The Parallel Between Retraining and the Telephone Game

by Wayne Carriere, President of Black Mountain Software

Telephone modele U43-MGR Lyon-IMG 9923

Have you ever seen this demonstration? Half a dozen or more people are selected at random from an audience, then seated next to each other in a row of chairs onstage.  The host then whispers a message to the person sitting on one end of the row.  That person then whispers what they believe they heard to the next person, and so on down the row, until the last person has heard the message.

The surprising outcome is the message heard at the end is completely different than the original message.  It’s called the “telephone” game, and it’s often used to demonstrate a point: each person emphasizes what they grasp as important, and that distorts the message.

The reason for the distortion is this: people do not remember, and therefore do not repeat the exact message word-for-word.  Instead, they provide a basic summary of what was said, adding what they believe is the relevant and important information.  But each time the message is interpreted and reiterated, the message becomes more distorted.

Where, you might wonder, are we going with this analogy? Well, believe it or not, there is a parallel between the “telephone game” and software training.  Each time an outgoing staff member trains a new staff member, information is lost, distorted, or left out, and replaced with what that individual deems “important”.  As more staff turnover occurs, and more outgoing staff members train their replacements, the more knowledge and details are lost.  Even though that loss can be small tidbits of information, after enough turn over, it becomes significant.

It is for this reason that Black Mountain Software provides training of new staff as a standard part of our Annual Service and Support. After speaking with numerous clients, we have found that over time, clients lose information and become unfamiliar with all the functions and processes related to our software.  We found that offering training to new staff provides an opportunity for a new staffer to learn the software and all its functions–maybe even functions not previously used! By getting new, refreshed training directly from Black Mountain Software, clerks are not relying on a former staffer to train a new staffer, and there is no loss of knowledge as a result of staff turnover.

If you have experienced staff turnover and want to avoid having this problem at your organization, we strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to supplement the training of new personnel by outgoing personnel with the free Internet training available from Black Mountain Software.  It’s free to our clients, and we think you will be pleased with the results.  And remember, we can tailor that training to the specific needs you identify for your staff, upon request.

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(Michelle Richards, City Clerk/Treasurer, talks about training and learning the Black Mountain Software system)

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