Four Strategies to Start Using Now
“I learned so much during orientation. It’s too bad I won’t use most of it for six months. I took some notes, but I’m sure I won’t remember half of what they told me to do.”
“I’m overwhelmed. I learned a new piece of equipment today. The person showing me what to do knew everything. The problem I had was the deep dives. He spent so much time on troubleshooting techniques. It was just too much for my first day.”
“I can follow the steps, but I have no idea why I’m doing what I’m doing. I sort of feel like a trained monkey. I hope nothing goes wrong because I will have no clue how to fix it if something does.
Despite our best efforts, it’s not as easy as it looks to get the training equation right. We train too early, we train too much, or we make a host of other errors. While some of us learn from our mistakes, many of us practice a cycle of rinse and repeat as we make the same blunders year after year. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. With some careful planning and follow through, you can avoid problems many people will encounter again and again.
Strategy One: Keep Training Relevant and Immediately Applicable
Countless onboarding programs attempt to teach everything a person would ever want to know or need to know about a job in the first few hours, days, or weeks. The information is important, but it has no immediate value. Subsequently, learners become overwhelmed in class, and then they don’t have opportunities to apply or reinforce what they’ve learned for months or even years.
Good training designers know the value of careful pacing, and they practice just-in-time training when they can. Ask yourself, what does my learner need to be successful in the first day, the first week, and the first month? Teach to those needs as much as possible, and save the more in-depth information for a more appropriate time. What do you need to prioritize?
Strategy Two: Connect to Why Again and Again
When people don’t know why they are doing something, they don’t understand the big picture. While they get the process at a surface level, their limited understanding potentially keeps them from following procedures later.
For example, if someone is learning how to use a print/copier/scanner/fax machine and part of the process is putting the guard up on the paper tray with jobs over 100 sheets, without explaining as to why that’s important to do, that learner might take it upon himself to skip that step back on the job. Only when papers are scattered all over the floor and have to be re-collated does the learning know the importance of raising the guard.
Great trainers make connections. They repeatedly explain why they’re doing what they’re doing, why procedures are written as they are, and so forth. Are you connecting the dots as well as you should, or could you do a better job?
Strategy Three: Use Multiple Channels to Cement Learning
I showed her how to do it, she did it, and now she’s trained. Maybe that’s true for the simple stuff, but for the complex processes and procedures, multi-channel encoding reigns supreme.
For example, show learners in real-time how to complete a process. Then do it again, at the same time providing a narration track while the learner takes notes. Next, have the learner read aloud the notes she’s taken. Finally, have the learner demonstrate the procedure.
The multi-channel approach allows learners to see, to hear, to write, to speak, and to do whatever process they are learning. Depending on the learner, some senses may be more powerful than others. And in rare cases where there is no preference, repetition wins the day. What can you do differently to engage more senses?
Strategy Four: Teach with Reference Tools
- It’s one thing to conquer a task during class or one-on-one job coaching, but it’s entirely another to reproduce those results on the job.
- People who have mastered the training function know to develop and teach reference tools in addition to processes themselves.
- Ask yourself what kinds of support you need to develop. Decide where you need to incorporate them in your training plans. Those who learn how to solve problems themselves are worth their weight in gold. In addition to strong productivity, these people are also usually happier and more motivated than those who don’t have the tools to stand on their own feet.
Four strategies and none hard: make training relevant, connecting to why, repeating information using different channels, and incorporating the tools learners should use to solve problems back on the job. If done deliberately and with routine, you will almost certainly get a good result.
About the Author
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team provide onsite, virtual, and online soft-skills training courses and workshops to clients in the United States and internationally. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.
By Susan Robertson
The short answer? BOTH. Or NEITHER. It’s solely dependent on how the meeting is structured and managed,
A recent study found that online interactions result in less creativity than face-to-face. The reason: when online, people mostly stare at the screen, rather than letting their eyes wander around, which sparks more divergent thought. But the flaw with this study was that the conditions that actually result in creative thinking were not set; not in the online nor the in-person experiments. So, even though the in-person interactions were slightly more creative, neither were very creative at all, in the absolute.
Effective creative thinking requires adherence to specific guidelines. If done casually, without guidelines, it won’t be effective regardless of online or in-person.
