Imagine a basketball player driving for the hoop on a fast break—the defenders move in front of him, and with his eyes still set straight ahead, he lofts the ball to his left. His teammate grabs it on the dead run, and with the defense outflanked, dunks it. Beautiful play. The crowd goes wild.
How did the player know for certain that his teammate was there? That’s teamwork fed by familiarity, trust, and a knowledge that goes as deep as muscles and bone. Those traits are key to building an effective, engaged team that works in sync.
In team-building training, learning & development tends to focus on individual skills: demonstrating leadership, employing empathy, listening, and using the “yes, and” response that allows groups to find consensus-based paths forward. But what have we done about building essential knowledge of another person’s perspectives, mindset, and the job responsibilities that they own? And what steps have been taken to foster commonality across work units, divisions, or between distinct groups within the organization, all of which may have competing viewpoints?
This is where day-in-the-life training comes in.
Day-in-the-life training, or DITL, is a systematic approach for training groups of employees on the work that other colleagues perform during the course of a day. It’s an essential opportunity to illustrate not only what a job consists of, but the mindset that informs it. Effective DITL training shows the what, how, and why of a job. When employees have a working knowledge of what others do and how they think, there is improved communication, fewer misunderstandings, and greater collaboration, allowing diverse professionals to function together and help each other succeed.
DITL need not focus on just one employee or job classification; it can show how a particular unit or division functions together to create value or customer satisfaction. And why focus only on people? Perhaps the story you want to tell is a day-in-the-life of a product that begins with some raw material or disparate parts, and emerges from the work of many parties as a perfect, functional whole. Or perhaps it is the story of an order or transaction, or a new client entering your system that puts “the team” across units into concerted action.
Everyone has a story to tell, which is why DITL works. It's all about narrative, character, plot, and action. In this type of training, content falls along two familiar patterns—chronology and story—that organize our lives. Scholars have long explored how stories are a vehicle that crosses cultures and helps us recognize common humanity. Why not use this deep pattern to train your team and tell the stories that make your organization great?
Done well, DITL is also a chance to make your people stars. It places attention on top-flight employees doing their job as it was meant to be done, while articulating the mindset that helps them achieve. Think of how all your employees would benefit from a deeper knowledge of the outstanding people at work across the organization. DITL is your chance to build this recognition and subtly but effectively push everyone to grow.
Houston-based Waste Management wanted its customer service professionals to recognize the varied job functions of the drivers in the field. Having every customer service rep go on a ride-along wasn’t a practical solution… but DITL training was.
Caveo Learning had the privilege of working with Waste Management to produce a video-enhanced eLearning program that showed drivers working each of three types of routes—residential, commercial, and rolloff (rolloffs are large, open-top dumpsters hauled on flatbed trucks). Working with SMEs, Caveo instructional designers storyboarded the course, composed a video shot list, and then went out in the field with a video crew. They spent three days with drivers and managers at a hauling outfit in Arizona, interviewing and going on routes with drivers. The crew shot video using standard cameras, a drone for aerial shots, and a GoPro stuck on the truck, in the cab, and on dumpsters.
The resulting product featured the hallmarks of a video-enhanced DITL eLearning:
For Waste Management, the course has the added benefit of showing off the unique qualities and professionalism that sets the company apart; this is a perspective that customer service reps could convey to clients, with specifics to back it up. Waste Management was so pleased with the courses that they plan to include “Day in the Life of the Driver” as part of the training for all internal audiences.