The art of training Featured

10:02am EDT July 22, 2002

It was no small task.

Harold Miller, owner of Solon-based Marplex Inc., was asked by Rubbermaid Inc. to develop a training program to teach the company's hundreds of managers and thousands of employees how to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Marplex devised a day-long "train the trainer" workshop for Rubbermaid's human resource managers from around the country. The intensive workshop taught the HR managers how to use the ADA materials to train managers and employees at each of their own locations.

The method worked, says Miller, because Rubbermaid knew what it wanted to do-teach its entire workforce about the ADA.

But many companies don't have as clear an objective when it comes to training. They just know they need to train their employees. That, Miller warns, can make it difficult to implement successful programs.

"A good objective," he says, "establishes what the students should be able to do the day after the training is completed - run a specific machine or produce a product for eight hours without making more than two mistakes."

Even with a clear objective, however, a trainer can't do much unless he knows how many people have to be trained, where they're located and how much money the employer is willing to spend. "If it's a major corporation with employees scattered all over, it limits what you can do," says Miller.

Computers and the Internet have made it easier for training companies such as Marplex - which has been training manufacturers since 1962 - to train employees who aren't located in one building, or even one city. They've also removed some of the time constraints and helped accommodate students requiring different levels of attention.

"Everyone doesn't learn at the same pace," says Miller. "That's the problem with classroom training. And some people are uncomfortable in the classroom situation. Self-study is a very successful method and can easily be enforced by regular testing."

But even when those issues are resolved, there's always a larger issue-the price. Training can be an expensive venture, says Miller. A large company that wants to train hundreds or thousands of employees may have to shell out up to $50,000 for a comprehensive program.