in self-directed learning, trainers do not control or disseminate instruction.

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in self-directed learning, trainers do not control or disseminate instruction.

Chapter Seven

Traditional Training Methods


After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of presentational, hands-on, and group building training methods.

2. Provide recommendations for effective on-the-job training (OJT).

3. Develop a case study.

4. Develop a self-directed learning module.

5. Discuss the key components of behavior modeling training.

6. Explain the conditions necessary for adventure learning to be effective.

7. Discuss what team training should focus on to improve team performance.

Learning Develops Skills of Staff Dedicated to Battling Cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a nonprofit nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to creating a world without cancer. ACS strives to save lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures for cancer, and by helping those who have cancer to fight the disease. ACS is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and has regional and local offices throughout the United States that support eleven geographical divisions to ensure a presence in every community. The corporate office in Atlanta is responsible for overall strategic planning, corporate support services including training, development and implementation of research programs, health program, a 24-hour call center, and providing technical support and materials to regional and local offices. Regional and local offices deliver patient programs and services and engage in fund-raising activities.

The philosophy of the talent development department is to provide “the right learning solution at the right time for the right person.” One guiding principle is to support and drive the business through employee development and training. Another is that ACS wants employees to grow and develop, which is captured by the slogan “save lives, fulfill yours.” Staff are encouraged to participate292in leadership development, mentoring, coaching, and job-specific training classes. For staff interested in pursuing formal education, ACS has partnerships with online universities. Also, staff are encouraged to work with their manager to establish clear professional and development goals that map a path to career success.

At ACS it is important for training and development programs to be realistic in terms of taking into account budgetary constraints and job responsibilities. The programs need to be both efficient and effective and minimize the time that staff members are taken away from their primary responsibilities such as helping patients, working with the community, and planning and carrying out fund-raising events. All delivered content is evaluated on the extent to which it is related to the job, staff member performance, and the organization’s mission. For example, the Nationwide Manager Development Program is designed to help build management strength for ACS. The program is marketed as an “adventure in management” and its design is intended to make training engaging, enjoyable, and enriching for the participants. The eighteen-month program helps participants learn management concepts using virtual discussion forums and e-learning. Also, participants are put into learning teams designed to represent a diversity of thought, tenure, and experience. These teams engage in action learning, which focuses on developing management skills, while developing solutions to business issues and problems facing ACS.

Source: Based on P. Harris, “Training as a change agent,” TD (October 2014): 84–86; www.cancer.org , website for the American Cancer Society.


The American Cancer Society uses a combination of training methods to develop the skills of its staff members. For most companies, including the American Cancer Society, training methods have to be developed or purchased within a budget, there usually is a sense of urgency for the training, and training must be made available to those employees who need it.

Several studies have shown that most workplace learning doesn’t occur through formal courses or programs but rather on the job, informally, and through social interactions with others.1 For example, one study of executives found that 70 percent of learning occurred on the job in the workplace, 20 percent occurred socially through coaching and mentoring, and only 10 percent occurred through formal classroom instruction. This is known as the 70-20-10 model of learning. Many trainers rely on this model for designing or choosing training methods that will be included in courses and programs. Similar to the emphasis on conditions for learning and transfer discussed in Chapter Four, “Learning and Transfer of Training,” this model suggests that to increase the likelihood that learning will occur in training, the content needs to be meaningful and practical, the learner has to be actively involved in the learning process, and learning involves feedback and reinforcement from others.

Before we discuss specific training methods, it is important for you to consider more broadly the training methods that companies are using to help employees learn and how the emphasis placed on these different methods is changing. Figure 7.1 shows a learning system with four quadrants. This learning system shows that how and what employees learn293varies and influences the type of training methods used.2 Guided competency development means that the company has defined a broad set of competencies or skills for positions or for the entire company. Training and development methods such as lectures or online training are directed at the most common needs in the company. Context-based learning, learning that occurs on the job and during the everyday performance of work, tends to be more unique to the employee’s needs and includes training methods such as OJT, simulations, and mobile learning. Both guided competence development and guided contextual learning are usually formal training activities designed and developed by the company to achieve specific learning goals. Employees are expected to participate in these learning activities. The bottom quadrants include social learning, that is, learning activities that involve employees collaborating with each other either one-to-one or in groups or teams. Social competency development enhances specific job-related competencies through interaction with others such as a mentor or coach, or through encountering challenging job experiences. The competencies that are developed are typically not necessary for successful performance of one’s job but help prepare employees for future roles or positions. As a result, mentoring, coaching, and job experiences are considered development activities. We discuss development activities in Chapter Nine, “Employee Development and Career Management.” Social contextual learning is informal and peer-to-peer, and it occurs spontaneously on an as-needed basis. It usually involves employees sharing knowledge on issues, problems, and topics related to their current job. Employees have always learned from face-to-face meetings and phone conversations with peers. What is new is that the increased availability and access to smartphones and tablet computers provide a multimedia, low-cost, easy-to-use, and familiar way to interact with others using social media such as blogs, wikis, social networks (such as Facebook), and microblogs (such as Twitter). This provides many possibilities for technology-aided social contextual294learning. We will discuss blogs, wikis, social networks, and microblogs in Chapter Eight, “Technology-Based Training Methods.” Keep in mind that training methods can cut across the quadrant shown in Figure 7.1 if they include multiple types of learning, such as a virtual classroom that includes simulations and use of social networks.

