What My Quest for the Best Bourbon Showed Me About Workplace Training

I suspect that, since the beginning of organized teams, folks have asked the question, “What’s the most effective training method?” And it’s a really important question to ask! Especially these days, when so many companies are experiencing change and growth at such a breakneck pace. There’s just too much at stake to fumble through onboarding or change management with ineffective workplace training programs

With so many people asking that question, I’m going to try to shed some light on an answer by using one of my hobbies: Bourbon. 

“The best bourbon is the one you like to drink.”

As with any niche hobby, everyone has an opinion, and bourbon is no exception. Ask ten different people what the “best” bourbon is, and you’ll get ten different answers. But a few years ago, a friend of mine opened my eyes by answering the question differently. His response was something like:

“The best bourbon is the one you like to drink.” 

In short, the “best” bourbon is subjective. It’s dependent on the person choosing it and their personal preferences and palate. But before you jump to the idea that everything should be totally subjective, I’ll add an important caveat: While the best bourbon is ultimately up to the person drinking it, there are some generally agreed upon elements that impact the final quality of a bourbon. Things like age, the reputation of the distillery, and the ingredients used to make the end product. 

As a result, if you ask enough people, you’ll begin to see some patterns emerge. In my experience, those patterns show that most people’s “best” bourbon is between eight and fifteen years old, is from a major distillery, and utilizes a relatively traditional set of ingredients.

So how does all that relate to the most effective training method? 

At the end of the day, the most effective training method is the one that achieves your objectives. 

But, if you’re starting a workplace training program from scratch, how do you go about identifying what training method best achieves your goals? Let’s run through what that could look like. We’ll use the example of a restaurant, focused on workplace safety training

Step 1: Identify Your Objectives

For our restaurant, we’ll say our objectives are threefold. 

  • Every employee must have a record that shows they’ve completed the necessary training outlined by the National Safety Council before the end of the year. 
  • Employees need to be able to complete their training away from the restaurant, during non-mealtime hours, and without the presence of a supervisor. 
  • In order to increase engagement and retention, the training needs to include a few low-key, fun training topics as well. 

Step 2: Research and Plan

By looking at our objectives, we can pretty quickly identify a few things that will impact our choice of training method.

  • Because we need to have evidence of training being completed, we know we’ll need a tool that maintains accurate records for each of our employees and that tracks completion.
  • Additionally, since training needs to be completed away from the restaurant and without a supervisor, we can eliminate instructor-led training as a viable method and focus on a way to deliver safety certifications online
  • Lastly, since it’s important that we sprinkle in some fun training, we’ll probably want to be able to build the content ourselves, rather than buy off-the-shelf safety training courses

So now we have a rough idea of some of the necessary elements of our ideal training method. 

And just like bourbon, while the final training method will be specific to us, we can identify general best practices by leveraging the shared knowledge of our workplace training network. Fortunately, we’ve worked hard to cultivate relationships with leaders at other restaurants who have faced this same challenge and, given that an online training method seems to be the best option based on our objectives, they’ll be able to suggest some software training companies who may be able to help us out. 

Step 3: Make a Decision

Based on our objectives, the suggestions of our network, and our own personal research, we’ll need to settle on the best training method and the necessary tools we’ll need to administer it. In our case, we’ve landed on a simple online training tool, with easy content creation, that keeps track of progress and completions. But, this isn’t the end of the journey! 

Step 4: Measure and Iterate

Even though we’ve settled on a training method that works for us, this journey is never really finished. As we administer our first round of online safety training, it’s important that we measure our results against the objectives we outlined in Step 1. Did we achieve them? Could we have done better? Are there new objectives that we didn’t think of on our first go around? 

These steps will require us to evaluate our current training method, identify if there are other methods we need to explore, and clearly highlight if there are other topics for training sessions that could be helpful to employees. 

Final Thoughts

My “best” bourbon is always evolving as my preferences change and as I learn more about new products on the market from my bourbon-loving friends. Your journey for the “best” training method should be no different. Always be learning and re-evaluating. The best training method for you will likely change as the needs of your workplace change. 

What do you think? Have you found these four steps to be true in your experience? Are there some that you are stronger or weaker in? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note at evan.wible@lessonly.com if you’d like to chat about your approach to training (or your approach to finding the world’s best bourbon.) 😉


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