keep the manufacturing area producing while we were training. Therefore, I trained the exact same thing 8 times. I aimed to have each training be better than the last training. Here are a few things I have improved upon after each training.

  • When you hear a new question, add it to the FAQ section.
  • Take note of what confuses the trainees and refine your talking points to simplify the message
  • You can’t anticipate everything that could go wrong

Remember that you won't be able to anticipate everything, and when a question or comment sends the training off the rails, you can still save the training session. You should let the person know that you heard them, that you need to continue forward in the training in order to finish on time, and that you will follow up with them after the training about their issue.

Jennifer Biggs
Jennifer Biggs
Jennfier has a passion for leading and motivating teams through cultural transformations. She believes that people come to work everyday to be great. Through her operational experience at P&G Manufacturing, she has seen the true potential of an engaged and empowered team. She joined Ampogee in 2018 after 7 years of Manufacturing Operations experience. She has an Executive MBA from UNC Chapel Hill and a BS in Chemical Engineering from NC State University.

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