BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 31 MAR 2020


our top ten L&D tips


In some ways this is a dream for learning and development. With everyone at home you have a captive audience, ripe for behaviour change. One of the primary reasons not to develop your people is you have no time. 

Here are ten tips for developing your people when they are at home, furloughed or not. After the bracing morning run, Frasier, West Wing, and Bargain Hunt, personal development is a win/win.

After all, you have a captive audience desperate for distraction. In addition to the learning, they can all produce an intense three-hour pasta sauce with all those extra veggies. Remember a little sugar and a splash of balsamic.

Nifty Nineties
Make your sessions short and sweet, ninety minutes is a nifty length of session. If you want to have a half day don’t do two 90 minutes. Try 60-minute blocks, with an hour in between (so they can find the cat).

If you need longer than half a day, breaking into smaller groups and ensuring long breaks are essential.

Keep it very simple as it's easy to be seduced by the bells and whistles of the technology and lose sight of the purpose of the session. You know what KISS means yes?

Tech Talk
Have tech help. This does not need to be sophisticated - just simply be someone who is a few steps ahead of the rest on Zoom, able to talk new adopters though the common tripwires. Include clear and simple joining instructions but assume not everyone will understand them.

Start On Time
Start with registration half an hour before the event. This is more important than in face-to-face sessions because you want a hard start at the allotted time. It allows all tech gremlins to be addressed well in advance.

Finish on time, people have other things to do. It has become acceptable to have half a can of cider at 4.57pm, when you are starting to prepare dinner from the recipe you got from tinternet.

Be in The Room
Facilitators need to listen and empathise to get a sense of the room to be sure, but also be more directive and assertive than you would be in a room.

Follow up after one month, in fact ideally every month for three months to embed the behaviour change to Kirkpatrick Level Four.

This applies to everyone, but the facilitator has a big role here. While you must start on time and be assertive, cut delegates some slack. There is a lot going on in the world and the dog may have eaten the last toilet roll. Going in a huff because someone is not there when you ask a question will suck the energy out of the virtual room.

Fix Your Hair
Wear something nice, have a shower, fix your hair. First impressions still count and making the right first impression goes some way in getting a facilitator (and delegate) respect.

A great deal of charm, humour and personality is gleaned by being uniquely you, but it is possible to take that too far. You need to be able to control a group of people for a sustained period, so look as if you are likely to be up for that. 

Knowledge Is Power
Be an expert, at least in the nifty ninety you are delivering. If someone is a few metres away from the remote control, there are many ways to spend their time. Have great content that adds value.

Have A Plan
If you are not as expert as you would like to be, having a plan and executing it is an effective way of showing the delegates you are on this and it matters. You will be forgiven for not being a thought leader but quite rightly castigated for not knowing where you are going.

If you are naturally a planner then great; if you are an expressive who flies by the seat of your pants you will come a cropper. It's not difficult to start at the beginning and work out what you are going to do in 15-minute chunks.

Bin The Plan
Have a few specific learning objectives, three is a good number, that everyone knows from the outset, but don’t be a slave to the schedule. Every effective facilitator knows that creativity in the room is the highest of skills.

As long as the group are getting value from what you do, go with it. In a 90-minute session, planning to put them into a virtual room three times is about right, but if it turns out only to be twice that is often the sign of a vibrant session.

Enjoy It!
You are more likely to enjoy it if you know your stuff and are well prepared but at some point you need to trust yourself, take a few deep breaths, realise you are a long time dead and get on with it.

When in the virtual training room, you will find that the word “multi-tasking” was coined for what you will be doing in the virtual training room. Even with experience it is much harder to control everything.  

A bit of humour and humanity goes a long way, in fact these traits are enjoying a bit of a renaissance.