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Opinion: Training basics for YouTube crowd

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Want to figure out how to do something? You know what to do. Search YouTube. From fixing your car to programing your phone to investing in gold, you can type and click and find someone to help you out.

Pretty cool right? I just searched for companion-plants for my asparagus bed. Answer: Basil and parsley. My husband once searched for “repairing a torn earlobe” after a tool got the best of him. (I wish I were making that up.) One site suggested using a stapler.

And therein lies the rub. There is amazing information available on the internet. There are also lots of nutty people sharing their “expertise.” The world-flattening view of the computer monitor can make it tricky to tell the nutters from the pros.

Your employees are searching YouTube for ways to do what you’ve asked them to do. If they get stuck, they could call you, and they might. Or they might type, “how to install a water heater” and click on a random link.

Even if you have checklists and systems, they may be bypassing all that. In these days of at-your-fingertips information, how do you make sure that your team members are trained properly? We can combine cool, digital options with sound training practices to enhance learning.

The curriculum
There’s no substitute for operations manuals. Writing manuals involves ride-alongs, side by sides, heated discussions and some brutal executive decisions. Still, if you want things done the right way, your way, there is no side-stepping the written word.

• Start with binders. One person does the task and another writes down what they are doing. Use a spiral-bound three-hole notebook. Focus on the few tasks that they run into every day. Do this for every position on the organizational chart.

• Electronic manuals. You can store – and update – the digital versions of your manuals. It sure beats the “seek and destroy” method of updating the binders. Still, it’s an ongoing housekeeping project and essential for keeping up with evolving software, industry regulations and manufacturers’ offerings.

The video and social
• In addition to the written manuals, video is essential. Your team members have different learning styles, and your training is improved if you offer information in multiple ways.

• You can create your own how-to videos. One person works, another records. Keep the videos short and informal. Don’t fuss over production quality.

• You also can add videos that others have created. Keep an open dialogue with your team about helpful info they discover.

• Video calling through Facetime, Skype and Google Meet saves time and avoids miscommunications.

• Podcasts and interesting Instagram stars? Yes, please. If they are into it, your employees are going to check their social media platforms. Don’t bother fighting it. Establish rules – no driving and clicking – and encourage them to explore. You could learn from them, too.

Manufacturer training
• Ooh, there is so much available from your favorite manufacturers. Search or ask your representatives to connect you.

• Don’t neglect the office crew. The self-training section on the QuickBooks website is chock-full of great training.

Face to face
Yep, the manuals are essential. You can season your training with hip technology. One could learn 75% of what they need to know to work for you by studying up on their own. But for mastery, you need a coach. A sensei. A teacher. That, my friend, is you.

As John Wooden said, “In the end, it’s about the teaching, and what I always loved about coaching was the practices. Not the games, not the tournaments, not the alumni stuff. But teaching the players during practice was what coaching was all about to me.”

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at


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