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The Boldest Employee Training Recommendation I’ve Ever Made

A while ago, I walked into a meeting about a project and about its target audience. In the meeting, I got this question: “Can you develop a course for this group of people?” My answer was, “It depends.”

Someone asked, “What do you mean by ‘it depends’?” I nicely explained I could develop the course if it’s needed. I was not sure the answer satisfied anyone. But the meeting went on.  

Then, I watched a PowerPoint presentation on the project, the target audience, and the information that I was to use to develop the course. I asked a few questions about the content, the target audience, and the budget. Then, I sat, smiled, made a few notes for myself, and waited.

Then, another person threw me a curve ball: “What do you think now about developing a course for them? Do you think a course is needed?

I’m sure you’re wondering what I told them.

My unexpected response 

I said no. There was no need for developing a training course. Then I stayed quiet until the facilitator asked, “Well, what do you recommend?”

Buckle your seatbelt. Here’s what I told everyone in the room:

1. Based on the information you presented, given the time and the right tools, your target audience can learn the content and the skills by themselves.

2. Since the number of participants is small, you can divide the training budget by the number of trainees. Let’s say the amount is $200 per trainee. Tell employees they will receive $200 upon demonstration of mastery or proficiency in the target content and skills.

3. Set clear expectations and a deadline, and decide how you want the audience to show mastery or proficiency in the target skills and content.

4. Provide some time for regular study and practice sessions.  

Someone did not like it...

Then someone challenged me this way: “That is insane. What’s your rationale?”

I gladly explained the following. Most training courses are standard products for average employees. Your employees are not average. They are individuals. That is, no two employees are alike.

And I concluded with this:

 “What will help the employees learn better and what will make them happier and keep them engaged? Sitting at a full-day training where they are told what to do, or getting paid to learn the same skills and content at their own pace?”

Can you help move the conversation about self-learning forward by sharing this post in your L&D network?  Thanks for being part of it! 

A Unique Strategy that Increases Learning Transfer into Testing & Real Life Situations(For Serious Adult Ed & Workforce Instructors ONLY)

One time I was about to run out of time in a session. So I challenged my audience in this way: “What is the most burning question you’d like me to answer before I yield to the next presenter?”

More than half the participants quickly agreed on the following question: “How do you promote learning transfer?”

Well, I had asked for a question, and I got one. “What was your reply?” you may wonder. Over the next two minutes, I shared the following answers.

Effective practice & authentic assessment for learning transfer 

Effective practice is key. That is, helping students practice with intention and to use corrective feedback to improve their skills is critical. 

But the most important strategy I shared was this: Focus on authentic assessment to engage learners in real life situations. Why authentic assessment?

Like the name says, authentic assessment should simulate real-life contexts and be performance based. Simply put, it requires that learners do what they learned in class.

Here’s an example: Don’t ask learners to label different parts of a letter, or to read a letter and answer comprehension questions. Instead, ask learners to write and send a letter to their landlord to make a complaint.  

Your turn...

So, the next time you plan a lesson, stop and ask yourself, “How will my learners practice the skills I teach in an authentic and meaningful way?”

One more thing:

You help me move the conversation, about learning transfer, forward by sharing the post with your favorite adult-ed colleagues. Thanks for being part of it! 

Most Experienced Professionals Misunderstand Work Experience (How About You?)

I was at a workshop when someone made an annoying comment. He said, “We could never give a contract to a person with 6 years of experience over someone who has 15 years in the field.” I nicely responded, “It all depends.

You can guess the looks I got from audience. Luckily, a few other people from the audience sided with me. And together we did our best to explain ourselves. Here’s a summary of our explanation:

Years of experience don’t equate to expertise. In other words, ​experience and expertise are not synonymous.

“Would you elaborate?” Yes, give me a few minutes.  

More explanation...

The assumption that an employee with 20 years of experience is more qualified or has more expertise than someone with 5 years of experience is misleading. Certainly, 20 years of experience sounds good. But in reality, it might mean that person is following a process over and over again that has been seen before.

What do I mean? 

Twenty years of experience simply might mean that person has been doing a job for 20 years without seeking to improve her skills. Whereas someone with five years of experience might have worked intentionally and consistently to innovate, and to increase and improve her background knowledge, performance, and skills.  

Here is an example... 

For example, having 35 years of driving experience does not qualify you to chauffer the U.S. president. Why?

POTUS’s driver is an expert driver. He or she specializes in driving around dignitaries and their high-level security and has worked continuously to keep his or her skills as sharp as a razor.

Is experience valuable? Yes, indeed. In fact, experts have a lot of experience. But their experience alone does not make them the expert they are.

Unlike the average professional who has adequate skills and performs work on autopilot most of the time, experts are deep thinkers, outliers, and “weird.”

In other words, experts constantly think how to optimize their decision-making process and performance, driving innovation. That is, they think carefully about how to fix what they don’t do well.

