|Improving Training for Recruiters
|by Colonel James H. Comish and Donald D. Copley Jr.
The Recruiting and Retention School (RRS) is
responsible for preparing Soldiers to perform
one of the Army’s most important jobs: procuring the next generation of Soldiers and retaining those already in service. The school, part of the Army Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, has developed the innovative and adaptive training programs needed to develop recruiters who are well prepared to present what the Army has to offer to the American public.
The training programs of RRS offer a combination of blended learning approaches, streamlined training development processes, online learning opportunities, and innovative training solutions that blur the lines between the institutional, organizational, and self-development training domains.
Blended learning is a combination of two or more training methods. The goal is to deliver effective training while saving time and money. This approach combines a variety of techniques that range from traditional workshops and small-group instruction to the use of electronic text and other media such as CD–ROMs and DVDs.
Web-based training eliminates much of the cost of classroom instruction. Web-based approaches include virtual classrooms, self-paced distance learning, collaborative learning with or without an instructor, and streaming video, audio, and text.
At U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) headquarters and RRS, training developers and instructors have taken advantage of blended learning to create flexible learning environments. In pre-resident training, the student completes modules to gain basic knowledge; that basic knowledge builds the foundation for a higher level of learning during subsequent face-to-face instruction. This is the primary purpose of a blended learning curriculum in pre-resident training. Student feedback reinforces the importance of completing the training to prepare for active classroom participation and to obtain a firmer grasp of the instruction.
Six RRS pre-resident programs support blended learning: the Station Commander Course, Health Care Recruiter Course, Guidance Counselor Operations NCO [noncommissioned officer] Course, Recruiting Master Trainer Course, Recruiting Company Commander Course, and Pre-Command Course. These courses use web-based technology for distributed learning by means of the Army Accessions Command Learning Management System (LMS) and the Virtual Classroom Server (VCS).
Both LMS and VCS have proven effective for
unit training, new systems training, and Army Reserve recruiter training. USAREC master trainers use VCS for monthly and quarterly training sessions. VCS is effective in preparing students for classroom instruction, and it also allows RRS instructors to work with students before they report for the resident phase of courses.
Using LMS, VCS, and distributed learning with traditional classroom learning is the way of the future. The technology is here today. Web-based tools can facilitate communication, interaction, and collaborative learning in ways that were not available before. A blended learning model can improve learning retention by reinforcing concepts and providing hands-on practice through application sharing.
Streamlined Development Processes
The RRS Training Development (TD) Directorate, which is responsible for managing and maintaining training material for USAREC, has become one of the command’s lead agents in change management. In USAREC, changes happen daily. Keeping pace with these changes requires TD to streamline its developmental processes. Streamlining a business process allows an organization to maintain its battle rhythms and provide ready and relevant training materials as changes occur.
Because of the unique nature of recruiting business practices, the traditional approach to training development that allowed a course manager the luxury of updating course material over several months is no longer acceptable. The rapid changes associated with USAREC require the expeditious development of training material in a matter of days, sometimes hours. As a leading change management agent, the RRS TD shop has pioneered new and innovative methods to ensure that training materials are ready, relevant, and available in a short amount of time.
The RRS TD is heavily engaged in streamlining the process of lesson development. Most TD shops across the Army have at least 21 to 30 personnel sharing a moderate workload. RRS customers demand updates at a rapid pace to meet their daily challenges, but the RRS TD has only 11 personnel. The solution was the development of a streamlined process to accomplish all of the necessary work. What used to take a standard training developer 125 hours to accomplish now takes only 12 to 18 hours. These new processes have allowed training developers more time during a workweek to focus their energy on developing new capabilities and new training materials.
Each TD team member played an important role in deciding which parts of the processes were deleted or streamlined. Team members were assigned a particular step in the development and updating process and then were challenged to streamline it. Through several brainstorming sessions, the steps within the process were reduced and cumbersome work was eliminated. The elimination of steps within the process allowed TD to produce products at a much faster rate than other TD shops within the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
The use of the Army Systems Approach to Training (ASAT) database is the cornerstone for training development across the Army. It is sometimes referred to as an old, outdated, antiquated, and cumbersome system. However, the RRS TD developed innovative and more rapid approaches to lesson development procedures, expediting the cumbersome actions formally used in ASAT.
TRADOC is fielding a new training development system called Training Development Capability (TDC). It is in the implementation phase and will be reviewed for application to the Lean Six Sigma project once it is on line and ready for use. Meanwhile, the use of ASAT is still relevant because RRS must continue to produce Training Requirements Analysis System (TRAS) documents. TRAS documents consist of—
- Soldier training publications, which list critical tasks and performance steps for those critical tasks at every level.
- Officer-civilian foundation standards, which list individual critical tasks for officer and civilian staff members.
- Course administrative data, which contain all of the administrative information for each functional course taught at RRS.
- Programs of instruction, which provide instructions on how a particular course will be taught, including what methods will be used.
- Individual training plans, which provide information on how Soldiers in a military occupational
specialty will be trained throughout their professional careers.