10 RULES FOR BRAINSTORMING SUCCESS – In any environment.
- FREE THEM FROM FEAR – It’s very difficult for people to share ideas if they’re concerned about negative consequences. A climate that helps people get past the fear is critical. One key principle is to prohibit any evaluation (even positive evaluation) during the idea generation phase. All evaluation occurs only after idea generation is complete.
- USE THE POWER OF THE GROUP. Build, combine, and create new ideas in the moment. Don’t just collect ideas that people have already had. The building and combining is where the magic happens. Break up into pairs or small groups to encourage even more building and combining.
- GET OUTSIDE STIMULOUS. Asking the same people to sit in the same place and review the same information won’t result in exciting, new ideas. Talk to your customers, talk to other experts, explore what other industries are doing. Have the in-person meeting in a park or museum. If online, mail everyone some dollar-store toys in advance, or play music or show unusual pictures.
- ENCOURAGE THE CRAZY. Something often heard at the beginning of a brainstorming: “Every idea is a good idea.” Followed by a collective eye roll because no one believes it. While it’s not true that every idea is a practical idea, it is true that every idea can offer useful stimulus for additional ideas. Sometimes ideas thrown in as jokes can be the spark that leads to new direction and a winning idea. So allow, encourage, and use every idea, even if only for creative fodder.
- IT’S A NUMBERS GAME. The more “at bats” you have, the more likely you are to hit a home-run. Drive for quantity. Ensure the session is long enough to generate lots. If you only spend 10 minutes, don’t expect great results.
- LAUGH A LOT. Humor stimulates creativity, so let it happen. One easy way – have everyone introduce themselves by answering a fun or silly question. Here’s one used in a session in December – “What’s something you DON’T need more of for the holidays?” The resulting answers were hilarious, and some even started sparking real ideas.
- HOMEWORK IS REQUIRED. Both individual and group efforts are critical for success. Insist on individual preparation. Ensure everyone knows the goal, and ask them to do some homework in advance.
- IT’S NOT CASUAL. Effective brainstorming requires skillful facilitation, which is a different set of skills from managing other meeting types. There must be a designated facilitator, who is NOT the primary problem owner. The role of the facilitator is to objectively manage the process. Ideally, the facilitator should be someone who has no stake in the outcome and can remain neutral to all content. Designate a facilitator far enough in advance that the person has time to fully plan the session, and potentially to study up on how to do it well.
- IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK, BUT DOESN’T ACT LIKE A DUCK, IT’S NOT A DUCK. If you can’t, or don’t intend to, follow the guidelines for successful brainstorming, then don’t call it brainstorming. For example, a meeting that just becomes a stage for one person to spout their opinions isn’t useful. And if a brainstorming is not organized and structured appropriately, everyone will feel how ineffective it is, and they’ll be sure to skip your next session. So, either set up for success, or don’t bother.
- YOU’RE NOT DONE UNTIL YOU DECIDE. Everyone has been in this situation; it’s the end of a brainstorming session, a long list of ideas has been created, and someone volunteers to type up the list. And…. that’s it. There’s no action, or at least none that we’re aware of. It’s demotivating to spend time and energy generating ideas only to feel they went nowhere. Plan time for selecting and prioritizing the ideas during the session. Spend at least an equal amount of time on converging as you do on diverging. Yes, you read that right. If you generate ideas for an hour, also spend at least an hour on selecting, clarifying, and planning. If you leave with a huge list of nebulous, potential ideas, that’s not success. The outcome should be a short list of clear ideas, and a plan for action.
Whether in-person or online, creativity happens when the correct conditions are set. If you’re doing it casually, without guidelines, and without skillful facilitation, it may not be tremendously effective. However, with appropriate focus on the process and environment, and by following these rules, you can effectively generate creative solutions in any setting.
About the Author: Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to: https://susanrobertson.co/.
Every year in the spring, Amy B., a buyer for a large retail chain store, hosts an Easter egg decorating teambuilding party, where she and a bunch of her suppliers spend an entire afternoon coloring and bedazzling hard-boiled eggs. None of them bring their kids—they do this for the sheer pleasure of out-of-the office bonding, creating interesting and attractive objects. The group is always amazed at the creativity of the resulting eggs. (And in case you’re wondering, no, none of them are artists.)
