The Truth About Training

By Stephanie Crowe,
The Truth About Training

The truth is: Training Happens.

I once heard a colleague say, “One hour of training on the ground is better than eight hours in the classroom, any day.” My response was: it depends on the training room!

If your classroom interaction includes real-life examples, realistic scenarios, and performing the role in the new way – process, technology and all – that is a far cry from sitting in a room in a PowerPoint coma.

Conversely, if your experience ‘on the ground’ is a good-enough-for-right-now, find-your-way, perform-the-process with minimal effort, that is likely a far cry from the intended outcome or objective for the new system or process you are learning anew. Tactical learning is a great quick fix, but it does not build capacity in your team to perform better in the future.

Still, the research shows that my colleague is right: without reinforcement, even the best classroom experiences lose fidelity over time. The classroom experience is ‘deep’, with experienced trainers coaching, with hands-on exercises and peer learners in the classroom for a full 4-D experience. But when we can’t get into a classroom, most of us seem to flip to the extreme shallow end of the learning pool.

We teach ourselves with just-in-time, quick hits, on-the-fly, ‘phone-a-friend’ type learning solutions. I need to perform one step, right now; I seek to learn how to get past this one step. This fast-food approach to learning gives some immediate gratification – an immediate answer in a bite-size package.

The answer you get is fast, but does it really satisfy?

Don’t Risk Blind Spots

As learners, when we are satisfied with a ‘how-to’ for one step, we stop seeking answers. We don’t realize that a different decision before, or after, that step could have improved the outcome. That’s a blind spot. What we see is when processes and systems are intended to produce real business outcomes, the bite-size approach just never gets to the full value – no matter how many bites you take. And don’t forget, since ‘training happens’, that person will now show their neighbor that this is how to perform this process: blind spot emulated. And what happened to the original intent of the changed system or process? The value is missed almost completely, because the tactical bite-size learning did not have a comprehensive counterpart that conveyed the whole process, the intent of the change, and the role that the end users played in achieving that outcome.

Build Capacity

The cure for all this bite-size learning is to build capacity – which instead provides future-focused depth with context for your team:

1. Identify key business goals in terms of new capabilities you need for your future plans.

2. Consider experiential, intensive classroom, and longitudinal learning opportunities that have context.

3. Build training paths for the roles on your team, designed toward decision-making capacity, focused on producing those future business outcomes.

Effective managers and leaders must build capacity while running operations, or they will forever be chasing the frenetic tasks of the business – the blind spots. Capacity-building allows you to take ownership of your systems, so you can effectively support and continuously improve them in your business operation. Without it, you’ll also lose top performers, who wish to grow their careers and build their own capacity to support and perform in the organization.

Training happened. But did you achieve the goal you set out to achieve in the first place? Did you engage your workforce in achieving the business outcome?

Sure, training happens, and there can be great training. 

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