Telephone training: just in time or just the job?

Let’s talk telephone training. I’d bet money that right now you’re already sceptical, perhaps stifling a yawn, and imagining a robo-voice monotonously explaining the finer points of some policy, procedure or legislation.

Or maybe I’m being overly cynical myself. Perhaps you’ve thought about training your people via their phones; perhaps you already have done. But even if that is the case, I doubt it was your first choice training method. It’s only really the best solution when you’re constrained by time and space – it’d never be your ideal solution, but sometimes needs must, right?

I don’t think so. I think there’s a lot more potential to telephone training that most people would expect. It’s not a lecture down the phone, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Okay, so you might not be able to use interactions like click to reveals and drag and drops, and you don’t have the luxury of graphics to engage the learner or provide extra explanation. But you can develop scenarios using multiple characters and voices, creating an engaging and varied experience. You can include the learner by using quizzes to ask them what they would do in a given situation. You can even take this one step further and offer them the chance to shape the training through the answers they choose.

There are some situations in which telephone training isn’t a great solution, of course. Most people will struggle to engage with and learn from audio based training that lasts beyond thirty minutes, for instance. And there’s a delicate balance between asking the learner to listen too much without actively participating and overloading them with multiple choice questions.

But if you’re dealing with a topic that can easily be broken down into bite sized chunks, or one that would actually benefit from allowing the learners time to digest one chunk before moving on to the next, telephone training could be just the job. Maybe you’ve got a sales force that would benefit from 10 minute segments on individual products or services that they could access before a meeting, for instance. Perhaps you could supplement a classroom or online induction course, covering your broad welcome messages, with 15 minute telephone based units on particular policies or useful bits of information for your new starters to access as and when they need it.

So don’t write telephone training off as purely a ‘just in time’ solution. It does have the benefits of being quick to develop and deploy, and of course for mobile workforces it’s ideal, but given the right treatment it can also be the right tool for the job even when you aren’t constrained by time and cost.