On the Job Training Tips: Asking Questions

One of the responsibilities those in a supervisory position have is to pass their knowledge and experience on to their team members in order to develop them.

Many supervisors are not very good at doing this. They fall into the trap of telling people how to do something. But as any good developer of people knows - telling is not training!

Training people on the job can be a very effective method of transferring skills from the supervisor to a team member, but in order to do this well, supervisors need to know how to effectively train people. One of the most important skills for effective on the job training is the ability to ask questions rather than simply telling people.

The questions the supervisor asks will have the effect of turning a tedious “lecture” on how to do something into an enjoyable and interactive training session for their team members. Questions are, therefore, the most important way for a supervisor to convey vital knowledge to your team.

There are six key benefits of asking questions rather than simply lecturing to your team:

1. Questions focus the learner’s attention.
2. Questions invite the learner to think.
3. Questions increase the rate of learning.
4. Questions create a sense of partnership.
5. Questions enhance the learner’s self-confidence.
6. Questions make the learning progress more visible.

What Types of Questions Should You Ask?

There is an important and well-known difference between so called open and closed questions.

A closed question requires a short, practically monosyllabic answer from the other person: “Yes”, “No”, “Thursday” (when?), “Mr. Walter” (who?), “In London” (where?).

Open questions usually begin with the words why, how or what - and so require longer more involved answers to be supplied by the learner.

It is easy to see that the above reasons for asking questions when training your team members only apply if you ask them open questions. Closed questions have a tendency to create an undesirable learning environment and put off a critical percentage of adult learners as they make the training less interactive and more like a test.

Remember, however, that if you are still developing your own training skills asking a closed question is better than just talking and asking no questions at all!