What's your take on the issue?  You can join the discussion by commenting and sharing the post with your favorite L&D colleagues.

5 Simple Things All Effective and Efficient Learning Cultures Have in Common

Have you ever wondered what makes some companies grow so fast or become so successful? My work in L&D has exposed me to a lot about what all great learning cultures have in common.

Of course, effective and efficient learning cultures share several characteristics/systems in common. But one of their most important systems is their talent development department that works like a well-oiled machine.

You may wonder, how do I know if a learning culture is effective?

My answer: Look for the signs.

What kind of signs? 

To keep things simple, almost all great learning cultures share at least these 5 things in common:

1. Learning/training is measured. 

That is, the impact of new knowledge on job duties is assessed and documented. In other words, knowledge transfer is made evident and concrete. 

2. Opportunity for distributed practices.

Employees attend training, but they also take part in follow-up practice sessions. In practice sessions, employees learn by doing, and are allowed to make mistakes without being judged or blamed because the work environment/setting is built  and designed for that purpose.

3. More coaching, less Training. 

Employees receive corrective feedback on their performance on a regular basis or as needed. This support helps them improve their skills and master their job duties. To put it simply, employees receive coaching support from their colleagues and/or supervisors that help reach their learning goals or their target performance.

4. A growth mindset is evident.

There is no superstars. Everyone is a learner. For example, staff learn from each other and coach each other. This, therefore, makes employees more open to taking risks and learning new skills—functioning in a different capacity without the fear of being judged and getting fired.

5. A solid knowledge management system.

Great learning cultures develop talents well and at the same time create a system to safeguard the body of knowledge — skills and expertise— that makes their companies successful. 

Add your input in the comment section below or let's continue the discussion on LinkedIn.

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What Almost all Great Trainers or Learning Facilitators Have in Common

Recently, a colleague asked me how I recognize a great or effective corporate trainer or learning facilitator. Let me share with you what I told her.

Learning facilitation is an art, and great trainers or learning facilitators are artists—that is, they do creative work. In fact, some of them seem to be naturally skilled and creative.

They are good at keeping their audience engaged and alive. They lead their sessions like a popular Broadway show. They are flexible and calculate every move. As a result, their training sessions generate lots of positive comments and thank you’s. That’s fantastic!

Maybe you’d love to emulate their facilitation style and success but don’t know how.

What If I told you developing excellent facilitation skills is not rocket science?

You might think, “Really?” No, it isn’t.

What I mean is it requires practice—lots of practice. But it’s feasible. Yes, you can become one of them. However, before you start working on your craft/skills you should take a look at what almost all great learning facilitators have in common.

Let’s dive in:

1. They are personable, approachable, and likable.

They are good at connecting with people on a personal level. They are flexible and down to earth. For example, they call participants by their names. They smile a lot. They empathize with participants and listen actively and carefully to what their participants have to say. On top of that, they value their audience’s contribution and intentionally seek context-based input.

2. They are organized.

Their agenda is clear and the flow of their presentations is smooth. They know which materials to introduce, when, and where to find it. Furthermore, their transitions are as natural as breathing. 

3. They are proficient time managers.

They respect employees’ time. They are flexible, but at the same they control the flow of the event. No one steals the mics or monopolize the conversation and gets away with it. They keep their eyes on the goal and the clock. They instinctively know what to cut out, when to stop, and when let things go. In other words, they start and end on time. 

4. They make content interesting, accessible, and easy to understand.

They break information into chunks. They plan and run their session like a story with a structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. They also know how to tell good stories to illustrate their points. They make participants laugh and keep them engaged in meaningful work and discussions.

5. They don’t go by the book.

Like I said before, they have an agenda, but their process is flexible. They change things on the go. For example, unlike novices, they improvise with confidence and class. One can barely separate the decisions that were planned from those that were not! 

6. They can read their audience like a book.

They can quickly tell who wants and doesn’t want to be at their training. They know how to spot reluctant and resistant participants from a crowd. In addition, they know when to call for a time out or break to help the audience refresh and regroup.

 Add your input in the comment section below or let's continue the discussion on LinkedIn.

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4 Simple Insights That Help Increase Information Retention During and After Employee Training

Two months ago, I met with a friend at a coffee shop to do some catching up. He got his cappuccino, and I got my peach tea lemonade. Soon after, our conversation turned into a reflection on employee training

I must admit, my friend always asks excellent questions. This time, one question was more difficult than others.

For example, he shared that his Staff Development department runs employee training on the same topic several times, but most staff can barely remember the key information.

And he added, “Who should be blamed, the staff or the trainers?” I burst into laughter. Why? Because the blame game is common in the Learning and Development(L&D) field. We hear that kind of question all the time.  

