There’s nothing quite like a good cringe story, that special kind of schadenfreude that can only come from both pity and the joy of thinking “At least it didn’t happen to me!”
If the story takes place within your career area, even better: you can learn something while you cringe to avoid making the same mistakes.
I stepped outside of learning management system tips this week to track down three horrible, terrible, cringeworthy tales of failure for your reading (and learning) pleasure.
How good LMS implementation can go wrong
If you’re in corporate training or course design, I’m sure you can easily come up with examples of the many ways that software changes can go topsy-turvy.
I put out a call for stories from folks who suffered training tech issues and got back three tales of woe. I’ll walk you through the stories and give you practical tips on how to avoid the same fate.
1. I was a teenage tech fail
Ever had an employee who wasn’t bad at their job, just in over their head? Then you’ll understand our first horror story from Aaron Udler at OfficePro.
“Back in the summer of 2015, we were hired by a local government agency to provide Office365 training.
“Everything was scheduled and we were ready to go. This was going to be a combination training of both VILT [virtual instructor led training] and ILT [physical instructor led training]. So, the training kicked off and we were mostly full with our ILT classes. However, 1 or 2 people would show up for the VILT sessions.
“We thought this was weird but ultimately let it go.
“In the summer of 2016, the same agency contacted us to provide training for Office365. I called them up and said that we had done this last summer in 2015. Why are we doing this again?
“They said ‘we hired an intern to promote the training for us’. This intern ultimately hung an 8.5×11 sheet of paper in the ‘mail room,’ promoting the rollout to 5,000+ agency employees.
“Keep in mind that this agency has dozens of offices throughout the area.”
How to avoid this fate:
The horror of it all! You definitely want to dodge this issue.
To do so, be sure to avoid leaving a massive rollout like this to anyone—intern or otherwise—lacking prior experience with commensurate tasks. Scheduling training is not as simple as an email or calendar event; it’s a multi-layered process that hinges on staff knowing that they need to show up for it.
As a corporate trainer, talk to your company (or the client company) about how they plan to advertise training. How many people need to be trained? How many do they expect to actually show up? Have they scheduled reminder emails and follow-up memos to remind people to attend? Is the training required or optional?
Asking these questions will not only give you a better idea of what to expect, but can push your client or company to develop a more comprehensive training notification process, which helps everyone.
2. Night of the living missed memo
Sometimes it feels like your learners are ghosting you. But, what if they were never there to begin with? Aaron brings us another shocking tale.
“This is a two-part story. We were brought in to provide Polycom Trio training, which is a new conference phone that integrates with Skype for Business.
“To start off, we show up for the training and there are no students. Why?
“The training manager forgot to promote the training and send out invites.
“We begin training on the Trio a week or two later…and the users had no idea how to use Skype for Business.
“In order to use the Trio, one needs to know how to use Skype for Business.”Rollout failed, and I believe that training manager was terminated.”
How to avoid this fate:
Yikes. That hurt to read.
This two-part issue ties into our first story: the horrorshow of having nobody to instruct. Asking the company about their plan to promote the training is great, but don’t be afraid to take it one step further. Offer to provide a pre-formed final reminder that they can forward to their staff a week or so prior to the training.
Craft a template for the email that has your company’s logo at the top and a friendly “Don’t forget! Your training starts soon!” in the subject line. I’ve even drafted a sample template for you:
Hey [COMPANY NAME], Don’t forget! You have a training session to help you learn [TOPIC OF TRAINING] coming up. [Come to PLACE/Log on] at [TIME, on DATE]. [SECOND OR THIRD SESSION TIME AND DATE HERE, IF NEEDED] Training should take [EXPECTED LENGTH OF TIME]. [You will need to bring SUPPLIES / Just bring yourself]; we’re looking forward to seeing you! Any questions can be sent directly to [DETAILS FOR POINT OF CONTACT]. Best,[NAME]
The second issue of lacking prerequisite training is often caused by miscommunication or a misunderstanding.
Avoid both by clearly stating what attendees need to know going into a training session on any given topic. Create a list of each knowledge step employees need to complete to be successfully trained on a subject and include it in a client handout or attach it to a scheduling email.
3. Attack of the 50-foot connectivity problem
Connectivity problems, that most horrific of horrors! Heed the tale of Vasiliki Baskos, a Greek language online trainer.
“I teach Greek language one-to-one through Skype. I also use an online whiteboard where the student sees a document with my notes, as I make them, in real time. I am scheduled to meet a new client, in a free lesson where I can make an evaluation and present him the method of teaching.
“At the beginning I had difficulty connecting with the student in Skype. His status was off-line, but he insisted that he was online.
“When I asked him to connect with me, he was getting an error message that said I was using a later version and he would have to upgrade. He did so [and] we were able to connect.
“The connection was not that great. Between his less-than-perfect Greek pronunciation and the frequent cuts or distortion in the audio, I had difficulty understanding him.
“I tried to show him the whiteboard. I had everything set up, I emailed him the link, but he could not connect. He was getting two or three different error messages, he tried closing and reopening the browser, I tried to send the link again. Nothing worked!
“Then I sent him a YouTube link to watch a very short video. Again he could not open it and watch the video.
“This free trial lesson was a complete disappointment. Surprisingly, he seemed optimistic that the problems will be resolved and signed up for more online lessons that he was going to do from his home.
“Next time we met (from his house) the connection was fast, everything worked flawlessly! He told me that they had some kind of firewall at his office that most probably [sic] had caused most of those problems.”
How to avoid this fate:
I was biting my nails through this one, but at least it had a happy ending. Connectivity issues are one of the most relatable struggles out there.
If you’re trying to train from a distance and keep running into tech problems, it’s best to pause the whole process, evaluate potential issues, and make sure they’re resolved before you continue on.
Reschedule if you have to—it’s less frustrating to start over with a working connection than it is to get error message after error message, driving you and your trainee completely mad.
Test your own tech before the meeting, and encourage your learners to do the same prior.
What’s your biggest training tech horror story?
Have you experienced a hair-raising training technology problem? Tell me all about it in the comments below, or tweet it to me @CapterraHalden. You just might end up in our next horror story roundup!
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