By Joanne Robinett, MSA, SNA 2014-10-28 11:14:59
Inject new energy into your training and watch how it engages your team to excel! Time for another inservice day? I bet you Just. Can’t. Wait! (insert eye roll emoticon here). Really, who do you suppose dreads these more? You or your staff? Frankly, there’s probably only a very few people who would put training on the top of a list titled “Fun Ways to Spend Your Day.” Is there a way to ease the pain you feel as a trainer—and might be unknowingly transferring to participants— while sparing your team the impatient irritation of sitting through another lackluster training session? Perhaps there are ways you could design a training session that you simply can’t wait to share. When you feel engaged as a trainer—and not just checking off another required responsibility of your job—you can energize your whole team to excellent results. Could a better trainer be hiding behind the rules and regulations you instruct on each year? Start by realizing that you are more than just a messenger and believe that you can make training memorable. Let’s explore ways to put some “WOW” into these sessions. Engage Your Creativity How? Make sure that you actually plan the training, don’t just show up with the latest memo addressing changes. Where? Try to find a room that is not too big, not too small and does not involve having adults sit in child-size seats or on cafeteria benches. What? Many successful training sessions involve a theme. As both a trainer and a participant, I have been “down the yellow brick road,” recruited for “boot camp,” partied at “Mardi Gras,” gone to a “carnival,” and even enjoyed a “spa day.” I have seen a myriad motifs—grand openings, football, rock star, Survivor, seasonal and superhero—used to make training a more engaging experience. The bottom line is to apply an upbeat delivery method. Engage Their Senses Start by remembering that few things engage us more than food. It’s at the heart of what we do in school nutrition. But often during training, we just “talk” about it. But what about the other senses that engage around food? How does it look? Smell? Taste? How can these senses inform what we want to convey? Even simply providing meals and snacks at a training session can be a way to shake things up and regain attendees’ flagging attention after a lot of data has been dumped. In addition to seeking ways to inject a little food fun into your training meetings, videos can entertain and educate. You probably know that students spend hours watching YouTube, a video-sharing website that allows users to upload, view and share videos. I hope you also realize that it’s not just for kids—or for fun viral videos of kittens and pandas. YouTube could become your personal training assistant, helping you rock your sessions with free engaging videos that can be projected on a big screen. This social media channel brings outside experts to a training that you design. Just remember that you should always view videos—in their entirety—before sharing them with employees. See SN’s Bonus Web Content, www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent, for other tips on using YouTube and other web-based videos for group training, as well as for some specific videos to consider. Engage Their Spirit Of course, training isn’t just about meeting rules and regulations. Effective training can help build teams and reinforce the purpose behind the paycheck. You hope to inspire and motivate staff, letting them know you see them as more than “what they do” each day. Inspiration may improve attitudes in hard times, helping to direct focus away from self-centered concerns and to students. Creative, fun approaches to training go a long way in showing employees that you care. Also consider a session for which there’s no instruction, just dialogue. For example, you can use a meeting to review your department’s mission and vision, allowing employees to identify and rank the workplace elements that could motivate each to stay—or get back—on track. If you want some assistance with motivation. Check out www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent for some free sources of content to help you motivate your team. Energize Your Training With Movement As a rule, most school nutrition staff do not sit down on the job. They are on their feet, zigging and zagging their way through a maze of carts, tables and fellow workers in search of the correct serving utensil. After a day of navigating this stainless steel land at high speeds, when it comes time to sit in a meeting, you might find your audience starting to relax—and perhaps glaze over. Find a way in your training session to get these employees on their feet and energized! I recently attended a training session at Lima City (Ohio) Schools. Director Carrie Woodruff, SNS, had invited an instructor from the local YMCA to conduct a short a presentation at a school nutrition training session. The instructor, who leads activity classes for the older “Silver Sneakers” members of the YMCA—spoke on the importance of wellness at any age, encouraged walking as an activity and led the group through a 15-minute stretching exercise. What a wonderful after-lunch activity! Check local YMCA/YWCAs, senior centers, rec centers and even hospitals and ask if they can refer or provide a no-cost speaker who can present on wellness and integrate some movement into the session. You can find sources to lead such activities all by yourself. Kathy Burrill, SNS, an awesome trainer from Minnesota, recommends you check out “Eat Smart, Move More, NC,” which offers a compilation of 50 physical activity ideas developed for K-5 classrooms, but work perfectly for training sessions (http://tinyurl.com/Energizerspdf). Another program to consider is the “Move to Learn” series of videos, www.movetolearnms.org, which I have used at the beginning of a training session and as an afternoon energy boost. Energize Your Approach and “Game-ify” Can you find a way to “game-ify” your training? Applying a combination of competition, fun entertainment and familiarity can be a very effective way to get messages to stick. You can turn many well-known games into training activities, from “Wheel of Fortune” to “Deal or No Deal,” “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” “Jeopardy,” “Trivial Pursuit,” “Charades” and much more. Don’t worry, using this approach for your training activity might not take as much creativity as you think; other creative people already have done the legwork to get the format together. I can suggest a fantastic—and free—resource that should be your first stop: The Be a Gameshow Host site at http://be-a-gameshow-host.wikispaces.com/home. It has easily adaptable PowerPoint slide decks for you to download and customize. These even include sound effects and music for added authenticity! To get started, develop a list of facts you want to convey. In the “Millionaire” example, you will need one correct and three incorrect answers for each fact. Simply substitute your questions for the examples included in the template, making sure the correct answer is in the right place on the template. Whatever game you choose to mimic, practice before trying it in front of a live audience. As the trainer, decide if you want to use the game as the method of training or use it at the end as a review and reinforcement activity. Be sure to round up some prizes for the winners, as well as smaller consolation ones for the rest of the team. I have seen a variety of these game show presentations used effectively to teach/test food safety knowledge, USDA Foods acumen and understanding of meal patterns. But