Work may be black and white in nature, but it’s not life. I’ve been working a long time for other people so I have a lot of experience as an employee. In time, I became a trainer and a supervisor–and now a communicator and coach. It’s different in the military in some ways, but that’s another story. You can imagine that with over 40 years of working, and not in the same jobs or the same types of jobs, I arrived at my present perception of reality. That perception evolved over the years; my job situations changed and so did I. It is also how all others who worked before, arrive where they do in their perceptions of working life.
Most people’s perceptions of work life or reality are pretty basic, but most can’t compare the diversity of life’s experiences through which they arrived at those perceptions. Some people’s lives are easy and simple; some difficult and complex; some lucky, some not; some functional, some dysfunctional; but all of these lives co-exist in our classroom. Granted, we all have problems we had to deal with in life; they all seem large to us then, and we found solutions. Our life experiences and our dreams define us today.
Education itself is a whole other matter; it helps form our attitudes as well. Forget about education at the moment, this is just about the work experiences.
Before you take a look at the typical training classroom, understand, the make-up of your classroom is hardly typical. A simple example: I teach a class in a center city urban environment and another in the suburbs. In some ways, my students are the same but different. Most of you would agree without question.
But let’s go deeper. It is with a certain amount of pride that I tell you part of my story. As trainers, training developers, and managers, we need to motivate our employees and make them feel part of a team, the company’s family. We need to inspire them to make their own greatness in doing so to make the company great. We want them to achieve all manner of success.
You can argue a company can only do so much or should only focus on the business–that there’s no room for sentimentality. Tell that to someone who needs a job desperately. Bet they’d work their butts off for a chance to succeed. “These kinds of employees have too many problems.” It’s infuriating just writing those words. However, unless the company has to take them per government regulations in some cases…
Business can be cold and that’s part of the problem, and government tells them when they are being unfair or prejudicial. Remember those companies that take care of their employees tend to even profit more because the general public is made up of those same people.
As a trainer or trainee, or as a manager, I can’t help but bring my personal experience with me to the classroom; it is part of who I am and came to be. There are others in the classroom like me, and I know there are others who have had a harder life, but we are all survivors. We have dreams to not only achieve a certain amount of normalcy but to make a better life. So, I know my job. I know what I need to do. Address the dreams.
At 15 I had left home for reasons we don’t need to address now and was on my own. I still wanted to go to school, but I needed to support myself, too. After lying about my age to get a job, I worked eight-hour shifts in food service then, when for minimum wage most supervisors have preconceived notions of your work performance without even looking. They want the least amount of interaction with you and the most amount of interaction with the accounting books. I learned work could be a ruthless place and few people were given opportunities to move ahead unless the boss liked you without knowing you. It mattered what high school you went to. Work performance is not an issue; there are other workers by the dozen. I survived.
My last job while in high school was the hardest, working in a restaurant as a fry cook until 2:00 a.m. and still having to get up to go to school by 7:45 a.m. I was always late for school and always sent to detention where I did most of my homework. My parents were unavailable for consultation, but my grades were okay, so the school didn’t really care. Quite frankly, I think the school knew I was on my own, but I was stable enough and in no real trouble at school so it wasn’t the school’s problem. It’s a little different now.
At work, which started shortly after school, I used my dinner break to eat as much as I could hold because it may be my only meal of the day, and to finish any homework I hadn’t finished in school. Downtimes didn’t exist at work and my employer wouldn’t have said, “Why don’t you take some time to work on some school work until we get busy.” There was always busy work. Work is work. No complaints. My first experiences are the ones I start with, knowing how they could have been made better.
Training always seems cut and dry, boring and example company-centered. Seems that’s the way it has to be. Trainers can crank up the entertainment factor a notch, depending on the trainer. Perhaps, the important part of training is to remember a basic rule of teaching (and training), you are teaching students or training employees (people) and not subjects.
- Help make those subjects fit in the lives of those you instruct.
- Help them see how it is important to them.
- Help them see how it all fits into their dreams–even if this job is a stepping-stone to another.
Acknowledging experience and another’s dreams will win you fans–champions of your causes even, and listeners who will apply that knowledge to the jobs at hand. Important training mission accomplished.
I started to write an article on training needs assessments, before, during, and after training. There seems to be a lot of interest in that topic, but I found myself focusing on one of the most important aspects of training, and that is who is receiving it and how we make the best impression. Hence: this article. Next time I promise an article on training assessments. Now that we’ve looked at the employees, we’ll look at the company and what it needs. It just may very well be people with dreams to get the job done.
For more resources about training, see the Training library.
As always my views are my own and influenced by who I am (who I became) and I am hoping to help you shape your dreams in the days ahead. Check out my website for more information on my philosophy and dreams as well as my words. For a look at the human side of training from my Cave Man perspective, please check out my book, The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development. Happy training.