FIGURE 7.1 A Learning System

Source: From J. Meister and K. Willyerd, The 2020 Workplace. How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (New York: Harper Business 2010).

Today, most companies’ training methods would be found in Quadrants 1, 2, and 3, but some are beginning to explore how to facilitate learning from peers either face to face or through the use of social media. This is because traditionally training and development activities have been largely “instructor focused.” This means that the instructor or trainer, along with the company, has the primary responsibility for ensuring that employees learn.3 The learner plays a passive role as the receiver of information, and learning occurs to the extent that the appropriate conditions are provided by the learning “experts” or are inherent in the learning method. For example, the instructor bears the responsibility for identifying what should be learned, determining the most appropriate methods, and evaluating the extent to which knowledge and skill acquisition resulted from the learning activity. Increased recognition of the 70-20-10 model has resulted in training emphasizing a more active role for the learner and informal learning.4 Also, the greater availability and use of online and mobile technology (e.g., iPads) to deliver instruction and facilitate social collaboration gives the employee the opportunity to choose when, how, from whom, and even what content to learn.5 Figure 7.1 provides an overview of how much companies are using different training methods. Instructor-led classroom training remains the most frequently used method, but the use of online learning, virtual classroom, or a combination of methods continues to grow.

Regardless of whether the training method is traditional or technology-based, for training to be effective, it needs to be based on the training design model shown in Figure 1.2 in Chapter One, “Introduction to Employee Training and Development.” Needs assessment, a positive learning environment, and transfer of training are critical for training program effectiveness. Recall the discussions of needs assessment, learning, and transfer of training in Chapters Three to Five.

This chapter and Chapter Eight present various training methods. This chapter focuses on traditional training methods, which require an instructor or facilitator and involve face-to-face interaction between trainees. However, most methods discussed here can be adapted for online, virtual reality, mobile learning, or other new training technologies used for training delivery or instruction. For example, a classroom lecture can occur face to face with trainees (traditional training) or can be delivered through a virtual classroom, in which the instructor is not in the same room as the trainees. Also, instruction can be real-time (synchronous) or time-delayed (asynchronous). Through technology, a lecture can be attended live (although the trainees are not in the same classroom as the trainer), or the lecture can be videotaped or burned onto a DVD. The lecture can be viewed by the trainees at their convenience on a notebook computer that gives them access to the appropriate medium for viewing the lecture (e.g., DVD player or Internet connection).

Chapter Eight discusses web-based training, e-learning, virtual reality, and social media. The increased use of technology-based training for delivery of instruction is occurring because of the potential increases in learning effectiveness, as well as the reductions in training costs.

Keep in mind that many companies’ training programs use a combination of methods to capitalize on each method’s strengths for learning and transfer. For example, LQ Management, LLC is an owner operator of limited service hotels in the United States.295It operates more than eight hundred hotels in forty-six states, Canada, and Mexico, under La Quinta Inns and Suites brands.6 La Quinta wants its employees to provide the best rooms, atmosphere, and courteous service at every hotel. La Quinta’s culture emphasizes continuous improvement and its operating philosophy stresses taking care of employees and guests, and keeping the hotels spotlessly cleaned and well maintained.

This means that training plays an important role in the success of every employee. La Quinta uses different training methods to help employees learn, including web-based training, small-group training involving games where they are challenged with real-world scenarios that have occurred at hotel properties, and DVDs. The goal of the small-group training is to make learning fun and at the same time promote learning through conversation and idea sharing. Additionally, employees have multiple training resources available, including LQUniversity (LQU), LQ Connect, and LQ Video Portal. LQU provides access to formal training courses, LQ Connect is a web-based portal that provides learning resources, and LQ Video Portal provides training videos that employees can access at any time. The videos cover La Quinta’s service philosophy, values, and housekeeping and maintenance topics.

