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Seriously, There’s No Excuse for Bad Training

Over the years I’ve sat through many, many courses, both live and online, and sometimes it’s amazing how bad they can be. The fault can be the design, the delivery, glitches in the system, or all three. We know this, and we know what to do about it. Therefore, there’s no good excuse for bad training.

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When is training good or not good? Here are some things learners might say to give us a clue.

Bad design or delivery. Some statements learners might make about bad training:

  • We knew this already
  • We could have learned this in half the time
  • I thought I would die from boredom
  • The materials were distracting
  • Nobody could understand what to do
  • The instructor seemed disorganized
  • Good stuff, but I can’t remember how to do it now
  • We didn’t have time to practice
  • I can’t figure out when to use this
  • That was fun (interesting, engaging), but how is it relevant?
  • It wasn’t important
  • I don’t see how this helps us

Snags from the organization. Some statements learners might make if the organization isn’t ready for the training (whether the training itself is good or not):

  • We can’t use what we learned until 3 months from now
  • I have no idea why we attended this training
  • I don’t think we have permission to do this
  • Nobody in their right mind would do this in our organization
  • My manager doesn’t agree with this approach
  • My manager could care less whether I do this or not
  • We’re rewarded for doing something different than what we learned

When things are going well. If we provide good training, then our learners might say:

  • I can do this
  • With more practice, I’m ready to master this
  • We had time to practice
  • I had a chance to get my questions answered
  • I have materials I can use when I need to remember something we learned
  • I know when to use these new skills
  • I can do my job faster, better, or more efficiently
  • Mastering these new skills will help me do a better job
  • My manager is encouraging me to use what I learned
  • My appraisal will be impacted by my use of these new skills

What we want is training that meets a need, improves the knowledge and skills of participants, and helps to improve performance. Speed and enjoyment are less important than the ability to facilitate the attainment of individual, business, organizational, or societal goals. It’s great if people enjoy the training, and if it can be delivered and absorbed quickly, but that isn’t as important as these three things:

  • We needed this
  • We mastered it (or will be able to with a little more practice)
  • We’re using it to make things better

There are many ways to derail training, and you may have additional items on your list. No matter the point of view—learners, designers, trainers, or managers—there are fixes for every one of the (sadly common) issues implied by the statements above. We just have to use them.

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