Sometimes training is just what’s needed, and sometimes, not so much. When should we employ training? When not?
So, what makes training good? How do we anchor it so that it will help us meet our goals? Here are brief descriptions of eight essentials.
- The “Why” Matters. The reason for our training is to help meet important goals and/or to solve problems for at least one of the following: individuals, teams, the organization, and/or society. Contrast this with training for training’s sake, or some program that’s delivered just because it’s “cool” (happens more often than you’d think). Training people without a compelling reason, even if the learners love it, is a bad use of resources.
- We Start with Awkwardness, Ignorance, or Lack of Fluency. People who take the training don’t know something they need to know, or they can’t do it well enough to meet goals. If they already possess the knowledge and skills provided by training, then training isn’t the right answer. Something else is keeping them from doing what needs to be done.
- It’s at the Right Level. Not too easy. Not too hard. It takes prior knowledge into account. Otherwise, we waste time on stuff people already know or lose them because they don’t have the prerequisites and get lost.
- It Fits. Every organization has a history, context, and politics. If training doesn’t fit, then people will resist learning. Don’t swim upstream against the culture—people will be distracted or offended, or they will just tune out.
- Our Delivery System Makes Sense. In person, online, some combination. We’ve worked out logistical issues, especially those related to practice. We’ve also taken expense and timing into account: what’s the efficient way to deliver this training to our audience? Can we get it to them on time? Will they go to class? Will they choose to take online modules? Obviously, if they can’t or won’t take it, or if our delivery method doesn’t enable practice, then the training won’t work.
- People Stay Awake & Maybe Even Enjoy Themselves. Enjoyment is optional, but staying engaged—investing mental effort—is not. Good training can be enjoyable, but liking does not necessarily equal learning.
- People Learn Stuff. After training, people can do something they couldn’t do before: something that enables the “why” that matters. Otherwise, let’s not offer the training at all.
- People Use What They Learned. If people learn, but don’t put what they learned to use, then what’s the point? If our training doesn’t transfer, then we need to figure out why and fix that. It could be any number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with the training itself.
Managers in organizations often ask for training when something isn’t going according to plan, or when something is new. Training is only helpful when people start out not knowing how to do something that’s important, learn how to do it, and then also use it on the job. By fulfilling these eight requirements well, you can increase the contributions your learners make toward personal, organizational, or other goals. You need all eight for the best results.