The traditional training methods discussed in this chapter are organized into three broad categories: presentation methods, hands-on methods, and group building methods.7 The following sections provide a description of each method, a discussion of its advantages and disadvantages, and tips for the trainer who is designing or choosing the method. The chapter concludes by comparing methods based on several characteristics, including the learning outcomes influenced, the extent to which the method facilitates learning transfer, cost, and effectiveness.


Presentation methods are methods in which trainees are passive recipients of information. This information may include facts, processes, and problem-solving methods. Lectures and audiovisual techniques are presentation methods. It is important to note that instructor-led classroom presentation methods may include lectures, video, workbooks and manuals, DVDs, and games. That is, a mix of methods can actively engage trainees in learning and can help with transfer of training.


In a lecture, trainers communicate through spoken words what they want the trainees to learn. The communication of learned capabilities is primarily one-way—from the trainer to the audience. As Figure 7.2shows, instructor-led classroom presentation remains a popular training method despite new technologies such as interactive video and computer-assisted instruction.

FIGURE 7.2 Use of training methods

Source: Based on “2014 Training Industry report,” Training (November/December 2014): 24.

Lectures have several uses and advantages.8 A lecture is one of the least expensive, least time-consuming ways to present a large amount of information efficiently and in an organized manner to groups of trainees. Lectures are useful when the instructor is the main knowledge holder and it is the most efficient and direct way to provide learners with that knowledge. Lectures that are scripted can be used to deliver a consistent message. A lecture can also demonstrate a subject-matter expert’s passion and enthusiasm for a topic.296For example, an AT&T executive who is in charge of emerging enterprises and partnerships at AT&T shares stories with general managers about how the company created its partnership with Apple to provide service for the iPhone.9 The purpose of the lecture is to convey the message that managers should not be afraid of failure. At the annual meeting of Skanska, a construction company, two former fighter pilots lectured senior executives about the steps needed to successfully execute a mission, including how to define a project, analyze progress, debrief, and celebrate success.10 This was an especially relevant topic because the company was implementing a new business strategy. Also, TED talks (see www.ted.com ) are a good example of how lectures can be motivational, interesting, and provide a simple message to learners in less than twenty minutes. Lectures are also used to support other training methods such as behavior modeling and technology-based techniques. For example, a lecture may be used to communicate information regarding the purpose of the training program, conceptual models, or key behaviors to trainees prior to their receiving training that is more interactive and customized to their specific needs.

TABLE 7.1 Variations of the Lecture Method



Standard lecture

Trainer talks and may use visual aids provided on the blackboard, whiteboard, or Microsoft PowerPoint slides, while trainees listen and absorb information.

Team teaching

Two or more trainers present different topics or alternative views of the same topic.

Guest speakers

A speaker or speakers visit the session for a predetermined time period.

Primary instruction is conducted by the instructor.


Two or more speakers present information and ask questions.

Student presentations

Groups of trainees present topics to the class.

Table 7.1 describes several variations of the standard lecture method. All have advantages and disadvantages.11 Team teaching brings more expertise and alternative perspectives to297the training session. Team teaching does require more time on the part of trainers to not only prepare their particular session but also coordinate with other trainers, especially when there is a great deal of integration between topics. Panels are good for showing trainees different viewpoints in a debate. A potential disadvantage of a panel, however, is that trainees who are relatively naive about a topic may have difficulty understanding the important points. Guest speakers can motivate learning by bringing to the trainees relevant examples and applications. For guest speakers to be effective, trainers need to set expectations with speakers regarding how their presentation should relate to the course content. Student presentations may increase the material’s meaningfulness and trainees’ attentiveness, but they can inhibit learning if the trainees do not have presentation skills.

The lecture method has several disadvantages. Lectures tend to lack participant involvement, feedback, and meaningful connection to the work environment—all of which inhibit learning and transfer of training. Lectures appeal to few of the trainees’ senses because trainees focus primarily on hearing information or seeing facts, principles, or processes. Lectures also make it difficult for the trainer to judge quickly and efficiently the learners’ level of understanding. To overcome these problems, the lecture is often supplemented with question-and-answer periods, discussion, video, games, case studies, or simulations. These techniques allow the trainer to build into the lecture more active participation, job-related examples, and exercises, which facilitate learning and transfer of training.

