It’s a fact, some training efforts work and others fail.
We’ve all been around the block a time or two and have participated and/or created our fair share of corporate training events. Some information sticks and others are forgotten about. Some events are cursed as a waste of time before participants even get out the door, knowing the time will never be recovered and it sucks.
There is a common misconception in the training world that people within organizations don’t want to learn new stuff. As training practitioners, we say participants are distracted, unfocused, and disengaged. We claim it’s their fault participants forget the lessons presented because they weren’t in the moment and not engaged.
Well, we’re wrong. People come to your class wanting to be engaged, but then we kill the mood. We don’t let people access information needed because we don’t allow technology in the class. We want people to be active in their professional development, but then won’t let them choose their own “professional development” path. By claiming we know best, we make the choice for them.
People want to learn, we just don’t accept that people want to learn the way they want to learn. We try to force people into our vision of what successful development looks like.
Before we even start, I assume you have determined there is a real problem to solve…right? Now that we have that question out of the way and before we get all fired up over the next training initiative – Here are 6 things to remember to preventing training failure:
1. Get management involvement from the beginning.
We spend all this cash to bring people together or to create a virtual training environment, then what do we do? We tell people to go back and review the learned concepts with their manager. Yet, the manager has no idea what was taught. They have no idea what to coach. They have no idea how to help people continue the learning after the class. No tools to help their people, even if they wanted to. Because they have no tools and had no buy-in, the days will subsequently continue as if nothing happened. For that, we might as well have sent people to the movies for the day, with the same result – but at least they may have had a good time.
2. Stop drowning people with information.
Stop trying to drown people with a fire hose of info. For goodness sake, you didn’t need to know how a car engine worked before you learned to drive. Did you? Nor did they. Give people what they need to know to do the job, and then get out of the way. Provide a space and have people to DO SOMETHING with the information. Create solid activities (and please, something more imaginative than role-plays). While we’re at it, stop playing the subject matter expert (SME) excuse card. You are supposed to be the experts in training design…act like it.
3. Connecting the learning to real-life.
Stop talking theory and start talking application. If you are going to make people take a course, be sure the information helps people be faster, better, smarter and more effective on the job. If you are making the sales team sit through a sales training class, they had better leave with tools they can use to make more money for their wallet and the business. If you don’t yo are looking at training failure! While I’m at it – stop training people on stuff they won’t use in the immediate future. If salesforce.com won’t be implemented for another 6 months – don’t make people take a class now. This doesn’t connect the learning to anything meaningful and will be soon forgotten. Regardless if the class is 60 minutes or 3 days, real life application will be the pivot point between training success and failure.
4. Confusing workplace training with a college education.
Unless it takes place in the Bahamas, people do not want to take part in a 5-day, death by talking head, corporate university. (Please, go ahead and place a copy of this post on your manager’s desk.) Don’t get me wrong, people want professional development, but they want to choose the path. People really do want to learn to be better leaders, coaches, and mentors, but they don’t need degrees in organizational psychology to do so. Set up a path with success points throughout, give people options for virtual, self-directed and in-class training. It’s a lot like trying to get into better shape – not one exercise routine fits all. Yet, forcing people into a standard corporate development path is what we do with training every day. Then we act shocked and amazed when it fails.
5. Have some trust.
Why is training treated like prison? We have attendee’s being overseen by trainers. We have tests and quizzes that aren’t validated for any other purpose other than to “prove people took the training”. What did people do to deserve this type of treatment? Why is sharing work and answers in a training setting called cheating, yet in the workplace called collaboration? If we are putting “safeguards” around a training process “just in case” someone tries to circumvent the process, we’re doing our jobs wrong. Why can’t we be more of a guide than commander? More and more, our jobs about the curation of knowledge – not the “do as I say” model of training. There may be times where people don’t know what they don’t know. But there are plenty of times when they do. Trust people to know the difference. People are adults, let’s treat them that way.
