10 Transformative Training Program Tips
A version of this article appeared at Inc.com.
Let’s face it, most corporate training programs are dreadful. They’re boring, PowerPoint-heavy monologues, delivered to equally bored participants doodling in 3-ring binders that are destined for ‘binder heaven’ within hours of the class ending (for yes, they are almost always ‘classes’).
This may seem like no more than a rite of passage in any growing company, but the truth goes much deeper, and is much more dangerous. Ineffective training isn’t just a minor torture to be endured. At some point, it becomes a major factor in pushing an organization into Treadmill – the first of the decline stages, when, if the momentum isn’t reversed, your company will start to become creaky, bureaucratic and increasingly out of touch with the marketplace.
Here are ten tips to ensure your training is a positive factor in keeping your business vibrant, and taking you to (and staying in) Predictable Success, rather than becoming a contributor to your decline into irrelevance:
1. Develop, don’t just train.
If you’re just throwing information at your folks without a clear understanding as to how using that information will enable them to perform better as part of your team, then you’re wasting your training dollars.
2. Train against real outputs.
Start by redesigning all your training away from generic content and instead focus it on actual, real world outputs your people face every day. Don’t just have ‘spreadsheet training’ – focus it on the actual use cases you have. Don’t just teach ‘Negotiation’ – take time to write case studies around real life negotiations (internal and external) that happen in your business.
3. Don’t leave curriculum design to ‘HR’.
If you have an HR department, they’re the last people who should be writing your training curriculum. Sure, they can shepherd content and turn it into an effective training interaction, but they should be extracting that content from employees and supervisors, from line managers and C-suite executives.
4. Don’t leave delivery to ‘HR’.
If you can afford them, professional trainers (internal and external) are a real boon to any organization. However, if you leave all your training delivery to them, your programs will rapidly become detached from reality.
Take the time to develop training skills in your line managers (and C-suite execs).
5. Don’t leave assessment to ‘HR’.
The real proof of the success of a training program is in observable behavior change, not the completion of ‘happy sheets’. Develop a simple 360 assessment process to measure the actual change in behaviors seen in participants after partaking in the training.
6. Make the training a two-way process.
Now that you have your line managers and C-suite execs in the room, make the training interaction a dialog, not a monologue. When I deliver a training session, I invariably learn something new – about myself, about the organization I’m working with. Conducted properly, and with the right people in the room, every training session should develop everyone – not just the participants.
7. Link it to (vibrant) performance assessment.
Don’t develop your people randomly or in homogenous ‘chunks’. Link participation to an individual development plan that gives participants a clear understanding of how and why each training session is important to their personal development.
8. Use multiple delivery channels.
We don’t all learn the same way – and classroom training is one of the least effective ways to do so. Experiment with reading groups, webinars, peer coaching, brown bag lunches, email ‘zaps’, daily tips – see what works best for you and your organization.
9. Invest in custom content.
If you have some training dollars, use it to produce customized case studies, worksheets, exercises. Nothing helps people learn faster than seeing real world application immediately.
10. Build a culture of manager-employee developmental collusion.
The best training organizations I know don’t just ‘push’ training on their people – they have developed a culture where their employees, often along with their managers, collude to identify the development they personally need, then they go find it.
In short, turning a tired, paternalistic, information-based training program into a developmentally-focused, Socratic interchange that regularly includes C-level executives is a vitally important step in keeping an organization away from Treadmill and decline. Is it something you need to start thinking about today?