Why Training Doesn’t Work, Part Two

There are two fundamental reasons why good training may not produce solid, long-term rewards. Both of them involve our mindsets. Many of us approach a new training opportunity by either over valuing or under valuing its intended outcomes. In last month’s post, I addressed the former—in this post, I address the latter.

Under-valuers are skeptics. Some come to training feeling they cannot possibly learn anything. Others feel that their situation is so unique that no curriculum could possibly be sophisticated enough to address it. And finally, there are the garden variety resisters: the ones who may say they want to be professionally developed but cannot give in to being available to learn, tethering themselves to the fires and emails, to which they feel paradoxically beholden, on the other side of the classroom door.

In order to garner the benefits of effective training, under-valuers should:

Look inward. Skeptics should be honest about their own self-awareness and their ability to manage what they know about themselves. Many people really don’t want solutions offered by a training opportunity—or solutions at all for that matter. They want to remain in the frustration, hurt and helplessness that they haven’t fully processed and/or cannot get past. Once skeptics determine the root causes of the obstacles they feel about embracing new learning outcomes, it becomes easier to soften and remove them. I have worked with many an individual contributor who scoffed at the notion that supervisory skills can be taught because critiquing decision makers from the sidelines is easier than facing the vulnerability required to publicly steer anything.

Rely on the experts. Pick a learning experience that is facilitated and synchronous. Good educators can engage and inspire even the most resistant individuals. Conversely, self-paced asynchronous content, while valuable to many, leaves the connection between the learning outcomes and workplace applications to the individual (perhaps change the word “individual” to “learner”?. This can reinforce, instead of mitigate, a participant’s inability to determine “What’s in it for them (WIIFT).”

Take responsibility. Before the training commences, predetermine how the training will apply to positive and specific behaviors back in the workplace. During the training, limit notifications and distractions. When participants confide during breaks that they are getting bombarded with annoying—and not necessarily urgent—questions and requests, I always ask, “did you respond to any of them?” When they say “yes,” I explain that they are setting the expectation of availability to the people infringing on their time, rather than embracing an availability to learn. During the days and weeks after the learning event concludes, participants should connect what was taught to what was gained, large and small, tangible and intangible; this will help diminish skepticism of future learning opportunities.

John Mancuso

Authentic Communication Matters – Guest Blog


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