6. It’s.all.too.boring and way too long.
Why are we making people sit through a class on how to complete an inventory form? Isn’t there an FAQ sheet people can read? Or a short video to explain each area? Or a “click on this” to see more resources? I respectfully alert you to websites called YouTube, Lynda, or Udemy. People can take all the excel, PowerPoint, “How to write an email” or “How to use Gmail” classes they want. Just point people in the right direction and they can take it from there. This is why methods such as the flipped classroom and microlearning are seeing surges. People want to know how to do their jobs better, no more, no less.
There you have it. People are willing participants if the training program is right for their needs. If the training program really solves a problem. If the training is well prepared, relevant, and speaks to people on a human level. Once you talk to people and understand their needs – you may see more of eager faces and more connected learning. Which is what everyone wants, right? What other tips would you offer to help keep your head in the game?
thank you for your words , i think that our training can also be succeed by delivering an highly interactive environment. Some online platforms work for that criteria to enhance the value of their online training platform. your words can deliver a correct thought on learning.
Khris Villoria says
I agree with you, Shannon. Graphs and charts and fancy theories might be good for discussion during the training, but I doubt if employees retain the information afterward. The best way for employees to retain information is to ask them to perform meaningful tasks. I have attended sessions where fun and games were incorporated into the discussion. From my observation, the participants became more engaged. Not only were they learning, they were also having fun!
Shannon Tipton says
Hi Khris – Right? Although, there is a place for theory. There are times when one must have a knowledge base in order to perform the task. That is fine, don’t fill up the training with theory. Let me get down to it! I’m continually amazed when trainers tell me they don’t have to incorporate an activity or exercise that helps connect the dots. In that case, you just should have recorded a video and called it a day. If you are dragging (and I do mean dragging) people into to a training “event” – and doing nothing more than reading slides…YIKES. So, I agree – let’s spice things up with a little creative fun. What could it hurt?
Great takeaway, I would add that going low-tech is sometime useful: working with diverse people using colored pens and big cards in open spaces, goes a long way and is better than a bullet presentation by an external teacher. Finally my experience underlines that frequent and short training courses where the people can tailor their needs, are better than long events with poor inputs from the workers.
Shannon Tipton says
Hi Camila – Completely agree. Often the best help we can provide people is not necessarily tech based. In the classroom, I provide a variety of ways for people to annotate materials and take notes they way they want to take notes. Activities even in elearning and virtual training connect the concepts and help the embedding process. I’m with you, short is preferable to long – however, it doesn’t matter if it’s long or short if it’s deathly boring, text heavy and not relevant. Longer programs mean we have to take the time to ensure relevancy (not bloat) and embed into the materials; challenges, activities, project work, and/or action learning sets.
All of your tips and recommendations are really good! Creating a training material that teaches and shows how something is done is very effective! I personally would want to see something in action rather than learning different theories that surrounds it. Things such as how you’re supposed to start and how to do things correctly and what to do in case something goes wrong, you know, the actual task, the actual way to do it. For me, that’s what a training is. Just like what you said, I don’t care how engines are made or how engines were developed since the beginning, I just want to learn how to drive the car and nothing else! Because as far as I know, I’m training how to drive, not how to build a whole car.
Shannon Tipton says
Hi Ronald – Thank you for your comment! As you might suspect, I completely agree. I think learning professionals get caught up in the theoretical nuances and forget people need application too. Certainly, there are times when knowledge and theory play an important part to the learning transfer and training. However, the theory should connect directly with the learning goals. I appreciate your thoughts!
Oliver Pascual says
Nice post Shannon! There are always complexities during training courses, but you’re right in that people want to learn and be engaged in the course and a lot of times it’s the course itself that is failing the students.
Without proper opportunity to take the course at your own pace, it’s easy to quickly become disinterested. This post did a great job of explaining how improper training methods can be more detrimental than helpful.
Shannon Tipton says
Thank you Oliver! I truly believe that people want to learn, they want to do better today than they did the day before. How different people measure that success is up to them. We (as L&D professionals) try to fit people into a box…success MUST look like this…You must take the class in THIS way… we understand that people aren’t robots, yet we are shocked and amazed when people act like humans.