As children, some of us may remember the game of Chinese whispers, where the first player whispers a phrase to the next player and each player successively whispers what they believe they heard to the next player. The final message usually does not have much resemblance to the original, because of the cumulative effect of mistakes along the line. In this game there is no winner, although all participants are provided with amusement in the unrecognisable result. The game can have an educational value in showing how easily information can become corrupted by indirect communication.
In many organisations, a large percentage of staff gets trained thru the “Chinese whispers” method, where staff trains one another. While it might seem leadership are saving the organisation resources, this methodology could actually end up costing your organisation more, especially when it comes to fundraising and the use of your database. Staff who train one another in practices that might not be “best” practices end up doing things in a fashion they believe is right or doing things in a consistent way that is not “best practice”. Then that staff member trains the next staff member and so on.
Just like in the game, the same results will occur – a cumulative effect of mistakes. You may notice your data becomes polluted with erroneous or duplicate entries, or maybe processes are done in cumbersome and inefficient ways, or timesaving functionality becomes over looked. Certainly there will be no winner – not staff, constituents, or your organisations. In this real-life game, the final result is a lack of participants, donors and dollars – not amusement. Training can reverse these negative impacts on your organisation.
It’s easy to identify new staff as candidates for training; however, there are several other staff members to consider for training:
Role Change: Staff movement within your organisation is another identifier for training. As staff change roles, these staff may require skills or use of database functionality in which they were not previously trained.
Long tenure in role: Staff who have been in database administration, gifts processing, research, or fundraising roles for a long period of time should consider refresher training. While they may not need to go back to basics, refresher training will remind them of best practices and also identify new ways of doing old procedures.
Upgrade of database software: If your organisation has upgraded to a newer version, then new functionality has likely been released and incorporated. Your organisation has likely paid for the upgrade, so you should learn the new functionality.
Never trained: a percentage of staff at some organizations has never had formal training in their job. Staff who self-train end up learning functionality in a way they believe is correct or doing things in a way that is not good practice.
Can you win at Chinese whispers? The game is a success if each participant carefully whispers what they have heard and the message is transmitted accurately. This is the result you want and need for the success of your organisation. Get the message out loud and clear, plan for your training today.