Training scenarios improve employee performance and customer satisfaction.

Training classes are an excellent way to communicate new ideas or teach employees company policies and best practices, but when the time comes to put these standards into play, it’s important that your employees understand how to properly execute company policies and that they feel comfortable doing so in a stressful situation. Simply having your team read the employee handbook or telling them how to react in situations isn’t enough. You need training scenarios.

Training scenarios help your employees handle everyday conditions in the workplace, difficult clients, and even the more unusual circumstances that sometimes arise on the job. Creating realistic scenarios and role-play practice will help them understand how to properly handle different situations as they arise. There are several key elements to keep in mind when writing training scenarios.

1. Keep the training objective in mind.

Each scenario should have the same ultimate objective. For example, if you are a retail store operator, you may have the ultimate goal of helping a customer select the right gift for a child. Different scenarios may help your employees understand how to approach someone looking for a toddler toy, someone who is unsure about what school-age children like, or a frustrated customer who is looking for the “it” toy of the holiday season.

Writing specific scenarios for each training objective works best if you approach it from the end, and work from there. That is, have the ideal outcome of the scenario in mind, and write the scenario with the goal of achieving that objective. You may have certain verbiage that you wish your employees to use, and different options to help them satisfy the customer, including offering to special order the toy, call to sister stores for the toy or understanding your retail stock well enough to recommend alternate options that may satisfy.

2. Focus on one situation at a time.

In order to get the most out of each training scenario, focus on one objective at a time. If you have the option of weekly training themes, then you may be able to focus on a different training module each week and write a few different plausible interactions that deal with the training issue. While some new trainers and managers may get overly enthusiastic and wish to integrate all the different options that can occur with a certain interaction, it’s best to stay focused and deal with one set up at a time.

Taking, for instance, the example of a customer shopping for a toy, it may be easy to diverge into a tangent of customers shopping for clothing, or household goods, or the like. Focusing on a single aspect of training allows you and your staff to delve into the possible situations to use their new skills and to practice on one thing, mastering it before moving on to another training module.

When you lack focus in your training scenario, you aren’t giving your team the specific tools they need to properly do their jobs.

3. Help employees practice possibly stressful scenarios.

Your company’s employee handbook most likely has best practices accompanying policies that employees are to follow in an emergency situation—in situations where there is trouble with a co-worker, when a customer has an unusual request, or when a customer is angry. Good customer service, which includes keeping one’s cool under pressure and focusing on de-escalating the situation, is something that comes as a result of training and from practical experience

In order to care for your customers and to ensure that our employees perform well in their roles, allowing them to practice stressful customer situations can help when those challenging moments arise. Many employees may become flustered when confronted, and allowing them to practice using correct verbiage and gain experience into how an angry customer will present themselves can help them remain calm and focus on taking care of the immediate issue, rather than responding with anger or confusion.

Other emergency situations can include fire and weather-related emergencies. While most people may go their entire careers without having a fire in the workplace, or a tornado, or the like, the fact is, emergencies are unpredictable and can happen at any time. Having regular fire and emergency drills can ensure that your team and your clients are safe.

4. Make the roles clear: Who is the trainee, and who are they working with in the scenario?

When you are role-playing training scenarios, make sure that you’re clear on who plays which part. As the trainer and team leader, you may wish to demonstrate the “trainee” role first, both as an ice breaker and to show your staff how you expect the training session to go. Be sure when you present the scenario that you outline what you expect the outcome to be, and give a few acceptable options. It may help, too, to have a written sheet of the training script and pass it out to everyone at the training session.

Keeping with our toy-buying customer example, assign yourself to the sales associate role and select an employee you trust to take the training seriously to play the role of the customer. Work through the training script, first exercising the options you’ve listed. If it’s appropriate, you can also have the situation escalate and use the scenario to coach and train your staff to handle a customer who isn’t happy with any of the options given to them.

5. Draw on common, real-life situations.

Your training should include examples that happen in your workplace on a daily or monthly basis. The goal is for your staff to have the tools they need to do their jobs and please clients. Tools, in this case, include best practices for addressing customers, and practice with handling common occurrences at your business.

Make sure that your scenarios are useful and relevant. You probably won’t have someone asking about, for example, the history behind developing each toy in your stock, but you may have many people asking how certain toys work, or a warrantee on electronic games and toys. Smaller things, like whether the toy has small parts that toddlers could choke on, or whether a toy requires batteries (and what kind) may be useful things for your staff to know.

6. Challenge and motivate your employees.

Once you’ve gotten your staff used to the scenario training process, it’s time to up the pressure. If you have an experienced team, you can branch out into challenges of more unusual situations. Or, you can ask your veteran staff members about certain tense or hectic situations that they experienced in the past. These team members can participate in crafting training scenarios based on their real-world experience, giving your staff another layer of training and insight.

Many of your newer staff members may wonder “what’s in it for me” when dealing with training situations. Some may say “my response would be to call a manager.” While this is probably a valid option in your workplace, giving your staff a little leeway in solving problems on their own can actually motivate them to perform better—showing that, after training, you trust their judgment may have the effect of giving them motivation from within.

Wrapping up.

When you create a training scenario, there are a few things to remember:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make it relatable
  • Provide several options for handling a situation
  • State your goal
  • Keep the scenario focused on the goal

Your ability to teach, coach, and lead your team can be enhanced by extra training, making your staff feel comfortable in their role no matter what situations arise. In cases of emergencies, extra training can help those on deck keep a cool head and everyone safe.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Let's Talk! | Twitter

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