Joe: Sally Whitesell has spent more than two decades providing service advisor training in service departments across the country. Her professional training products have been utilized at dealerships by individuals, service teams, managers, and of course, at the corporate level. She is the founder and CEO of sw Service Solutions, and also, which we love, a contributor to CBT News. We always appreciate the content that she provides. Sally, welcome once again.
Sally: Thank you Joe. It’s always good to be here.
Joe: As we just mentioned, you’ve been training fixed ops department employees for more than 23 years, but also, let’s throw this out there, you’ve also done training for other industries earlier in your career. Do you think there have been any big changes over the decades in the way training needs to be presented, and if so, why?
Sally: Yeah, actually there have been some changes, and most of it is due to technology of course. If you look at research, you’ll see that all of our attention spans have decreased significantly, and a lot of that is because of technology. If you look at studies that were done in 2002, our attention spans were about 12 seconds. If you look at studies that were done in 2015, they’ve declined to 8 seconds. This means that it’s a little bit more difficult to keep trainees engaged, but it doesn’t mean anyone isn’t as smart as they used to be, or motivated, or efficient. It’s really just the opposite. We’ve got so much information that’s available to us every single day right at our fingertips, that if we don’t have something that’s relevant, we shut down and we’re ready to move on to the next subject.
Joe: Well I’m glad you mentioned that earlier about paying attention. With that in mind, can you give our managers and company trainers some tips that they can use to keep everyone’s attention and be more effective when training their teams?
Sally: Sure, I’d be glad to. First, you’ve gotta get rid of those boring videos where people just lecture. Those worked in the past, and those will work for a small portion of our trainees, but we’ve got to consider the different learning styles, especially now that we’re dealing with these short attention spans. A lot of advisors, they’ll have the videos running. I’ll go into the store, and I’ll just see these running in the background. So, they’re not engaged enough to really retain the information. They may get great information, but if they can’t can’t put it into practice because they weren’t really focused on it, they’ve wasted their time. So it’s really important that we recognize the three different learning styles.
The first one is by listening. So these videos would work perfectly for them. But the other ones are by visual stimulation, and the kinesthetic, which means we actually need to perform tasks or have hands-on things to do to stimulate our learning and help us really retain the information.
So for successful training to happen, we need to engage every one of the participants in all three of these different categories so we’re sure we touch everyone in some way, and they retain what we’ve presented.
Joe: So Sally, we know that our managers are really busy and have little time to develop training. So how can they meet the needs of each individual in their short sessions? Because I know that’s valuable.
Sally: Right, I actually prefer short sessions Joe, because it gives trainees more time to absorb each individual point. When we bombard them with information, there’s a good chance they’re not going to retain any of it. So when we really have a focus, then they can take it back and master each skill and move on. All the material has to be relevant, and it needs to be relatable. When we give them these great, “grand” ideas that they don’t understand, and they haven’t experienced on the drive, we’re really not helping them out in their real-life, day to day situation.
So I like to use simple steps, where they know first we’ll do this, then we’ll do the next step, then step three, so they have something to follow. But I also like to use real-life stories; things that I’ve seen happen on the drive and the way that the customer responded, so they can understand that the person who’s training them has actually been in their shoes and been in some of their situations. Then they can move forward with the better way to handle the situation the next time it comes up. Many times when you tell stories, it prompts them to think of the solutions. And anytime they come up with their own solutions, it’s a win-win.
Joe: So this would probably be the person who asks the most questions in class?
Sally: Yeah, Joe! Probably somebody just like you, right?
Joe, Exactly! I have the attention span of a gnat, so I need to train myself to pay attention. Of course, if I don’t hear something, I’ll go back and ask all the questions.
Sally: I understand!
Joe: So Sally, tell us about the visual learning style. What can we do to keep them engaged?
Sally: Okay, so for your visual team members, it’s really good to use a lot of charts, and graphs, or better yet, I really like funny videos and animations. I mean, who doesn’t? That’s what we’re looking at on our phone half the time. If you look at statistics for YouTube, you’ll see that more people view their videos every single day than visit cable networks. That tells you how important this venue is to each one of your advisors and each person that you’re training.
We find that short, funny videos are the most effective. In our training, we get a great response from the advisors when we show them what not to do in a humorous way. It kind of makes you think of a Saturday Night Live skit or something, you know, they show you everything that could possibly go wrong. And that will prompt a lot of great conversation about what they could have differently to make things go right, which of course, gets that interest in the training.
Joe: Okay, so that makes a lot of sense. So now, we are on to the kinesthetic, or as you explained it, the group that needs a more hands-on approach. It seems like this may be the most difficult of all.
Sally: It is, and it’s one that I can related to, because I am one of them. And oddly enough, so are all my trainers. So it’s really funny, the people who are out there doing the training are quite often people who can’t sit still. We have days in my office where we make phone calls, they’ll all be pacing around while they’re talking. Nobody sits at a desk, and I encourage that, because once you recognize your staff’s learning style, you’re going to understand that you need to cater to it. So for this group of people, we recommend that you have activities. We do games, we do competitions, we’ll have them write things. While you’re doing your training, you might even allow for them to stand, or give them something to do, even if it’s just putting a pen in their hand with them knowing that writing is going to come. It’ll help them stay focused. This is usually the person who’s your great multitasker. One task at a time is almost a challenge for this type of learner.