End-User Training Tips

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The following content is based on a 2014 interview between Lynn Larson, principal, Recharged Education, and Jennifer Clark, procurement services training manager, University of Alabama. With 12 years of training experience plus five years of Purchase Card experience, Jennifer shares unique insights into how to make training successful for the trainer and participants. In addition, Recharged Education offers more content related to training.

Strategies

Lynn: What are your top strategies for making Purchasing Card training a success? For example, how do you make the content interesting?

Jennifer: In my opinion, a good trainer is part showman, part talk show host, and part subject matter expert. It takes all three of these roles to get the participants engaged, make them comfortable in the environment, and impress upon them the importance of the material.

Jennifer explains each of these roles:

Successful training requires a good strategy, executed by an effective trainer.

Successful training requires a good strategy, executed by an effective trainer.

The Showman

The first thing to focus on is getting and keeping their attention. I find it helpful to incorporate several tactics to combat the dreaded head bob:

  • Make the slides fresh and appealing. Standard PowerPoint templates make it easy to put the information on the screen, but they are hardly memorable. I try to use lots of images and minimal text. Nobody wants to hear the trainer simply read the slides anyway.

  • Start on a good note. I’ve had great results from playing music before class, using silly animations (sparingly please!), or passing around real-world examples.

  • Keep things upbeat and lively by including ample anecdotes and examples. Tailor the scenarios to fit the audience. It is much easier for participants to remember information if you can help them conceptualize how it applies to their jobs.

  • Work in opportunities for audience participation—anything that sets the mood for a fun, informative session.

The Talk Show Host

The role of the talk show host serves to get the conversation started, keep it on topic, and wrap it up on time.  I think that my favorite trick for in-person training is to “work the crowd” as the participants are arriving. I try to get to know a little bit about as many of them as possible. As a trainer, this:

  • helps calm my pre-class jitters by allowing me to “make friends” one at a time
  • results in information about my audience to use in my examples
  • breaks the ice so they will be more comfortable asking questions later

I always begin my classes by explaining that my training style is very informal. I welcome all questions and don’t stand on protocol. I want the class to be more of a conversation and less of a lecture.

The Subject Matter Expert

As important as it is to make class interesting and develop a welcoming atmosphere, it is equally important to make sure that you are presenting the right image. When you are in the front of the room, those participants expect that you to be the authority on the subject. You have to inspire confidence even if your knees are knocking. You are playing a part here, and it is important that you never break character. Nobody else in the room need ever know that this is your first time to teach the class or that you just learned the material last week.

Measuring Success

Lynn: How do you measure training success?

Jennifer: The purpose of training is to develop successful cardholders. Their individual success feeds into the success of the entire program. We use a tracking system to identify patterns in audit findings that may indicate training issues. For example, new cardholders are audited 100% for the first six months to ensure that any initial problems are identified and corrected early on.  

For ongoing success, we work hard to provide good reference material on our website to help our cardholders make good decisions on using the card. In addition, we encourage them to view the P-Card staff as a reference. 

Lynn: What about quizzes to help measure retention? What advice do you have concerning question development, quiz length, format, etc.?

Jennifer: I considered giving a quiz at the end of the classroom training to document training results, but ultimately decided against it for several reasons. I know that test anxiety is a very real thing, and I don’t want anyone to decide not to be a cardholder because they are worried about passing a test. I also don’t want to send the message that cardholders have to know everything about spending policies. There are a lot of gray areas and I want them to be comfortable asking for clarifications or special considerations. 

The only time that I do require a test is for online courses. In this situation, I feel that it is necessary to have documentation that the learner actually viewed the material. Even so, the test questions are simple and cover the major topics addressed in the course.  A 30- to 45-minute course may have 5 to 10 multiple-choice questions.

Editor's note: Recharged Education recommends annual refresher training and online quizzes for cardholders and their managers. Learn more...