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Why your training isn’t working

At this moment of significant change in how we work, your people need new skills if they are to be empowered to deliver for you in this emerging new environment of work.  You want to know that you are not wasting time and money on training that doesn’t work.

Your young leaders now need super-human communication, collaboration and decision-making skills. There is a general consensus that everyone needs to up these skills and courses are the first place many look.

It is important to make sure the learning experience you create reflects how people learn these valuable skills.

Too few realise that learning skills at work, especially for soft skills, people skills,  and management and leadership skills, is more like training for a 10k run rather than learning facts for a history test. In a world of hacks, tips and wanting things quicker and quicker, many dive into the enormous amount of content available that deliver the ‘how to’ knowledge but do not progress into the ‘training’ or practice part.

Just as you would create a plan and put in the hours and miles to build up to a 10K, improving skills like asking for and giving feedback or influencing others is exactly the same, it takes a plan, time, practice and courage to put yourself out there.

We’ve got to help people get out of their comfort zone

I have noticed some common observations from a decade of running workshops for clients that help indicate why this lack of focus on the high-value practice happens.

Success comes from getting yourself out of your comfort zone and trying new things out. In a busy workplace, for many, the focus is on what they’re doing rather than what and how they do it. It is easy to put practice aside. Getting outside our comfort zone can be uncomfortable and thus the practice stage is the hardest part of the learning journey, thus making it even easier to defer.

I cannot tell you how many people in coaching sessions when we review how their learning action plan has progressed tell me that time got in the way of them doing what they intended to do. They may have been busy, but there will have been plenty of opportunities over the weeks to practice the skills I focus on. What tends to happen is people wait for the perfect moment to practice the skills like feedback or coaching, because they know it will feel a little uncomfortable and take effort. These ‘perfect moments’ are few and far between and without support and encouragement, it’s all too easy to defer to another day. In a relatively short amount of time, another day becomes never and the lessons are forgotten. Many often know the principles of what they should do but are not proficient at doing it. The journey out of the comfort zone was too difficult.
Another reason individuals do not get out of their comfort zone is not enough managers follow-up with their team after courses, they too accept the course as the learning event and do not hold their team accountable to implement their training action plan. They fail to encourage practice and give feedback on progress. They too are busy and often focus on the what of work rather than the how.

The more your people feel supported and encouraged, the more confidence they have to try things out. They find micro-moments to practice skills, and over time build confidence to successfully navigate the more challenging activities.

Too much training investment is being wasted.

If I were to put a number on it, I would say in my experience about 20% of people on courses are what I call learning lovers, they are proactive in their learning and they follow up their action plan. At the other end, a small number of people can be learning rejectors, they do not value the training and have no intention of changing what they do. By far the majority are what I call learning participators. They come on the course, they enjoy it and join in fully, but as soon after the day-to-day takes over and their action plan never gains traction.

The result is missed opportunities to learn, and quickly the new skills are forgotten as they have not been put into use, and you as a provider of training for your people have wasted money. Imagine getting even half of these learning participators to implement their learning action plan, think of the potential that could be released in your organisation.

Think Push-Pull

By creating learning programmes that follow the way people learn can help you extend learning and practice for your team and make an enormous difference to learning efficacy. This is particularly true for management and leadership skills and for the skills of communication and collaboration, for which so much of the high-value learning is in the practice in the day-to-day.

We think of it as Push-Pull Learning. The push is about helping the learner have the best possible learning experience and follows them from start to finish. It is about creating an environment that encourages practice and lets people learn the way they prefer to learn.

Learners, especially the younger ones, are looking for personal control so they can learn their way, accessing their learning resources from anywhere when they need them. They like the clarity of knowing why this is important to them at a personal level, and access to help when they need it.

The pull is about making it easy for managers to support their team members and reinforce the importance of the skills they’re learning to their career success as well as the organisation. Digital nudges that remind managers of the key material the person has learned and questions to ask in One-to-Ones can help facilitate quality conversations and opportunities for on the job coaching and feedback.
The Pull is also about leadership role modelling and endorsing the skills being learned. Take feedback as an example unless individuals see this role modelled around them it is easy for them to avoid putting their own learning into practice especially when it often takes courage to speak up.

Evaluating your training from both a push and pull perspective helps you to create learning experiences that will be valued by your employees.

This is valuable as if you get your training plans wrong your organisation wastes money and is vulnerable to change, but get it right and you will empower your people and future proof your organisation in these challenging times.

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