So why, as adults, don’t people exercise their inner child-like creativity more often? And what is it about the Easter egg party that allows them to so freely generate and express such range and diversity of ideas? There are several factors—all of which also apply to innovation.
Each egg represents a very low commitment. It is cheap in both time and materials to try any idea they think of, so they try lots of ideas. If one doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter—it’s just one egg. Similarly, in your innovation work, you need to consider and try out many ideas, to ensure that only the best ones move forward. As innovation projects proceed through a company, they get more expensive—in money, time, and labor—at each successive phase. Developing Fail Fast, Fail Cheap methodologies allows you to try out lots of ideas early on, while it’s still cheap.
They leverage not only individual creativity, but also use the power of the group. Someone will think of an idea to try, and then toss it out to the group. Then everyone contributes ideas for how best to accomplish it. No one ever says, “Yes, but that won’t work.” Everyone just thinks of ways to help make it better. The resulting final solutions are nearly always significantly better than what the person would have tried originally. In many companies, the “Yes, But” phenomenon is all too common, and can be very damaging to creativity and innovation. Most ideas aren’t perfect when they’re first conceived, but teams act like they should be. They point out all the problems in an emerging idea before they ever attempt to find out if there’s anything good about it. For innovation and creative problem solving to thrive, it’s critical to create an environment that nurtures ideas rather than stifles them, so you get the benefit of the best thinking of the entire team.
They are willing to start over when something clearly isn’t working. One woman brought eggs that were not naturally white; instead, they were brown. It wasn’t clear that dyeing them would work very well, if at all. And, in fact, the first few attempts didn’t work. So, she scraped off all the color on her unsuccessful eggs several times. But when she chose red, yellow, and orange colors and left them in the dye bath long enough, she got some of the most uniquely rich and vividly colored eggs anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately, in large organizations, too many innovation projects that aren’t quite hitting the mark proceed too far. It’s important to recognize when an idea isn’t working, and then be willing to start again when you need to.
Reframing the goal results in more divergent ideas. The woman with the brown eggs also tried other methods of decorating the eggs, not just coloring them with dye. Once she reframed the problem from coloring eggs to decorating eggs, everyone else also began creating the most innovative and unusual eggs of all. This reframing of the problem is a critical step in effective problem-solving and innovation. This is because the way a problem is stated affects the potential solutions you will think of. So when addressing any obstacle, it’s a good idea to question the way the challenge or problem is worded, to see if you can reframe it to get to different and better solutions.
So the next time you find yourself with eggs to decorate—or a challenge to meet—keep these tips in mind to help you think more creatively and come up with more innovative solutions…
- Fail fast, fail cheap. Test many possible ideas.
- Leverage individual and group creativity; “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but”.
- Be willing to start over when the idea isn’t working.
- Reframe the opportunity to expand your thinking.
About the Author:
Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to:https://susanrobertson.co/
This event is being hosted and promoted by the Women’s Bureau/Department of Labor.
In honor of Black History Month, the Women’s Bureau invites you to a screening of “Invisible Warriors,” a documentary by historian and retired professor Gregory Cooke about the 600,000 African-American “Rosie the Riveters” who worked at factories and shipyards during World War II, but whose contributions were largely unrecognized. The film is a powerful conversation with the women who helped shaped American history and who are now sharing previously untold stories about life during World War II. A fireside chat with the filmmaker will follow the screening.
• Date: Monday, February 14
• Time: 2–3:30 p.m. ET
Regardless of what date the calendar shows, business is blooming – and the season for sowing success is officially here. The ways businesses can promote themselves is blooming, too – blogs, podcasts, social media, website search engine optimization, television, magazines! How can business owners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders weed out what will land on the rocks and what will bear fruit when it comes to publicity?
You see, a targeted publicity campaign is much like gardening. It requires an innate understanding of the medium where your expertise best fits, properly nurturing the attention that you generate, and reaping the rewards of increased awareness of your unique space in the business market.
So where to start? The soil, of course!
