Friday, July 01, 2011

Does Workplace Training equate to a waste of time in your workplace?

If so, you're not alone. The reasons are many and varied, but I think there are two top issues:
1. Poor Training, and
2. As a result of poor training, a workforce who can't take training seriously

When you boil it down, poor training in the past can jeapordise the success of good, or even excellent training in the present and future. People who have endured useless training, developed without a strategy by someone who needed to "tick a box", often lose confidence in the whole concept of workplace training.

I have been in workplaces where, despite the passing of up to a decade and a 100 per cent turnover of L&D personnel, people still look back to the training they received during such-and-such project as the worst experience of their working life. People don't generally meet project managers, programmers or business analysts, so the Training team becomes the face of the project, and therefore is held responsible for any issues.

So how do you develop good training? The short answer is, by not developing any training until you do some research into your learners. I've noticed a trend towards investing heavily in tools and technology before finding out whether the learner community in the organisation is prepared to learn via eLearning, video or whatever other cool and untried method. A lot of projects and workplace changes that lead to a training requirement face enough resistance without threatening learners by throwing in unfamiliar methods of learning. If a group feels threatened and they like classroom training, it is better to train them in the classroom so that you then only have to get them used to the training content, not a combination of a new medium and new content.

My preferred approach is to investigate methods that allow learners the opportunity to question and explore the new paradigm, rather than dropping it on them and not engaging and educating them at the end of the process.

Using the term Change Management is all very well and good, but very few organisations worry about managing organisational change until it is too late. Training departments and projects need to be able to promote and sell Change from as early as possible in the process, conducting Training Needs Analyses and communicating with the affected workplace communities. By managing Change effectively, training can also be reduced in length at the "pointy end" of the project. The reason for this is that the training is simply required to get people up to speed on the final details of the new paradigm, instead of being responsible for selling and justifying the new paradigm in the classroom to uninformed participants.

I'm already thinking about what I want to write next. Essentially, I want to respond to the situation that often arises, whereby a CEO or other high up exec says, "we need more eLearning" or "I want to see more video training". It's hard to ask people at that level for the research that led to these findings, but chances are they heard or saw something at a conference, of have been wined and dined by a salesperson. It's a challenge, but L&D professionals need to be able to say "just because it looks good, or works somewhere else, doesn't mean it will work here and now". Easier said than done, but until we get more L&D people into senior executive and CEO roles we will hear this sort of thing time and again.

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