RRS has the ability to produce lesson plans in a format that adheres to all the regulatory guidance for lesson development mandated by TRADOC policies. Multiple benefits have resulted from this type of streamlined development. First and foremost, it allows RRS to maintain pace with the constant changes in the field. Second, RRS can provide students with the most recent information for their use when they report to recruiting duty. Third, RRS can place all courseware material for all functional courses on its website and SharePoint (www.rrs.army.mil). Finally, RRS saved a tremendous amount of time and labor using a Lean Six Sigma approach to streamlining the development process. In short, the school’s streamlined processes have allowed it to effect quick changes in lesson plan development and change management procedures.
As USAREC continues to change and leverage technology, the need to develop course materials in a timely manner remains a critical area of concern. The Lean Six Sigma project assisted the school in modifying the way it did business and ensured that it provides an up-to-date training support package for its customers across USAREC. As RRS continues to support the field force and its instructors, it will continue to pioneer changes in antiquated processes and procedures to produce ready and relevant training.
In an effort to support Army leadership and counseling doctrine, RRS is offering voluntary VCS training sessions that provide opportunities for continued development. With the mandatory training on activating change being completed throughout the command, RRS allowed USAREC units to have additional prepackaged certified training, which provides them flexibility in planning and executing training requirements.
These voluntary sessions, facilitated by certified RRS trainers, can also be scheduled for company training requirements. Each of the eight interactive sessions are 90 minutes in length, designed to cover issues facing the field, and contain analytical and verbal practical exercises.
These virtual training sessions started on 31 July 2009. The field began to see these offerings promoted in the Recruiter Journal magazine, Recruiting ProNet (part of the Battle Command Knowledge System), and in the USAREC ProNet newsletter. These lessons are offered as a downloaded video from the RRS webpage (www.rrs.army.mil) under the “Live Training” link. They also have been integrated into the resident Station Commander Course, First Sergeant Course, and the newly developed Senior Master Trainer Course.
Filling the Training Gap for New Recruiters
RRS also has also embarked on a project for new recruiters. For many years, no sustainment training has existed for recruiters between the time they leave RRS and the time they initially report to their recruiting battalions. The average wait time for a Soldier reporting to their battalion is 2 months after they graduate from the basic Army Recruiter Course.
In September 2009, RRS launched a pilot program designed to assist new recruiters in maintaining their counseling skills. The program runs on the Army Learning Management System, and all students enroll in the program’s training modules before they depart from RRS. This pilot program is a joint effort among RRS, USAREC, and Lee Dubois Technologies. It has three distinct and innovative elements. The first and second elements are a resurrection of old and valuable tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP). The final component is a training package from the Lee Dubois Technologies team.
The first element of this new training program—
- Introduces the field to the skills required to recruit successfully in a particular market and to move each recruiter from “self-centered concerns” or an “it’s a numbers game” mindset to a focus on the applicant.
- Reveals significant market information that defines and targets the multiple markets in which the recruiter operates.
- Identifies bad habits that have hampered production and replaces them with new dynamic skill sets that take the recruiter to the next level.
- Initiates the move from “what we have” to “what we can do for you” in the Army Interview presentation.
- Provides the recruiter with early validation of his knowledge and understanding of the millennial generation.
- Excites the recruiter for the next element in the training package, the “Recruiter Tutor” module, which offers advanced counselor training as a dynamic, real-world solution for many of his problems.
- Ensures that Recruiter Tutor and future training modules sustain the recruiter.
- Prevents a drop-off in skills so recruiters in the field will be prepared to maximize the available tools.
- Helps the recruiter to understand and support the current advertising campaign, “Army Strong,” so that he can build on it as a tool for generating leads.
The second element of this new training package is Recruiter Tutor, which was first introduced to USAREC in 2000. Recruiter Tutor is the key to making a more compelling career presentation to potential recruits and provides additional keys to the recruiter for mission attainment. This element provides insight on how to—
- Establish instant rapport.
- Uncover hidden needs.
- Build stronger relationships.
- Arouse curiosity.
- Build a professional approach.
- Target Generation X and Y—the marketing match.
- Deliver a dynamic presentation.
- Convince the skeptical.
- Know when to close.
- Listen and observe body language.
- Elicit a commitment (closing)—ethically.
- Handle the competitive objection (obstacle).
The last component of the training program is a new training package from the Lee Dubois Technologies team, “Prospect for Success.” This program is constructed in a modern virtual textbook interspersed with compelling videos. Recruiters get to see powerful prospecting techniques in full video, or they can actually write in live-fire exercises that will build their skills “on the fly.”
The initial deployment of this training program is set for the next 4,000 Soldiers who graduate from the basic Army Recruiter Course. RRS will administer a survey following the graduation of the 4,000 Soldiers to ascertain the success of the investment in this new training program. This survey will use the same survey tool that RRS designed for previous graduates and has used as a benchmark to track the knowledge recruiters retain.
RRS designed this new training program to enhance a recruiter’s ability to retain critical skills during the lag time between graduation and arrival at the recruiting battalion. During their entire time as recruiters, these 4,000 Soldiers will maintain their licenses for the training and will be able to continuously refer back to it for TTP.
RRS has been recognized by many external entities as a premier learning institution, employing blended learning techniques and leveraging state-of-the-art technologies. RRS is committed to providing quality instruction, effective sustainment training in field units, and comprehensive degree programs for self-development. As RRS is the first stop on an assignment to USAREC, the future is bright for Soldiers who choose to serve in this dynamic organization.