In the Learning Development space, most of us understand the list of what are called “Adult Learning Principles” as kind of the rules we live by in the design, facilitation and implementation of training solutions. I learned a long time ago to ignore these principles at my own risk.
One of these principles is that adults learn best when they have a need and/or a desire to learn. When an adult learner is ready to learn it is never wise to delay their training. In fact, delaying the learning process only tends to frustrate the adult learner and your window of opportunity to make training stick closes each day you delay.
Now while I have always understood this principle, I have recently become impatient with a delay in my own learning process. While the experience of being asked to wait is frustrating, it has also allowed me to personally feel the aggravation of being an adult learner that is being delayed from learning. I am ready to learn and so therefore I should be allowed to learn now.
I recently purchased a travel franchise, and while I know a lot about the travel industry, I have a lot to learn about the back office and booking side of the business. Because I am on a different time table from the training function, I find it kind of funny to be sitting on the other side of the fence this time waiting on getting the training I need. Even though I am not working in training this time, I am still learning about the results of poor implementation. I guess I will never get completely away from the world of learning development.
For those reading that come from the training world, you may have picked up on another adult learning principle that has always been one I remember, and that is that adults learn best through experiential learning activities. They can learn from lectures, discussions, group work and research, but getting into the role is still the best way to lock down the learning. By having to wait for my own training when I want it now, I have experienced a frustration that reading about never locked down as well as feeling it has to this point.
While I appreciate learning more about the importance of implementing training when the adult learner wants to learn, I still want my training to begin now.
The past few weeks I’ve been exploring different franchise businesses that are from different industries and several different business models. But the one thing they all have had in common is a very robust training plan for new franchise owners.
Built into the franchise fee are in-depth online courses, webinars, and weeklong classroom training. Everyone had a plan for keeping the skill development alive even after the initial training had been completed.
Coming from the corporate world where only a handful of organizations spend this much time with new hires, I have not only been impressed at the support, but started to wonder why franchises spend so much time on training?
- The first reason is that franchise owners are often new to owning a business and often industry experience is not a requirement to own a franchise. So the potential franchise owner is desperate to learn and won’t sign up unless the company can provide thorough training.
- The second reason is the company realizes that these new franchise owners are almost certain to fail without a comprehensive training process.
Both are excellent reasons for franchises to spend time on training!
Now this is where I get a little steamed when it comes to comparing the corporate world that spends so little time on their onboarding process and comprehensive training plan.
Just like a franchise owner, a new employee also wants to be able to perform their job quickly and is looking for the right training support to fill in the gaps. But the difference seems to be that too many companies are not as vested in their employees being successful or they would provide better training processes. Ouch! The truth can hurt at times.
Having now reviewed several franchise fees that need to be paid to own a franchise, they are not that different than the average compensation package for the first year of an employee’s time on the job. So one might ask does it matter who is paying this money.
In a franchise scenario it is the owner of the franchise who is risking the investment and wants the training. Yet in a corporate setting it is the employer who is risking the investment and passes on providing the training. It makes no sense, but happens daily in companies all over the country!
Is it time to invest in our employees, or is it time for companies to shore up their investments with comprehensive training? Maybe it is time for both!
Many training professionals believe in their heart that training can fix any performance challenge. If at first you don’t succeed train them again. Unfortunately training will not work all of the time, and all training professionals would do themselves and our profession a great deal of service to wake up to this reality.
When I first began learning performance management consulting, the instructor began by saying, “training only fixes performance issues about 50% of the time.” I remember not even being able to complete my notes when my brain was struck with complete shock over that statement. I was perplexed over even hearing that we trainers couldn’t fix everything. I was working for a company that had me in the classroom 3-4 days a week, so how was it possible that I wasn’t fixing every performance problem.
It was when he started listing out the other things that get in the way of correct performance that I began to realize training couldn’t fix everything.
To understand what training can fix most of the time, it is important to know when training should be used as a performance solution.
- Training should be used when a person does not have the skills needed to perform the job. Often new hire training will build the necessary skill for operations, product knowledge, sales and compliance. When I need to learn something new training will help.
- Training is also used to update people on changes in products, procedures, maybe a new software system. I may know how to do my job, but enough changes have been made that I need training to understand what is different.
- Training is used to create a common focus, or a refocus on a particular skill set that has gone stale. Everyone in the room knows how to perform a particular task, but for one reason or another, no one is performing well. Customer Service training is refreshed annually in a lot of organizations to put new life into the service experience, or to energize the masses.
When I find people wanting to use training when the skills exist, I will ask a series of questions to determine what else is blocking performance. Often this is tricky with management that just wants the problem to go away and believes training over and over will change the outcome. It won’t, and we need to do a better job of getting to the root of performance problems before we prescribe another training cure.
Soon after I first published The Training Physical, I wrote an Article about Training the Trainers Before Training Others. It became a popular interview topic as it resonated with so many people that had gone to training events with terrible trainers.
Even if someone is being asked to train a single event, spending time with this person so that they make a good training event successful is worth your time. But I also talked about professional development that is ongoing for the training team members.
Recently I ran into a young man who has been a successful HR Recruiter and has the desire to move into the training field. After spending time with him working another project I know that he would be a natural for the training field and I really hope he can find the right opportunity.
