Attorney, Paradigm Counsel
When one looks at a traditional corporate training classroom today, it raises the question of why this environment hasn't changed in centuries. The traditional model of students at desks with an expert imparting his or her knowledge is the industry standard for most corporations. But is it effective? When is the last time you truly learned something from sitting in a classroom, listening for hours?
Despite evidence that this old-school approach to training doesn't work, it continues to be the standard for most corporations. We disagree with this approach and believe that as corporations have employees do more with less it's imperative that they are properly trained from the beginning to avoid losing productive work time, becoming frustrated and ineffective.
Recall how children learn to ride a bike. They don't watch a film or read the directions. Instead, the parent or older sibling takes the child outside, then walks her through the process step-by-step, from how to get on the bike to how to pedal. The child works on each step on her own until she finally figures it out.
Consider the same scenario for teaching a sales process. Instead of showing a sales team the steps of the process through a PowerPoint presentation, ask them to bring a real life sales opportunity to the training session. Have the team members figure out what they need to do to reach their goal. Have them break it down step by step. Have them - on their own, with perhaps a bit of guidance from the facilitator - define each step. Ask them to include verifiable outcomes at each stage and to define success. Rather than being lectured to, the students become the center of attention and are able to experience their learning.
Here are additional ways to turn corporate trainings into experiential learning:
- Don't lecture for more than 10 minutes.
- Redirect questions back to the learners. The facilitator doesn't always have to be the expert.
- Give time after each lesson cycle for individuals to take notes in a workbook, which helps the more introverted personalities reflect on what they have learned.
- Recognize the energy in the room. If it has lowered, have people stand up and do an activity together.
- Remember the 80/20 rule, where the learner should do 80 percent of the work and the facilitator 20 percent.
- Play music while group work is done to set the tone to the energy you expect in the room.
- Review participants' learning throughout the day and have them recall biggest “ah ha” moments.
This works. In one example, we asked a group of C-level executives recently hired by a large local high-tech firm to rate three areas after they went through our training process. The executives, who were being trained in this company's specific methods, were asked about their confidence in their ability to do the job, the quality of the work they expected to produce, and their intent to use the tools they were taught to use. Before the training, they averaged a 60 percent confidence level. After the nine-day training session, their confidence in their ability to do the job the way they were taught jumped to more than 90 percent.
Client Slalom Consulting believes in this learner-centric approach to training. They have rich content developed by their own experts but wanted a way to make the classroom training learner-centric. They wanted to avoid the temptation most experts have to impart their knowledge through a lecture. Given that guidance, we designed an instructor-led facilitation certification course that taught their facilitators how to use a “show, do, teach-back” method. After going through the course, the facilitators then taught the course to other people inside the company so they could enhance how they develop and deliver internal training classes. Slalom uses its facilitation certification workshop to train internal facilitators on instructor-led and virtual classroom techniques.
“We really enjoyed learning a new approach to facilitation and were immediately able to use our new skills to deliver engaging, out-of-the-ordinary learning experiences for our employees - just as Oxygen did for us,” said Nicola Russell, director of talent management, of Slalom Consulting in Seattle. “Ultimately, these training courses will help our consultants enhance their skills by being able to immediately apply what they learned and deliver even more value for our clients.”
How will this new-school training impact a business's bottom line? As the economy picks up it becomes even more important to have quality people doing good work so companies can quickly meet new demands. By creating training in this way companies can prepare employees to implement what they have learned beginning the day after training. Learners can also bring current work to the training so they can apply what they learn to their real world. They know how to do it; not just the theory on how it should be done. They know because they have experienced it in the classroom, received instruction on how to make it better from their peers and facilitator, and have been given guidance by the subject matter expert.
Think about the training you run today. Is it effective? How can you make it more impactful for your people and your business's bottom line? As business evolves and changes, the training method needs to change as well. This begins by evolving the training to make sure it's designed in a way that increases retention and application, improving the way people work. Ultimately, every training should enable your employees to be prepared once they walk out the training room door.
[Juliana Stancampiano is Chief Executive Officer with Oxygen Learning in Seattle, a company that provides a hands-on, immersive, interactive, personal, and innovative approach to corporate training. Reach her at email@example.com.]