Tips on training staff

Role play, case studies and business games can motivate staff to learn.

Training is something most people plan ahead as workshops or seminars, but there are many kinds of activities that can be run as a one-off after either a complaint has happened, a mistake has been made, or there are new people or new tasks to be done.


Let’s get people interested and motivated when we run training sessions. A lot can be learned to make activities we conduct more successful.


There are many different kinds of activities including case studies, role plays, question and answer sessions, business games – all aimed at getting participants to learn from experience. Here are some practical tips.


Role plays

Set up a make-believe situation as a trigger for learning; for example, conflict between one of your team and a customer, or a negotiation, or may be a presentation or influencing situation.

This will enable the staff member to practise the skills, and will also enable you to see where they might need improvement.

You can use scripted scenarios in an impromptu way – “How would you handle this sort of person? You be the customer…”

Rather than using the words “role play”, as they can be daunting for some people, you can say “why don’t we set this situation up?”

But you need to be aware of when to cut in or stop the role play by monitoring the body language of participants, and if relevant, the audience.

You can involve others by switching staff members and asking the group how the person is going.


Processing the role play

You need to look at three important phases of processing, whether a one-on-one situation or in a group. Ask: What happened? And get to a point extraction – “what can we learn from this?”

And then apply the learning, in which you may set up another role play.

If you are in a group, it is usually best to ask for volunteers for a role play instead of singling people out, and use silence if there is no immediate response to wait for someone to volunteer – they usually do.


Case studies

You can also use tapes of actual situations – replay and discuss what to do better. You can review a case written out, and have a discussion or Q & A session about it.

Case studies are usually a story or problem, such as on video tape, to be solved in the form of questions. Or you can ask your team for an example and process it with the group by going through a real life situation. This may be one that caused a lot of anxiety or poor outcome and at every stage it can now be discussed in a constructive way to look at what you have all learned from it.

The examples may even come from a mystery shopping survey, or a scenario of a competitor, or can even work as a building hypothetical – which many people really enjoy.


Business games

These can be great on a team building day, or a residential workshop – where there is a need to make it interactive and fun and also get out of it some discussion and insights into leadership, communication and team skills.

It could be a simulation of situation, for example, teams stranded on the moon – what would they take? Aim for participation to see how people behave.

The connection to on-the-job can be made during processing if it is not immediately apparent!


Whatever the activity, it MUST be related to the job – otherwise some people will react negatively. Others may love abseiling or physical team events – but be careful, not everyone enjoys physical sports, or games that are unrelated to work.


I think these kinds of activities can be excellent for development, memorable and a great way to learn new skills, and have fun at work. But it is up to the person running the activity to make it work and not leave people feeling embarrassed or annoyed.






Eve Ash is a psychologist and co-producer with Peter Quarry of Conducting Training Activities (from the Take Away Training Series). © Ash.Quarry Productions.

For more Eve Ash blogs, click here.



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