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Check out these new training tools
Shyamal Majumdar
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August 24, 2007

How do you keep your key employees engaged during a training workshop? The challenge is enormous, as the returns from the money spent on training have been dipping.

Surveys have shown that at least 80 per cent of these programmes fail to deliver anything tangible as employees get either bored or treat these workshops as nothing but company-paid holidays.

Some companies have found ways to keep the interest going by assigning short-term projects to trainees so that their potential can be tested and stretched. If you are familiar with accounts, move to HR now. If you are comfortable in India, board a plane to China. If you are an IT expert, please figure out energy. This is the way how trainees are exposed to different cultures, working environments and leadership styles.

Obviously there is no alternative for such robust training systems, but all companies do not have such flexibility in place and hence lap up any new idea that comes their way on new training tools. That explains the enthusiastic response of an HR consultant to a Financial Times report on Saturday on how the Harvard law school has found a solution to many of management problems: a hand of poker.

The card game that is a potentially ruinous bet on chance to its detractors has been hailed by a Harvard professor as a great training tool. Business dealmakers could learn from poker the art of avoiding making the first offer, apart from other life skills such as patience and composure. So, given the desperation of Indian managers for new training tool ideas, don't be surprised if you see poker becoming a rage in corporate training sessions in the near future.

HR consultants say since original ideas in mixing business with pleasure are in short supply, Indian companies could take a look at some of the suggestions given by various websites and customise them.

Here are some of the new training tools that can be considered by India Inc. All of these have been suggested by an appropriately named website called, which has done some pioneering work in this field:

Puzzles and quiz: Though they sound ancient as a training tool, a mixed set of puzzles is great for competitive team-building exercises. But the idea is to give the questions a certain surprise value so that interest is kept alive when the yawns get louder and the tea/cigarette breaks become longer. For example, look at this question: What's the longest word in the English language with only one vowel? Strengths.

Or, what's the origin for the expression "lame duck"? Answer: It was originally a London Stock Exchange term for a member unable to meet his obligations on the settlement day, since they waddled out of the LSE alley, which existed until 1773. Slightly off-beat questions such as these take the drudgery out of conventional quizzing sessions in a corporate training module.

Life-raft game: This game consists of teams imagining they are escaping a sinking ship on a life raft. They have to decide who to take and who stays back. Each individual will first present his/her reasons for staying on board.

The group then debates everyone's relative values and strengths and then takes a final decision on throwing out somebody. This game is useful for training on leadership. Companies such as GE, which practise the rank-and-yank theory (every manager has to remove the bottom 5 per cent of his staff every year), use them with great effect.

Treasure hunt: It's a great activity for team-building. Teams have a set amount of time to collect a list of items from the hotel/office complex/local vicinity. If you are planning a big event for more than 20 people or so, it's essential that the trainer goes to the location in advance, so that he can sort out the clues and the route and ensure it all works.

Think about your team building priorities - if it's to improve inter-departmental team-working then create inter-departmental teams; if you want to build stronger relationships within departments create departmental teams.

Sweet trades: Teams of three are each given an equal amount of at least six different types of sweets. Each type of sweet has a value. Devise a complicated scoring system, something that really makes people think and has many different possible winning combinations, for example, bonus points for sets of all one sort.

Bonus points for collections containing one of each, two of each, three of each, and so on or bonus points for biggest collection compared to other teams. Teams must trade with each other to collect the highest value collection.

The purpose is to illustrate the need for planning and trading, and continual search for new ideas and agreements. See how enthusiastically people plan and how actively they trade.

Now, imagine if this dynamism were applied to business.

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