Want to make your training sessions memorable? Put drama on the menu. Stan Frankenthaler, chef and president of Salamander Restaurant, in Cambridge, Mass., brings an element of theater to his ongoing training sessions. Once a week waitpeople at the restaurant act out scenarios such as medical emergencies and computer breakdowns. "Verbal instructions are often hit or miss," says Frankenthaler, who estimates that his restaurant's revenues will reach $2.25 million in 1999. "When the staff is actively involved in training, the lessons are longer-lasting." There's another payoff: Working together to perform the skits fosters camaraderie among the employees.
Mark Leavitt, president of MedicaLogic, in Hillsboro, Ore., uses skits to train both employees and customers. MedicaLogic, which makes electronic medical-records software and had 1998 revenues of $17 million, holds half-day "clinic work-flow simulations." Groups of new employees (or a new client's medical-office staff) take turns playing doctor or patient or receptionist and responding to various crises that have been known to occur in a medical-office setting. Leavitt says customers are better prepared for their first day with the software system "because they've been through it before." Employees, meanwhile, can better design, sell, and service the product once they are more familiar with the operation of a medical clinic.
While role-playing, simulations, and skits are useful for training all types of employees, they can be particularly critical ifyour employees aren't academically inclined. At Cooperative Home Care Associates, a home-health-care company in theBronx, N.Y., the sole product is the service its home health aides provide. To president Rick Surpin, that means the company,which took in $7 million in 1998 revenues, should invest as much in training as it can afford. But, most of the entry-levelemployees at Cooperative Home Care have only an eighth-grade reading level or less, according to Surpin. Because so many don't have a strong education, it's important to deliver the training in a way that won't alienate them. "Most of them hated school," he says. "The worst kind of training for the folks we work with is to sit them in classrooms and make them listen to lectures."
While some subjects in its pre-employment training must be covered by lectures, Cooperative Home Care tries to addressmany topics through hands-on demonstrations. And the company goes further toward making entry-level employees feelcomfortable -- by law, Cooperative Home Care's home-health-care courses must have a nurse in the classroom at all times. But the company also adds assistants who themselves have worked as home health aides. That way, new employees have instructors to whom they can relate.