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Did you know that employee turnover rates cost businesses billions of dollars every year? This is because it takes time and money to train new employees, only to have them leave a few months later.

One of the main reasons employees leave is because they feel overwhelmed or cognitively overloaded in their new position. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of cognitive overload in employee training, and how to avoid it.

Cognitive Overload and Training

Most business owners know that employee training is important for the success of their company. However, many don’t realize the importance of cognitive overload when it comes to employee training.

Cognitive Overload is a state of mental overload in which one is given too much information or too many simultaneous activities, preventing them from doing so as they would if the quantity were more manageable.

When employees are overloaded with too much information at once, they can quickly become overwhelmed and stressed out. This can lead to employee turnover, as well as a host of other problems. In this blog post, we will discuss the dangers of cognitive overload in employee training, and how you can avoid them!

My Costly Mistake

A number of years ago I wanted to train my new estimators salespeople all about painting, from how to scope, measure, pick colors, diagnose, and sell. I wanted the best, most professional salespeople out there with all the expertise that I had.

I developed a quite large training program and was determined they would not see their first lead until they had learned all the material. It consisted of videos, documents, checklists, and quizzes. It had pretty much everything they would ever see out in the field and everything they would need to know.

Unfortunately for them and for me, it was a complete disaster. I was trying to feed a baby from a firehose! The learning was not sinking in, the trainees were bored out of their minds, and I was wasting hundreds of dollars per week on training pay.

I knew I had to do something different, so I decided to get some self-education on how to conduct good training.

Meet “Just In Time Training”

Rather than induce cognitive overload like I had been doing, I discovered “just-in-time training” and “just-in-time learning”. Just-in-time learning occurs when you get information that you can immediately use or implement.

I began to realize that I did not need my new salespeople to be an expert in everything. It would take years to learn what I already knew. I just needed to give them what they needed to do the job, one step at a time.

For instance, we have a certain way we greet each homeowner when they answer the door. It’s so important that we have scripted it for training. Every single salesperson learns the same thing the same way. Since scripting is a vital part of most repeatable processes, we decided to script our entire sales presentation.

The door greeting is the easiest to learn, so we start with that to ensure new salespeople can learn scripts and follow a basic process. If they cannot do that, and some people can’t or won’t, then we call it quits the very first day… and this does occur occasionally.

Focus on Specific Skills

I removed all the training for extraneous information they are unlikely to need on a regular basis. This allowed us to focus on training the specific things each needed to learn in order to provide a world-class sales presentation in the home.

We now provide information in small manageable chunks that they can immediately use. This “just-in-time learning” allows them to quickly assimilate the information, without becoming overwhelmed.

Know What they Don’t Know

In my early days, one of my newer salespeople got assigned to look at an exterior painting project in a historic area. The house was old and had peeling paint everywhere. He quoted it just like one of the cookie-cutter homes we typically see.

Unfortunately for me, the homeowner agreed to the price and signed the contract before I discovered what had happened. Further, this homeowner refused to allow me to cancel the contract, and I ended up painting the house for a loss. No, we did not cut corners!

That salesperson should have never been sent on that appointment because he was not equipped to quote it. Worse, he was not equipped to know that he did not know how to quote it.

Counterfeit Money

I’ve been told that “back in the day” federal agents were training to identify counterfeit money not by studying counterfeit bills but by studying the authentic bills produced by the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

They would be trained on every minute detail so well that when they came across something different, it would immediately stand out to them. In summary, rather than studying all the various counterfeiting techniques, they just needed to know the real deal itself. Everything not real would reveal itself.

The Primary 99% Situations

These days my new salespeople are training on what they will regularly run into nine-nine percent of the time AND how to recognize the remaining one percent when they run into something outside that box so they can ask for help. Help is just some photos and a phone call away. That one percent of special situations in painting can cost a ton of money if not quoted properly.

I bet you have your costly one percent issues as well!

Immersive Learning Strengths and Confirms

It’s just too easy to get up in front of your trainee and talk, talk, talk. Instructional training

is vital, but it only goes so far. People need hands-on training as well. They need both.

When you focus your training on a small specific skill, practice in the training room, and then take your people to the field and practice it where they get hands-on experience. This will strengthen and solidify their learning.

Small Wins Build Confidence

Another benefit to breaking up learning into small just-in-time sections is that your people will gain small wins that will build confidence for future larger challenges down the road.

Celebrate the Milestones

Another thing that will build confidence is to celebrate those small wins even if they seem insignificant to you as a veteran. The point is to keep your people engaged, learning, and progressing so that they can eventually Master what you need them to do.

In Conclusion

It’s important to note that this type of training is not a “one and done”. Just like everything else we do in business, employee training should be an ongoing process.

As your employees grow and develop, their training needs will change. It’s important to continually assess employee development needs and adjust your training program accordingly. By doing so, you can avoid the costly mistake of cognitive overload in employee training!

What are your thoughts? Are you guilty of feeding information to your employees with a firehose?