For example, Paychex provides training to employees through lectures provided on the web (webinars), which involve learners through the use of chat, polling, and electronic blackboard work.12 PPL Electric Utilities uses a classroom session to introduce its storm damage assessors to devices used to identify damage, patrolling techniques, and reporting.13 Then, the assessors participate in a simulation involving a downed power line and are asked to perform a patrol and provide a written assessment of the power line. Assessors are also invited to participate in an annual storm drill.

Audiovisual Techniques

Audiovisual instruction includes overheads, slides, and video. Video is used for improving communications skills, interviewing skills, and customer-service skills and for illustrating how procedures (e.g., welding) should be followed. Video is usually used in conjunction with lectures to show trainees real-life experiences and examples.

Microsoft created videos in its AlwaysOnprogram for sales, marketing, and services employees.14 The purpose of the program is to help these employees learn about devices and services that Microsoft offers so they can promote and sell the products. The ten-minute videos are released to employees the same day as new or updated products and services. The videos include product demos, breaking news and announcements, and the latest Windows hardware. The videos can be tagged by product, series, or business group. Links to the videos are provided on the Microsoft web home page and in a weekly newsletter.

Video is also a major component of behavior modeling and, naturally, interactive video instruction. The use of video in training has a number of advantages.15 First, trainers can review, slow down, or speed up the lesson, which gives them flexibility in customizing the session depending on trainees’ expertise. Second, trainees can watch the video multiple times if they have access to it during and after the training session. This gives them control over their learning. Third, trainees can be exposed to equipment, problems, and events298that cannot be easily demonstrated, such as equipment malfunctions, angry customers, or emergencies. Fourth, trainees are provided with consistent instruction. Program content is not affected by the interests and goals of a particular trainer. Fifth, videotaping trainees allows them to see and hear their own performance without the interpretation of the trainer. That is, video provides immediate objective feedback. As a result, trainees cannot attribute poor performance to the bias of external evaluators such as the trainer or peers. Sixth, video requires minimal knowledge of technology and equipment. Most trainers and trainees can easily use a VCR or DVD player.

Most problems in video result from the creative approach used.16 These problems include too much content for the trainee to learn, poor dialogue between the actors (which hinders the credibility and clarity of the message), overuse of humor or music, and drama that makes it confusing for the trainee to understand the important learning points emphasized in the video.


Hands-on methods are training methods that require the trainee to be actively involved in learning. These methods include OJT, simulations, case studies, business games, role-playing, and behavior modeling. These methods are ideal for developing specific skills, understanding how skills and behaviors can be transferred to the job, experiencing all aspects of completing a task, or dealing with interpersonal issues that arise on the job.

On-the-job training (OJT)

On-the-job training (OJT) refers to new or inexperienced employees learning in the work setting and during work by observing peers or managers performing the job and then trying to imitate their behavior. OJT is one of the oldest and most used types of informal training.17 It is considered informal because it does not necessarily occur as part of a training program, and because managers, peers, or mentors serve as trainers. If OJT is too informal, learning is less likely to occur. OJT can be useful for training newly hired employees, upgrading experienced employees’ skills when new technology is introduced, cross-training employees within a department or work unit, and orienting transferred or promoted employees to their new jobs.

OJT takes various forms, including apprenticeships and self-directed learning programs. (Both of these are discussed later in this section.) OJT has several advantages over other training methods.18 It can be customized to the experiences and abilities of trainees. Training is immediately applicable to the job because OJT occurs on the job using actual tools and equipment. As a result, trainees are highly motivated to learn. Both trainees and trainers are at the job site and continue to work while training occurs. This means that companies save the costs related to bringing trainees to a central location, hiring trainers, and renting training facilities. OJT can be offered at any time, and trainers will be available because they are peers or managers. Finally, OJT uses actual job tasks and occurs at work. As a result, skills learned in OJT more easily transfer to the job.

Reliance Industries, one of India’s largest businesses, uses OJT in its Nagothane Manufacturing Division (a refinery that makes polymers and chemicals).19 Because of rapid company growth and the demand for experienced employees, the company needed to299decrease the length of time required for new engineers to contribute. In response to this need, the training staff identified mentors who would help accelerate learning for the new engineers. The mentors and new hires are carefully matched based on an assessment of the mentor’s training style and the new employee’s learning style. Mentors are paired with up to three new employees, each for nine months. The mentors and new employees work together on four learning modules, each of which takes two months to complete. Each module includes predetermined lesson plans, and progress is tracked using an online portal. As a result, the length of time that it takes new engineers to contribute at work has decreased from twelve to six months.

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