How Organizations Set Themselves Up for Training to Fail

In the past year (2014), client organizations of ours, or companies that wanted to do business with us, asked us to do the following egregious activities in order to sabotage their own training effectiveness. These are the types of situations we don’t want to be a part of:

Cutting time from the delivery process in order to save time and money.  Many organizations think that the same learning outcomes can be achieved in less time if we could just whittle this class down by 3 hours.  In their minds, saving training-time equates to saving money when organization’s figure they are taking people away from their “real work” in order to attend training. But by not providing adequate time for training (and practice and coaching), people will inevitably make mistakes on the job which will cost money.

Cutting practice time out of the learning process so that participants are simply subjected to new content but have no ability to work with that content.  Most individuals do not make the ‘transfer of training’ on their own. And in many cases it is impossible to go from learning-to-doing without a period of practice. How did you learn to drive a car? Classroom only? Did you watch a video? I remember helping my niece learn to drive; she had a “habit” of braking right at the stop sign rather than slowing down as she approached it. When I asked her why she said, “That’s how I learned – you can’t crash the simulator.”

No interaction or collaboration. Companies often rely solely on the delivery of information without any activity or collaboration among the learners, even though we know that adults learn best through collaboration and application of their learning with others. Yes, it might only take 25 minutes to teach the information / skill, but it takes another 60 minutes to “get it” while working with others in order to hear their perspective, practice, get feedback, etc. Try brainstorming as many uses for a brick as you can – by yourself; now try it with 3 other people. Point made.

No time for reflection. Organizations that want their training delivered in one-shot, by default exclude time for observation and reflection which is a key adult learning principle

Adults have a lot of “rules” in their heads and a lot of learned behaviors in terms of how they conduct their job; if we ask them to change those “rules” they need time to reflect on the ramifications of those changes – what’s in it for me? is this a good thing or a bad thing? Will I have a better outcome in the long-run? etc.  A one-time training session does not allow for this critical need for processing information.

Happy with mediocre designs that sort-of get at the necessary learning. One client asked us to create “the best design possible,” and then, during the design review said “This learning process is too long and we will never get participants to do the pre-work or on-the-job assignments, so cut out the parts that aren’t critical” (if this was the best design possible, exactly what parts would not be critical?).

Cut topics to save time. When redesigning training to accommodate less training time and people’s busy schedules, organizations often cut topics or content from their training programs. Our question is: at what point did that particular piece of content become unnecessary? If it was relevant in the original design, how did it become irrelevant in the redesign?

Cut feedback. One of our clients has an independent assignment which learners have a month to complete. In its original incarnation, that assignment was then graded by an expert and feedback was provided to the participants. It was entirely possible to not earn a passing grade and be requested to re-work the assignment. In an attempt to save money the grading of the assignment was eliminated, which of course, trickled down to the learners asking, “Then what is the point of doing the assignment?” or “Why do a quality job?”

Training is both an art and a science. It is much more than providing information and saying “good luck with that!”  Transmission of information is only half the battle; in fact, it may only be 1/3 of the battle (with the other two-thirds being practice/collaboration and on-the-job application/coaching)! If you want your organizational training efforts to succeed, please, don’t fall victim to the missteps just discussed!

Tell us YOUR “fail” story here!