I did caution him that most training managers today want experience and are not willing to spend time training him on facilitation, instructional design, needs analysis, organizational development and strategic planning. At the same time I was wishing that I was back running a training function because I would spend the time and effort to build his competencies.
My personal opinion is that not everyone that wants to be a training professional can be great at it. Just because you know something about a subject does not make a trainer out of you. (I sound like Yoda) Anyhow, being able to transfer what you know how to do into someone else being able to do the same thing is more about desire that technique. I can teach you the techniques to transfer learning, but I can’t teach you to want to share it with others.
I wish more training managers would spend the time developing new blood. I worked at Bank of America in my initial training years and we often had rotational roles in training. All to often we had people that wanted to stay past the rotational dates, but the idea was to build training competencies into future leaders. Better presentations, better staff development, better succession planning. If more companies saw this connection they would never have to go outside to find trainers.
I do have my eye on a full time director role again, so if I get it not only will it be a win for me and the company, but I can hire this talented individual and build another trainer from scratch. Pray for all of us!
As a human being that wants to know how to do something, not much can get in the way of that objective. When we want to learn, we seek out the information and most of the time are not willing to wait very long to get it.
This is why a training function needs to realize that they need to release the reins on learning and allow it to be more self-directed. You can still have your formal workshops scheduled quarterly on the calendar, but you also need to release content in forms that allow adult learners immediate access.
I love to cook and I am always interested in learning new techniques, or getting a new appliance to make cooking easier or tastier. I recently received one of the new electric pressure cookers as a gift, but it did not come with a recipe book. It had instructions on how to operate the machine, but the expectations as to how it differs from a traditional on the stove pressure cooker were missing.
I immediately went to search online for a cookbook, and landed up on one of the most popular websites, YouTube. After watching several videos for various recipes that I have used a traditional pressure cooker, I discovered that the recipes were the same. I not only had several cookbooks on the shelf, but I learned rather quickly they would work the same with my new cooker.
It took me a few days to realize that without thinking, I needed to learn something and I used online content to learn it. In a few minutes I got my questions answered and was able to go to work. Self-directed learning was available, and without hesitation I used it to obtain the information I needed.
You can expect your employees to do the same thing, and to once again show value in a corporate training function, work related content should be easy to access and readily available. Is that the case in your company or do you have some work to do to get up to speed?
How do you handle the employees in your organization that reject learning? Either they reject learning something new, a different way of working, or assistance.
While most people enjoy learning, most of us need to be convinced to open up to any kind of change. Learning something invites us to possible change, and thus we as adult learners must always be sold on the benefits of learning. We also need to be sold on the urgency of learning. Urgency is key to an adult learner because once again we are busy people and learning just to fill in time is not a valid reason. Learning because something is about to change and I need the information to do my job is a great reason.
I reviewed all this simply to set the stage for another reason people reject learning that needs to be addressed when it is the remaining culprit blocking your efforts to build skills
The reason is Ego.
- “No I don’t need to learn another way because the way I do it works just fine.”
- “No I don’t need your help because I am fully capable of doing it myself.”
- “No I don’t want to learn another method because I am the boss and no longer need anyone.”
- “No I don’t need your opinion because my way is the only way.”
When you run into Ego as the reason someone doesn’t need help, want to learn, or refuses your efforts to make life easier, I have a simple response that will keep your sanity.
Leave them alone, and let them succeed or fail by themselves.
Sorry if you think that is heartless, but people that are so full of themselves that the only reason for refusing to learn is their ego, there is no changing that from an external process. You must let them prove to themselves that they were either right or wrong. And the best teacher that something might have made a difference is failure. No one is harder on themselves than a person hung up on their ego.
Yes it is hard to watch someone crash and burn, but next time they just might be more open to learning.
The conversation between this CFO and CEO is meant to describe the conversation about the return on investment in training. Or is some cases spending the money were the penny pinching CFO comes up against real leadership in the form of the CEO. While both interpretations are worth learning from, I wonder about the companies that continue the conversation?
So the CFO asks the CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?” To which the CEO replies, “What happens if we don’t and they stay.” I imagine for some companies, it bounces back again with the CFO saying, “Considering that employee development is not a guarantee we keep or retain people, let’s save the money and see what happens.” To which the CEO replies, “Okay.”
Now while many of my training friends are swearing at me right now for violating such a sacred quote, how can we explain why some of our companies offer little to no training? Why is employee development avoided like some kind of plague? What can be done to get through to management that employee development, when implemented correctly, makes a big difference?
Anyone that knows me, is keenly aware that I beat my head against this wall daily. I’ve learned that when management is not developing the whole employee, it is usually not a cost consideration, but rather one of the following:
- They have never personally experienced good quality training.
- They have never worked with a competent learning professional that explains the connections.
- Their current training management are without the necessary skills to lead the training function, and so pass off to the company inferior performance solutions.
I have on occasion run across the senior manager that has only used training when things have blown up and it becomes part of a fix. They don’t see training as a proactive function, only reactive. Sadly there are a lot of training professionals that endorse this thought process in their daily activities. Hence, why they operate without any kind of training plan or accountability.
As a training professional I grieve at the loss of employee development as part of everyday life in most companies. But until management changes their opinions, or simply change to another person, companies will continue to operate without employee development and wait to see what happens.