Designing and delivering a training programme excites me.
I love the challenge of ensuring that what you learn in my training room, shows up in your workplace.
And I absolutely love it when my training leads to the business breakthroughs my small business clients are looking for.
But nowadays, I am feeling more like a training doctor.
You see, increasingly, I am being asked for advice on why a particular training programme or approach is not working or did not work.
And while I want to help my clients, I feel like a traitor to my training colleagues.
But more and more, I am coming across 5 “no-fail” things that both Training Providers and Small Business Owners believe are essential to a pulling off a good training programme.
In reality, having these beliefs as the criteria for a good programme and building your training on them, is the very thing that’s killing your programme.
So in this post, I want to discuss why they don’t work, encourage you to stop relying on them and give you some advice on what works better.
Are you okay with this? Let’s dive right in.
1.Once there’s a “people” problem, training can fix it
You would not believe how prevalent this belief is among Small Business Owners.
Don’t look now, but it’s an ego thing.
After all, you built your business from scratch all the way to the success it is now. You could not be the cause of any problems in that business. Could you?
So based on this position, you acquire a training programme brochure or call up a training provider. Then you confidently requested the specific training you believe would fix the problem your people are having.
The Training Provider, believing you know what you want, designs and delivers a hot training programme as required.
However, here’s the problem:
Every problem in a business is not created by human behaviour and therefore, every problem cannot be fixed by training.
When you rush to fix a people problem with training, you ignore several factors.
These include lack of strategic clarity by the owner, a highly charged environment in that workplace and even poor operations systems throughout the business.
No amount of staff-training can fix these.
So...What is a Training Provider to do?
1. Start with some form of training needs analysis.
Some Business Owners and some Training Providers skip this step for what they believe are good reasons – cost.
You don’t have to make this a complex and elaborate exercise. Just asking a few key questions combined with your experience can give you a good understanding of the problem the training is expected to fix.
2. If you can, do some sort of systems analysis
For me, this is mandatory if I’m asked to provide customer service training. In my experience, training alone seldom fixes customer service problems.
I decide the extent of the analysis based on the size of the business which determines the size of the budget.
If your analysis exposes a problem that cannot be fixed by training, be professional enough to point this out...even if you’re broke and need the business. Your reputation is more important.
3. If the “Boss” is the problem offer to coach him/her
Wuhloss! I wish this was as easy to do as it is for me to know it.
I can tell you though, that’s it’s easier to sell if the boss has a position like Training Programme Manager, than if she’s the owner of the business.
2. Lots of content = a great training programme
Recently I was asked to review the content for a training programme.
When I glanced at it, I was pretty sure it was a six-week programme. When I really examined it, I realized it was intended to be a one-week programme. Aaaahh?!
What’s wrong with this?
The need for tons of content in a training programme, is usually driven by the client’s need to be convinced that he is getting what he paid for, and the training provider desire to satisfy this.
Generally, loads of content is a sign of inexperience in designing and delivering training.
First of all, when you try to cover too many topics in a single programme it leads to overwhelm for the participants. They simply have no breathing space or time to internalize the content.
Then, you the Facilitator, is under tremendous pressure to even begin to cover the content.
What would be a better approach?
This is where a training needs analysis would help you...if you conducted one.
With a sound idea of the problem, you can identify the critical topics that you should cover first.
Then you can design your programme with enough time and space that you can go fairly deep into each topic.
You want to include time for practice with the new skills, time to absorb the content and time for participants to internalize and accept the potential change in their behaviour.
3. Planning content delivery in detail is a must
Similar to having lots of content, is planning the delivery of that content in great detail.
Don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that for some facilitators, not planning the content delivery in detail leads to extreme insecurity.
But here’s the problem...
Planning your content delivery in great detail is the fastest and surest way to kill enthusiasm and participation in the training programme.
First, it ignores the fact that you’re training adults. They come to the training with prior knowledge, attitudes and concepts of their own.
It also requires either detailed knowledge of the participants or your unswerving insistence to treat them as a homogeneous group.
Either way, it leads to a lack of creativity and adaptability on your part, Mr Facilitator. Therefore, you will find connecting with and influencing your participants very difficult.
This in turn undermines the transfer of learning, that critical measure of your success.
What’s the fix?
I recommend that you continuously seek to master your presentation and public speaking skills.
When you do, you can develop an outline which starts by covering the main points for each topic.
Then you select the examples, stories, exercises, etc, which best suits your topics and the needs of your participants.
So now with your outline and your skill, you can be flexible in response to the actual classroom dynamics.
In other words, you allow the participants to be co-creators and increase the chances of success of your training programme.
4. Training management and staff together places them of the same page
I am a big fan of training management and staff together.
I’ve seen it work for some people and for others, far from placing them on the same page, at the end, they were not even in the same book!
The problem is...
In theory, it sounds like a good idea but in execution it can sometimes be less effective than on paper.
You see, sometimes as long as the manager is in the training room, responses from the staff are filtered and guarded.
If they do open up, something they say may trigger the anger of a weak manager who may engage in some “get back at you” once the training is over.
In addition, innocent group interaction can potentially lead to conflict.
When this happens, you start off facilitating training and the next thing you know, you’re refereeing an unplanned brawl.
The fallout from this can even lead to lasting ill-will in the business.
The big question then is...should you leave it out altogether?
No...but handle it carefully. Try the following:
1. Recommend this approach to training with a client you are familiar with and have worked with before. In other words, when you know the parties.
2. Get feedback from both parties on how they feel about this approach before proceeding.
3. If you sense any underlying discomfort, even though they both agree, don’t do it.
4. Get commitment from the Manager that any “honest” comments coming from staff will not be punished at a later date.
5. If it is suggested by your client, evaluate the circumstances before rushing to comply.
5. Using the “best” training approaches is a blueprint for success
At one point in my life, attending training programmes was part of my job function. And some of them were quite high level too.
I would evaluate them and every time I would find them by-the-book perfect.
There were objectives, correctly stated and specific outcomes. We were often given a folder full of copied material, handouts and a list of recommended readings.
It was usually obvious that the facilitators had planned the delivery down to the last gesture and rehearsed it well. Even the seating arrangements were the “correct” ones.
So why weren’t we engaged?
Why did we dream of shopping if we could?
Why did we find the greasy, high-caloried food more exciting?
Because using what is accepted as the best training approaches is similar to planning your content delivery in detail with similar results.
What do you do?
Because this is so important to your success, I am referring you to 11 Unusual Ways to Ensure That Participants Engage in Training.”
When you open up that post, I want you to pay particular attention to numbers 2, 3 and 5. You will find them particularly helpful in getting you to exchange "over-preparedness" for being "confidently in the moment".
Your next “Training Programme” step...
There are some things that we believe we absolutely must do for a training programme to be successful.
In reality, they are the very things that are undermining the expected success of your programme.
So from here on in, I want you to remember when you’re planning your training programme, that approaches that appear to be cast in stone can be the very ones that derail your success.
So plan, yes...but include some spontaneity in your plans...can you do that?
To your training planning success...