…it WILL do the job, but it takes a lot more energy that is needed, and creates a lot of unnecessary waste. Use a nutcracker instead.
We all know the analogy, but what does it mean for trainers and HR departments? To answer that I’d liked to share my own recent learning experiences.
I’ve had a quiet couple of weeks: a project designing 8 (very bespoke) half-day workshops for managers in food manufacturing has just finished, and my next project (delivering a lot of train the trainer workshops) doesn’t kick in until after half-term. So I embraced the lull and decided to get some lessons to improve my ski-ing and skating. Now, I am basically competent in both of these skills, but it is clear from watching other people that I am a long way from great. That’s OK. I don’t actually WANT to be great…but I knew I wasn’t as good as I could be.
I looked into formal group lessons, but wasn’t sure what level I was at, and I couldn’t commit to a 6 week or 3 month programme (I get busy again in two weeks remember?). So, I decided to pay just a little extra and have a private lesson. It was well worth the investment.
The coaches quickly took me through the ‘assessments’ of the various levels until they found exactly where I was. They gave me some simple tips to deal with things that I was managing to do, but doing very sloppily or inconsistently. They watched me whilst I practiced, gave me feedback, and I didn’t move on until I felt I was ready. I came on leaps and bounds in a short amount of time (basically, I’m just too stiff and need to bend a lot more!).
If I’d been forced to go back to ski school, or join the beginners skating class, I would have been frustrated (I didn’t need most of what was covered), felt it was a waste of time and money (so possibly missed the bits that WERE of use), or felt embarrassed if I couldn’t do things that less experienced skiers/skaters could.
As a trainer, I often find delegates attend workshops or training programmes reluctantly. They feel insulted, and that it is a waste of their time because they are in fact, basically competent. They ‘know’ most of what is being covered. However, most haven’t recognised that whilst they ARE basically competent, they have got sloppy in some areas, they act inconsistently, or simply aren’t the best that they are capable of being. So, the defence mechanisms come up, and in the end the training is of little value.
So, how should we combat this? In my opinion, it’s going to take a multi-pronged approach:
- The individuals need to be honest with themselves and accept that they are not perfect. They need to seek and reflect on feedback and evidence.
- Managers need to get into the habit of having regular one-to-ones with their staff, and giving them constructive feedback so that they can build up an accurate picture of strengths and weaknesses.
- The organisation needs to show that its OK not to be ‘perfect’, and its OK to ask for help.
- HR/Training departments need to do a proper TNA, and stop ‘sheep dipping’ people.
- The training courses need to have measurable outcomes, so levels of competence are transparent.
- The organisation needs to offer a flexible approach to training. If a manager is ‘basically competent’, don’t put them on the ‘Management Fundamentals’ 3-day programme. Instead consider bite-size booster sessions on specific things, offer coaching or even introduce action learning. Not only are these things likely to bring better results for lower investment, they are also more likely to be embraced by the delegates as they aren’t being taught ‘how to suck eggs’.
At Keystone Development, our main business is designing bespoke training workshops – but that’s not all we do. We can conduct training needs analysis, create ‘how to’ guides, competence models, best practice checklists, coach-led activities and facilitate action learning. Through our associate network, we can also recommend coaches and problem-solving facilitators. So, if a ‘course’ is the answer to your TNA, we can design one that fits. If you want a more targeted approach, we may be able to help with that too.