Topic-starters: A Training Technique

I have been doing process training for this in-house BPO company in Manila for 4 years now. It has been a journey, I must say. But it was rather an experience I have gained on my own. I may have interacted with different people, some of them contributed to my progress, while others just provided insight, but a bulk of what I have gained as skill and technique I have learned from taking up graduate school, doing research online, and taking time to watch videos on Youtube during the weekend.

Gladly saying, I have created my own framework for conducting process training. My company is offshore for background screening services in the United States. The investigative nature of the job entails so much research, keenness to details, and the unforgivable committing of a single mistake. The latter reason would have caused the company law suits as this will render inhumane justification of job performance. But my point is that process is tedious. It is a collection of other procedures that will lead to the end point, that is to provide a clear background check report to our clients. It was difficult in the first few days as the burden of transmitting skill and knowledge is heavier than just working individually on my own. But this had strengthened my capacity as I learned the ropes of training while I learn from my learners and peers.

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Within this framework, although it changes every time as processes change along with constant company restructuring, I have consistently made use of topic-starters. These are activities or set of activities that will introduce learners to new topics. There are 3 main goals with these: (1) stimulate learners. (2) get their dynamics at the onset before discussions or other activities that may come along. (3) letting them experience learning more than just mere memorization.

Online, several activities or posted. But I get to mix and match what I research. The beauty of topic-starters is I get to create my own. Although most training modules have set activities for this, even step-by-step guides that will render stringency in facilitation, I am taking advantage of the moment when I can create my own. With this, I use topic-starters. Apart from this, there is room for tapping other aspects in learning and development. Most of the time, I come up with a topic-starter that not only introduces the topic, but also builds the team and instills a soft skill in them (research or communication skills most of the time). This makes learning easier and training smoothly facilitated.

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The how-to on a fundamental level is to first set the objectives. Is the goal just to define or describe a concept? Is it just to categorize different concepts? Or is it to analyze a given cohort of concepts?

Secondly, there should be a well-structured and mechanized activity with steps and available resources to use. This will guide the facilitator more or less. Lastly, there should be the debriefing part where the facilitator initiates the discussion so as to bring out the insights from the learners. By then, learning and understanding will be gauged.

For example, I have this mini amazing-race activity I came up. The goal is to evaluate the importance of following instructions (in our case, client specific instructions). I then came up with rather a simple set of steps that learners need to follow like creating a simple origami, followed up by chanting of phrases, doing jumping-jacks with the specific counts, writing down on the board, along with tricky instructions written in small fonts. Once the groups accomplishes the tasks, the facilitator will then check on the work. Failure to follow the instruction is expected, although some groups may do the tasks almost perfectly. Debriefing will then look into the challenges and successes. The activity will then be concluded with an insight on the importance of following instructions. And note to training specialists, this will have to come from the learners. It shouldn’t be imposed in any way possible.

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What is nice about training is the amusement of how human beings create, think, structure, restructure, fragment, de-fragment, and synthesize. That’s what drives with the work I do. I just find people all capacitated to accomplish things beyond their thinking. Learning and training will never be that easy, with little progressive studying and practicing, there is so much to see in the process.

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