you design the game show content around the knowledge gaps you hope to close! Let a Guest Inject the Energy Sometimes the best way to energize your training is to let someone else do it! There are different reasons for hiring an outside trainer. You might not have the time needed to develop or modify training. He might pack fresh excitement and energy into lessons. She might have knowledge in an area that is not in your own comfort zone. Or, you might just need an “expert” who is not you. It’s not unusual for a team to listen more openly and give more credence to an outside expert—even though the message is identical to what you have told over and over again. Lessons on teamwork or customer service may seem less personally threatening from an outsider who is speaking in generalities. As regulations change and then change again (think the protein/grains maximum), an outsider delivering news of the latest change will help you maintain your credibility and ensure that this is not a change you are driving forward just to make them crazy. And an outside trainer can help train you to grow. Use this as an opportunity to be mentored; take notes about practices you would like to emulate. Afraid you can’t afford to hire an expert? One director from a tiny school district shared her philosophy on paying training fees with me. She explained that she had a limited training budget (even if limited, she gets kudos for having a training budget—an essential but oftenoverlooked line item for every school nutrition operation). Sometimes she earmarked funds to send one or two managers to a state or national conference. Other times, she used the budget to hire an outside trainer so that all staff received the same instruction. Another great idea is to share the expenses with a neighboring school district, combining the groups at a single location or asking the trainer to split her costs and time between the two. Train the Trainer and Share the Energy Training others on your staff to teach small groups is a method that Paula Montgomery, foodservice director for Fairborn City (Ohio) Schools, has used for several years to supplement her largegroup trainings. First, managers meet with Montgomery and receive training on a particular topic, as well as all the materials needed to deliver the training to site staff. This approach communicates to the managers that she trusts them to train their own staff and prepares them to master the material. It also allows managers some flexibility in scheduling their staff training. In Montgomery’s experience, her managers gain greater confidence about their knowledge and the team members in the kitchen have opportunities to discuss and ask questions in a more-relaxed environment. It’s a “win-win-win” for all. Montgomery has used the “No Time To Train: Short Lessons for School Nutrition Assistants” resource found at http://tinyurl.com/notimeNFSMI. For more in-depth lessons, she uses resources provided by both her food distributor and her state agency. Tap Individual Energy and Independent Engagement Finding time for group training can be a serious challenge. For certain areas of education, you may want to encourage (or require) self-directed study. This may be as simple as reading School Nutrition articles and completing the “To Your Credit” exam or writing a brief report. Beatrix Littler, an elementary kitchen operator with Riverside (Calif.) Unified School District, reports that she routinely assigns different articles or standard operating procedures (SOPs) to her team. Littler tries to pair the SOP reading with something lighter or inspiring. The last page of the reading is a signature page, which goes into the employee’s file as documentation. Take advantage of today’s technology and direct staff to various computer-based training offerings, from courses to webinars. Some school districts obtain a subscription to a web-based service that offers interactive computer training modules, such as SNA’s School Nutrition University (www.snuniversity.org). This can be a particularly good approach for training that must be repeated annually for district compliance, at least when it comes to flexibility and accountability. SNA also offers regular monthly webinars, usually at no cost to members, and most of these are archived for viewing at a later date for staff to access at their convenience. (They won’t get to participate in the real-time Q&A, but handouts are often available for downloading.) You or your managers can arrange for group or individual viewing. Here’s a small sampling of topics that are available: • Menuing Mushrooms: Strategies to Extend Meat Entrees, Add Veggies and Gain Student Approval • Successful Accountability Practices for Breakfast in the Classroom Programs • Managing Food Safety When Handling Fresh Produce in Schools • Latest News in Effective School Food Allergy Management • Increase Participation This School Year: Tips to Promote Your Program Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/webinars to access these and many others! Excel by Getting It Straight From the Authorities The ongoing changes to the nutrition standards for lunch, breakfast and a la carte offerings arguably is the most important and complex training priority most school nutrition operators face today. I recommend educating your staff about these issues using the same presentations the regulatory authorities use at their own workshops. Most state agencies make these available on their websites in a format that you can easily share with your staff. Since “they” say that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, I often look beyond my state agency’s website to check out the offerings of others. Regardless of where you find them, the resources you discover can be used in a seminar-type setting, or the links can be sent out to managers to view at their office computers. If you visit http://tinyurl.com/USDATrainingTools, you will find links to a wealth of materials—brochures and presentations—that you can sort by topic. Another link, http://tinyurl.com/ANCUSDA connects you to all of the presentations that USDA staff have given at SNA’s Annual National Conference in recent years. You Excel—When You Don’t Just Tell ‘em, but Teach ‘em Do you understand the difference between telling and teaching? Usually another activity must take place to help us retain what we are told. It might be repetition, handouts, tests and demonstrations. The key is to create an activity in which one of our senses, besides hearing, is involved. It is a rewarding opportunity to tell, teach and train others, particularly when you witness the growth and change that can result when both the trainer and the trainee are deeply engaged. I hope you take these tips to heart, so that the next time your staff leaves training, they will be engaged, energized and ready to excel! JoAnne Robinett is owner of America’s Meal (www.americasmeal.com), creating and delivering diverse trainings and conference keynotes on school nutrition. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photography by iStock/jiunlimited.com. SNAPSHOT • When it comes to training, you are more than the messenger. You can make training memorable. • Apply an upbeat delivery approach, engaging all the senses. • Hiring an outside trainer can help you to grow. Use this opportunity to be mentored. BONUS WEB CONTENT Author JoAnne Robinett has compiled a wide array of resources, tips and advice to complement the ideas suggested in this article. These are available as exclusive online extras at www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent.
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