Confessions of an Editor: I Hate Training

Godzilla 50th Anniversary Edition Soundtrack CD

by Joe Wallace

I admit it…when I think about training new people to do detail-oriented, non-writing techie stuff like managing WordPress, resizing images in Photoshop, or the finer points of troubleshooting buggy FTP interfaces, I start hearing the Godzilla movie music in my head–that ominous, doomy music that lets you know things are about to go very wrong, very soon.

I share this because for the first time in YEARS, I am on the other end of the lesson. I’m learning a whole new universe of WYSIWYG editing platform issues, file management system pitfalls and hiccups, even where to send the copy corrections is a new and special headache for the uninitiated. Whatever happened to e-mail?

But if you stay on an upwardly mobile career path long enough, you’ll probably encounter similar training needs that put you in the teacher’s seat at least long enough to teach somebody else what to do in case you go on vacation and need someone else to upload your content for the day/week/year.

Why do I hate training? Because inevitably, whether I’m the teacher or the learner, some critical piece of information gets left out of the equation due to human nature–one that becomes absolutely essential once the trainer is gone and no longer of any assistance.

Calling Mister Murphy…your law is being invoked on aisle seven.

What can you do to prevent this from happening?

For starters, writers and editors, if you have to train a replacement, try writing out all the instructions in advance. That way you have a much easier time catching anything you left out–it will probably hit you once you begin teaching from what you wrote.

Secondly, have your trainee PRACTICE these tasks BEFORE you leave. Again, you can catch anything you missed before it’s too late.

Another trick I often use to good effect–I run through the list of tasks backwards to see if the process still makes sense. I catch omissions using this technique because I have to slow down and think harder about what’s going on–after all, I’m reading it BACKWARDS from finish to start.

And finally, when you train someone to take over for you in your writing and the technical issues associated with submitting, publishing or adding media to the content, be sure to walk your trainee through the process from log-on to log-off.

Don’t assume they know where to log in to your area, how to do it, what the correct passwords and user names are, etc. Just pretend that they don’t know ANYTHING and you’ll do a much more complete job. You can apologize for insulting their intelligence with “Log in on the page that says “log in here”, but you can’t apologize (when it counts) for locking them out of the system because you didn’t give them the log-in URL.

And finally, always put yourself in the trainee’s shoes and you’ll do a much better job of teaching the technical tasks you need to impart to get you on that much-needed vacation, sick day, etc….