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Really Simple, Yet Practical Things We Can Do In Training To Make Sure That Learning, Engagement And Growth Is Occurring

Training-Pic-for-NDInsightsThe numbers seem the same.  The 2013 State of the Industry (Training) numbers seem similar to what we’ve seen in the past – billions of dollars spent on training employees.  Instructor-led classroom remains at the top of the delivery list at 54%, but continues to spiral downward as companies look for the cheap and easy technology-based education for employees (about 39% of formal learning hours available via technology-based delivery.) However, if you’ve traveled around and talked to many T&D practitioners, HR managers and executives, they’re still not satisfied with the learning and development that’s occurring in their own organizations.

How can we collectively spend $164.2 billion on learning and come away unhappy?   What most T&D specialists are always assessing throughout the life cycle of an employee and within each individual attempt to train is has the learner learned.  We measure this in retention of material, behavior exhibited and newly learned competencies demonstrated back on the job.

“The dropout rate of massive online courses is higher than 97%. It’s easy to be exposed to education, but actually quite a challenge to learn,” stated online guru Seth Godin this past September.  What are we doing with the $164.2 billion that is not leading us to a massive change in how we help others learn?

I don’t think technology is the only culprit, although it is new and shiny and we tend to do it massively wrong. We force the tool and not the philosophy of adult learning behind the tool.  Perhaps we teach and educate at a mediocre level to get it off of our “to do” list (because we know that list has grown in recent years) and never fully really embrace the “has the learner learned” concept.

Attending one of our New Directions training workshops recently, I took away these really simple, yet practical things we can do to make sure that learning, engagement and growth is occurring.  Perhaps you can begin to incorporate some of them in your next training? The key words I walked away with: authentic engagement.

  • Start on time.  Sounds simple, but lateness and tardiness shows a lack of respect for the ones that did make it on time and starts the training on a bad foot.  It also sets a precedence for what you expect from the participants in return.
  • Get the participants talking within the first 5 minutes of any training workshop.  This can be done in small group discussion, answering questions or instructor-led discussion (Socratic method).  This allows them to immediately become engaged, refocusing the workshop on them and not on the trainer.  It clearly sets up the expectation for future participation.
  • Use role play as a way to illustrate an idea or concept which engages the participant and breaks up PowerPoint slides.  Now, I’m not talking about your high school drama class role play, but practical, living, 3-dimensional human representation of a concept, idea or scenario that seems real and believable to the participants.
  • The use of flip charts may seem archaic but in a world over-saturated with screens, lights and technology, this simplistic form of note taking, concept design or real-time training breaks up the PowerPoint and visual exhaustion of a projector.  It also creates an engaged 3-dimensional space and a “community memory” for the results of any group work.
  • In a very attention-deficit era, training is about using multiple stimuli to drive home main points.  This could be PowerPoint slides (keep it neat!), videos, group discussions, polling, simulations, games, learning aids, articles, quizzes, peer coaching, panel discussion, stories, prizes, handouts and cross-training.
  • Focus first on belief then on behavior.  Training is working the belief system first, changing or moving the participant from where they are to where you want them to be, then focusing on changes in behavior required.  By working both “belief” and “behavior,” the training begins to stick and cause long-lasting learning.  It also makes it more meaningful then just another box checked on the organizational to do list.

The real question for any organization is “What did my learners learn and how are they applying the learning back on the job?”  If that hasn’t happened, then the training vehicle (whether online or classroom) hasn’t succeeded and we’re only fooling ourselves that the information has been learned.

What are your thoughts about this? Have you seen other little things that make a big difference in trainings?

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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