Setting your training on fire!

838 838 Ellen Ensher
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Nikki Fernandez

Has anybody ever tried to grab your attention in an unconventional way? Maybe you liked it, maybe it missed the mark, but hopefully the person didn’t try to set your office on fire to do it. I can’t say the same for the workers in TBS’ The Office, when Dwight Shrute decides to set the office waste bin ablaze to punish his colleagues for not paying attention to his fire safety training. While Dwight asserts that ‘experience is the best teacher’, there is quite the risk with setting a contained fire in such a small space, merely to prove a point.
This does however raise a deeper question. Why are workers disengaged in training demonstrations? Surely trainings contain useful information like safety, job procedures, corporate culture & behavior, and more. But as we can see from The Office, the employees were ill-prepared to tackle the matter at hand with the sudden fire and smoke because they didn’t pay attention. The joke Dwight makes is that nobody paid attention because he ‘used Powerpoint’ and it’s ‘boring’. I don’t disagree and I think some of you can attest to this too. Sometimes trainings are boring.
The most effective trainings usually aren’t droning on and on with boring steps in a lecture, talking at the people participating, and essentially information dumping all over them. The most effective trainings aren’t always the same methods either, though some methods rank higher in comparison to others. The most effective trainings are when employees are engaged. Engaged employees are more productive employees. Encouraging employees engagement during trainings can be done with methods such as small group discussions, case studies, role-playing, quiz games, teaching others, and nearly anything else that involves employees using critical thinking to solve problems and collaborating with their team members.
For example, if you need your employees to remember specific facts and figures, turn it into a jeopardy game, complete with the iconic tune and playing template (bonus points if you have Alex Trebek host). Or even go a step further and let the participants run the show –the fashion show, that is. Indiana University of Pennsylvania hosts a fashion show were the participants may choose an outfit, whether business formal or casual, and the HR department serves as the judges; perfect because HR dictates what is appropriate office wear. This method is much more effective than reading a long list of items people cannot wear. Providing a fun way for people to engage in the material is a great way to ensure they learn the info they need.
So, next time instead of setting your office on fire and forcing your employees to solve a problem they are not prepared for, perhaps set your initial training on fire instead. Get the participants engaged, excited, and having fun so that they may better retain the crucial information you are graciously bestowing upon them.
Watch Dwight’s antics on what not to do here