On the one hand, most trainers tend to think most employees do not want to learn. On the other hand, staff view most employee training sessions (face-to face, e-Learning, blended) as dry, boring, and not relevant to their day-to-day job tasks.

OK, so we avoided the blame game and agreed, instead, on talking about what training professionals should do to help employees retain the information they learn.

Four simple insights

Let’s dive into four things my friend and I believe trainers should take into consideration:

1- Staff are mostly interested in information and skills that make their jobs easier. So, training sessions should be relevant to what employees do and to the company’s mission.

2- People remember content/information they think about in a meaningful way or that is embedded in their work context. Using work-related scenarios, case studies, simulations, and projects is the way to go.

But that won’t solve the problem of retention. What else should training professionals do? That leads me to the next point. 

3- Employees should revisit newly learned information as often as possible so it can stick. (In cognitive science this is called distributed practices.) Otherwise, they will lose it.

Distributed practices allow employees to use new information on the job. Using new information on the job makes knowledge transfer easier.

4- Tasks should not be too easy or too difficult. Why? From a cognitive science standpoint, most people enjoy solving problems! Doing so is enjoyable and motivating. But employees might get frustrated and bored if the tasks are too difficult.  And we all know people won’t remember boring information. 

What else do you want to add to this?  Add your input in the comment section below.

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My Recipe To Save Companies Talent Development (Employee Training) Money

You want your training or talent development interventions to improve employees’ performance. But here’s the big question: How effective are your training interventions and strategies?

What does that mean? Allow me to elaborate.

Training does not equate to effective learning or skills developmentor better say, all talent development interventions are not created equal.

We both can admit that US companies spend a lot on training interventions. But are they getting their money’s worth?

For example, in 1997 Ford and Weissbein related that US companies spent over $100 billion on training initiatives (see page 13 of training Ain’t performance by Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps); but sadly only 10% of the expenses led to better employee performance.

Let’s be honest.  What happened to the other 90%?  

Oh, there is more. In 2015, companies in the US spent about $165 billion on training development and education for employees. But guess what? They did not have much ROI to show for the money. Yes, this is insane…

To illustrate, imagine getting only 10% (or to be more generous let’s say 30%) of the nutrients your body needs from your annual food budget. How healthy will you be? The answer is too obvious. Isn’t it?

You are probably wondering: what’s the main problem here?

Ineffective and unnecessary training or talent development interventions and products are as common as dirt. And they cost companies big money and bore employees to death.  

My biggest concern is that this trend makes qualified LDT professionals look badunnecessary.

What should we do, then?  Well, this is exactly what I am trying to get to in this post. I don’t claim to have all the solutions to the money-sucking training madness. But I will share 3 simple insights that can literally save your company time and money (if you use them, of course).

1- Avoid Investing In Rote Learning

The best way to improve job performance is to coach employees into better performance. Simple. Let’s this sink in for a moment.

For example, running information sessions is called meeting, not training. Showing PowerPoint slides, giving employee instruction steps, making them repeat information promotes  rote learning. Is that what your Talent Development or HR department wants?

We both know your employees will forget training content as soon as they leave the training room. But what can be done then? That leads us to my second point.

2- Invest More in Distributed Practice (Spaced Practice)

Distributed practices lead to better learning and performance. How?

Creating a learning structure or system that makes employees practice target content and skills regularly, with ongoing support and feedback, will facilitate and foster learning.

But how do you build a learning system to make distributed practice happen? I knew you were gonna ask. The answer is in my last point.   

3-Build a Solid Learning System

A learning system helps determine what to learn, how, and when. It also establishes how often employees practice, are evaluated, and get formative feedback. Bottom line, it saves time and money. But how?

In other words, a system facilitates learning by doing. That is to say, it allows employees to do the exact thing they are learning (or want to learn).   

On a personal note, a few years ago, I took on a challenge to train (F2F) about 700 employees with 3 months, on how to use a brand new management and payroll system.  

It was urgent and the pressure was high. As a matter of fact, two managers had quit or ran away from the job before I took the ID project over.

But guess what? I struggled and made lots of mistakes but we (my team and I) did it. Really? Yes, let me tell you how… in a few sentences.  

  • I built a simple but robust learning system and turned control over to the employees.
  • We used a checklist for every single task.
  • Employees summarized content they needed to learn.  
  • They performed the tasks they wanted to learn in the system, made mistakes, and got formative feedback.
  • Proficient users served as point persons to coach other colleagues in their department.

And the cost? No extra charge or expenses. Except for the cakes we cut at the end to celebrate the achievement.

In sum, training professionals and Instructional Designers have a responsibility to build system that makes learning happen. Doing so will protect the reputation of the LDT field.

But the ultimate question is: Will you do any “training” job as long as you get paid or will you make instructional decisions to help clients and employers avoid wasting their money and their employees’ time and energy.  

Well, the decision is totally up to you.  

Thanks in advance for commenting and sharing this post in your LDT network.