There is an old adage among trainers that the learner learns what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and from whom they wish to learn. National statistics on the success of training are not good. Why is that? My take is that it is because the prerequisites described in the old adage are not met. But why not?
Training is rarely self-determined by those getting trained. The norm is that management has decided that the training is needed and the employees are directed to attend. Being directed to attend training is not sufficient motivation for the trainees to actually learn the material, let alone put the material to work.
So what leads to the learner wanting to learn? Either the trainee is aware of a problem and has the desire to fix it, or the trainee is interested and sees value in the material. In either case, the trainee must be able to see the connection between what is being taught and the problem or goal that created the interest in the material being presented. If the material does not seem applicable or is too theoretical, then the trainee will lose interest.
A recent unsuccessful training outing brought this to the forefront for me once again.
I had convinced the CEO that the material I was going to present would be beneficial for his staff given the challenges that lie ahead. He was a bit uncertain about it, but gave permission for me to give it a shot. Well, the shot missed. So, what happened here and what is the lesson?
Reflecting back on the training failure, I didn’t have those training prerequisites in place. My sense is that some of the trainees couldn’t see the potential application that I could see and others felt that the techniques I was teaching were already being applied. As a result, I sense that I came off as arrogant by telling them what they should apply when they could not see it. In hindsight, I would have presented a 15 minute introduction as a first step to test whether I could put the training prerequisites in place. If not, then the training would remain wrong place, wrong time.
So, what might be the value of my experience for you? If you are a manager who believes that training for your staff would be valuable, sell them on the need for it before getting underway. Often when I show up to do training, I am asked by the trainees, “Why am I here?” Great question, but one that the manager should have answered long before I got there. If the training is to fix a performance problem, then let your direct reports know what area of performance is lacking. If the goal is to achieve performance not previously achieved or to implement a new program of sorts, then make clear why that change would be important.
In retrospect, I should have handled my particular training differently. And, so not to waste the lesson learned, I intend to avoid investing in future trainings until I feel assured that the prerequisites have been met. Would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me an e-mail with your experience.