The Soil – Your Market
A successful publicity campaign starts with deep knowledge of where your knowledge works. Whether you excel at providing management solutions or the art of making the most of the clock, you don’t simply want to blast out your content like a defective garden hose. Just like different substrates, different avenues exist for your expertise – and you need to choose the one that’s best for your expressed goals.
Whether that means pitching your content out to a specific geographic area or DMA that pertains to a coming event, or providing comment on a national news story, you have to possess a keen awareness of where your knowledge best fits and the outcome that you’re hoping to elicit.
Sowing – Targeted Pitching
Just like you shouldn’t take a scattershot approach to planting seeds you hope will eventually produce fruit, you shouldn’t assume you can just cover each and every aspect of the media with a publicity campaign. It’s about targeted pitching of content to editors, writers, and producers.
Plant your expertise seeds where you have the strongest opportunity for success. That means having a firm grasp on your target market where you know you have a strong shot of developing enduring roots – not just a momentary glimpse of sunlight.
Nurturing – Building Relationships
Anyone who has ever seen that first seedling sprout in their garden or field knows that immediate feeling of elation. Things are happening! I wasn’t just tilling and watering this soil for no reason! It’s a burst of excitement in knowing that your work had paid off. But those same folks will can also identify with watching their work wilt on the vine and the inescapable thought that more could have been done.
Once you have started the process of pitching out your expertise – be it to daily newspapers in the form of interview availability, or articles to trade, industry, and association publications, it’s imperative that you nurture those leads by properly tracking and following up with the editors who have requested your comment or content.
One of the biggest mistakes that is made during a publicity campaign is fostering a one-sided relationship. Each one of those columnists and editors is looking to fill space with intriguing content on a consistent basis. Just like you wouldn’t prune your leaves or fertilize all at once when it’s convenient, you need to maintain a dialogue with those who are looking to you for answers.
That doesn’t mean to bombard them with emails or phone calls—it simply entails having a firm process in place to touch base on the status of your article or interview, and be ready to reach out when a mutually beneficial opportunity arises.
The Harvest – Frequency and Repetition
The pinnacle of sowing season is the harvest—where you can reap the rewards of your time, efforts, energy, and dedication. After months of tending to your crops, it’s finally time to take out your bushels and account for your yield.
In a PR campaign, the sowing season runs year-round as a well-targeted campaign means you’ll receive a bounty of coverage on a consistent basis – regardless of the date on the calendar.
To the Market – Benefiting from Publicity
Off to the market with your haul! This is where the hard work really pays off and you can assign a definitive, tangible value to the time investment to planting, tending, and harvesting your crop.
With publicity, post-placement marketing is a key, critical component in a campaign’s life cycle. Without effective marketing to the associations and industries who utilized your expertise in their publication you cannot truly capitalize on the commitment you made to growing your business or enhancing your audience at the outset.
Effectively marketing the publication that you receive involves outreach to the industries who found direct value in your content—be it your perspective in an interview or your unique selling propositions in articles. Without leveraging these placements and marketing to those industries, you’ll be left with a bounty without a buyer.
With business back in full bloom, events are currently being planned and organizations are seeking experts to enrich their audiences with their point-of-view. To enjoy the full range of benefits of a publicity campaign you must think like a farmer or gardener—determine the fertile soil for your content, sow the seeds of your expertise with targeted pitching, with a green thumb frame-of-mind (in a monetary context, of course), nurture the relationships built, and then leverage your placements to begin marketing your content.
As the gardeners and farmers among you know, it doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, care, and dedication you’ll enjoy the rewards of a fruitful publicity endeavor.
About the Author:
Russell Trahan is the Owner/President of PR/PR Public Relations and the Author of Sell Yourself Without Saying A Word. PR/PR/ Public Relations is a boutique agency specializing in thought-leaders and subject-matter experts. He positions his clients’ expertise in front of their target market. PR/PR Public Relations has a 20+ year history of getting 100% of their clients results. For more information, please visit: www.PRPR.net.
Organizations have many options when it comes to marketing for Small Business Saturday, which occurs on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to support local businesses. The event drives attention to local small companies, presenting them with an opportunity to create brand awareness and increase local sales.
