The Frustrations of a Trainer… and What WE Can Do Better!

I hadn’t been in Multifamily housing in a few years… instead I left and worked with the Dale Carnegie Training Organization, honing my craft and providing training solutions and direction to businesses across the globe. I was, however, eager to get back to my first love… the Apartment Industry!

Things hadn’t really changed much… on one hand, I was glad, because I could get right back into the swing of the “business” without missing a beat on the other hand, I couldn’t believe that evolution hadn’t really happened. It was “the same old”…

Upon joining the Sterling family, I developed our all new Intro to Leasing course in my first month of joining the organization (and 17 other courses since then). The company had lacked any real training prior to my joining the company and it was so welcomed, that I felt a little overwhelmed at its reception (in a good way, of course).

In our Intro to Leasing class, I set out to start the evolution (at least at my company)… covering some pretty advanced stuff and I’d say it’s safe to say that most people haven’t experienced the kind of training I provide, before. Now, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here; however, I’ve discovered that our industry “trainers” are usually people who’ve climbed up the property management ladder and who’d been successful onsite. That’s great… that’s how I started! But, I left our industry for some time and was trained on how to train. Something I recommend everyone who is involved in training do (not leave the business necessarily… but seek out HOW to be a TRAINER).

The decision I made to leave the business was ultimately me investing in myself and our industry (I knew I’d be back); and it made, in my opinion a world of difference when I came finally did return to multifamily. Not only did it open my eyes to what could be done better in the classroom (or on a webinar) but it also inspired me to really get creative with what I believe we do poorly after training.

Here’s what I’ve discovered that could use some improvement and what we can do, as trainers (and we’re all trainers, to some degree… even if “trainer” isn’t in our title or job description):

In training, the learners are excited… fired up… ready to lease… ready to try new things and then they go back to their sites and the rule (there are exceptions, of course) is that the people who’ve been on the site awhile (Property Managers, I’m talking to you)… have their own way of doing things and that basically discounts everything that training teaches.

So what can we do as trainers?

How about implementing team oriented training mini-classes or webinars? Then, everyone onsite is receiving the same information and subsequently everyone is on the same page. It doesn’t have to be long or intensive, but refreshers that are done with the entire team, can be powerful!

What if we include the Property Manager and/or mentor in the new colleagues training plan? Making their direct supervisor accountable or have responsibilities in their learning, can help bridge the gap between training and actual onsite work.

Colleagues come to a training class and then their involvement with training ends.

So what can we do as trainers?

A blended training approach can drastically increase both knowledge AND employee retention. At Sterling, we offer webinar and self paced e-learning courses that mirror (but expand upon) what we cover in the Intro to Leasing class.

But, when doing that make sure that the information stays the same and consistent… to reinforcing the learning. What I’ve found, is that it allows those who’ve attended a class to ask questions or share what they’re doing/not doing at their sites and why. This can signal me in a couple of different ways, A. Perhaps they’re doing something great (that our department can share as a best practice) or B. Allow me to jump in and offer some assistance or let a Regional Director know (often, I’ve uncovered that, doing things their own way tends to tie itself to poor performance).

Also, having an excellent Learning Management System is vital to the success of your training program and remaining connected to the onsite teams. Ours includes Forums, which allows our colleagues to interact, ask questions (to each other and to the training team) and share best practices. I’ve found that once we opened this line of communication; we have a lot more questions, requests for help, sharing success stories, increased participation in contests and a willingness to help each other out.

After training, apart from an immediate survey of their impression of the class/trainer, we don’t do any other follow-up, skill assessment or survey’s.

At Sterling, we now do a 30 day follow-up with each learner that includes a leasing workbook (that covers things learned in training… that perhaps they didn’t take notes on) and a leasing self-evaluation; which has them self check their skills and makes them assess if they’re actually doing what’s been taught in the classroom **and they are surprisingly honest, as it turns out.

In addition, we mystery shop everyone after training (but we don’t disclose this during the class… I don’t want to look good because I “prepared them for the shop”, I want to look like my training classes are effective, BECAUSE THEY ARE). I’m preparing them for the shop by providing great training, reinforcing learning, role playing, dialogue, question/answer, sharing stories, allowing them to share stories and providing an environment that is focused on their success (and articulating that). I’m never “above” them, as a trainer… I’m right their with them, having been where they are now… and they really respond to that (in fact, it’s the compliment I get the most, in every class I train… I’m never above or below them (I have had our CFO and several VP’s in my classes)… I’m right there with them. It’s powerful!

Finally, have a training plan for each position. Ours consists of an initial 90 day training checklist and an on-going plan for the year, by position. This keeps training in the forefront of each learners mind (don’t forget maintenance and the corporate/regional offices). Our LMS sends out automatic reminders of the colleagues’ specific upcoming deadlines and relevant to the learner, course offerings. It helps make my job so much more manageable.

At the end of the day, here are my summarized thoughts… Just standing up and delivering training material is not enough. If you got into training for the same reasons I did… because you love helping people grow and get a thrill out of seeing that light bulb go off… then it’s time we stop just “talking for a living” and instead see training through, for each learner, individually.

Hold learners accountable, give the learners’ supervisors and/or mentors a role in their learning plan and hold them accountable, follow-up with your learners (even if only virtually), check-in and provide coaching at regularly scheduled intervals, make sure your content is relevant and working, provide a plan for training, invest in an LMS that’s going to help you attain your goals, the goals of your learners and ultimately make YOUR job easier (if you need a recommendation, just email me), and finally…

Invest in yourself to become a BETTER and more effective training professional. Merely having been successful in the roles you’re now training others in, isn’t enough.

Comments

  1. Tara,

    We are ready to do some mystery shopping for you… From
    the above info You spend a lot of time training and are specific in the accountability of the staff.

    We also do
    l-1 training and new hire (need a waiver for this)We can
    do audio shops which tests them on the initial phone
    call.
    Do you use role playing in your training sessions??
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Lisa
    The AdvisoryGroupAssociatesllc

  2. I share many of your feelings that you stated in this article. My company is very open to evaluating our leasing approach and educational training to find new ways to improve our sales and resident retention. The challenge at times is getting the “elephant in the room” to embrace change.

    As a new trainer with no formal education in this department, I am thirsty to learn more about how I can help our team members to excel in their roles. I deeply want to leave every team member with the passion and knowledge on expectional sales and customer service. Do you have any suggestions on organizations, books and/or educational opportunties that you could recommend for a new trainer?

    Once again, thank you for your blog.

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