Taking advantage of Small Business Saturday requires planning, executing, and financing strategies. Funding your efforts can be done through securing a small business loan. The working capital can be used to hire seasonal staff, purchase extra inventory, or pay for a marketing campaign.
However, marketing isn’t always simple. Here’s what you need to know and how to take advantage of small business’s big day.
Ramp Up Digital Marketing for Small Business Saturday
Brands must work to engage customers through both digital and physical means. This omnichannel experience begins with digital marketing basics. You Should Consider:
Building Relationships on Social Media: Connecting with customers on social media can help you capture additional holiday sales. When marketing for Small Business Saturday, you may want to gradually tease out your plans for the big day. You can use social media to broadcast a special offer or invite customers to an in-store event. Social media is ideal for highlighting how you plan to celebrate Small Business Saturday. When posting on social media, be sure to include the #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat hashtags.
Using Email Marketing: Email campaigns are an effective way to garner consumer attention and bring awareness to exclusive Small Business Saturday deals. It’s important to go beyond broad, generic messages. Personalization is increasingly vital in standing out in email campaigns. Key Strategies to Employ:
- Take the time to get to know your audience.
- Create copy aimed directly at them.
- Highlight promotions that fit their needs.
- Give them a clear action to take in response to the message.
Fostering Online Reviews: Consumers actively research products and services before committing to a purchase. Consider teaming up with an influencer who has a large following and a fair amount of influence within your area or niche. You can send them product samples in return for an honest review. This will help drive visibility and increase consumer confidence.
Implement Traditional Advertising Programs
Small businesses benefit from the ability to offer localized, personal services. You can leverage your relationship with your community to build trust and increase brand awareness. Traditional advertising campaigns can be ideal for furthering your presence in your community. Key Strategies to Employ:
Getting Involved With Your Local Xommunity: Participating in community service events helps you get to know those around you. And helps them get to know your business. Interacting with potential customers in a community setting shows that you’re interested in relationship building rather than just maximizing sales. You could consider sponsoring a charity or local event. Successful community involvement plans require commitment and a genuine interest in what you’re doing.
Run Ad Campaigns With Local Media: If you want to drive engagement at a local level, you must use channels that are specifically aimed at your local community. Your message can slip into the background on far-reaching media channels, but an ad campaign in a local paper can go a long way in helping people connect with your brand.
Offer Deals and Promotions: It’s critical to recognize the importance of deals and promotions when marketing for Small Business Saturday. Limited time offers, and discounts can persuade customers who are on the fence about your products and services to give them a try.
Prepare Your Systems and Operations
If you’re successful at marketing for Small Business Saturday, then you’ll need to be prepared for an increase in volume and customer interactions. Consider:
Optimizing for Mobile: Consumers do everything from product research to actual purchases via smartphones and tablets. Make sure your website is mobile optimized. If your website is not optimized for mobile, you risk running into problems as you work to increase traffic surrounding Small Business Saturday.
Updating Your Website: Make sure your address and contact info is correct on your website. Additionally, review your site to make sure that promotions are prominently displayed, and your payment process is working properly. Put new product pictures out if your current listings seem dated and ensure copy properly reflects your services. Take time to upgrade and adjust your site before the big event.
Hiring Seasonal Staff: Since Small Business Saturday falls in line with the holiday season, it’s a convenient time to bring in extra staff. Seasonal employees can be used to help launch a new marketing campaign, handle sales, or interact with customers.
Managing Your Inventory: One of the most important considerations for Small Business Saturday is that you have plenty of goods to sell. A boost in sales won’t matter if you don’t have inventory available to meet customer needs. Take some time to analyze your supplies and ensure you’re ready for the increase in demand.
By participating in Small Business Saturday, local businesses receive quite a few perks including community support, great local marketing opportunities, and the high potential to reach new customers. Utilize the above marketing strategies to better prepare for Small Business Saturday and take advantage of the shopping frenzy.
Ben Gold is president of QuickBridge, a privately-held financial services firm providing “small business loans” and short-term working capital funding solutions for small-to medium-sized businesses nationwide. Based on its growth, QuickBridge has ranked two consecutive years on the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing American Companies list. Ben is a thought leader in the financial tech. industry and a contributing member of the Forbes Finance Council.