Perpetuating certain myths about training can be an easy way to side-step larger problems. For example, when training fails to take root with the audience, we fall back on the myth of the “bad trainee.” When new ideas about training threaten the status quo, we champion myths about training efficacy that result in solutions suited to our agenda. There’s also the myth that well-designed training doesn’t need to look or function perfectly because, well, great ideas will stand on their own, right?
The reality is, these myths and many others are an easy way to address problems in the short-term. But failure to bust these myths can lead to much bigger long-term problems.
Myth #1 - Bad Trainees (aka “We provide great training but our [lazy] audience won’t use it.”)
Reality: When training is seen as a huge success, who's first in line to take credit? We are. Doesn't it stand to reason then, that when training doesn't connect with the audience, we also need to take ownership of the failure? Yes; there are unmotivated, lazy, or even not-so-smart trainees out there. But most people are open to listening and learning if you’re presenting them with useful information, tools, or techniques that support their success on the job.
Bust the Myth: Stop playing the blame game and start doing some analysis and critical-thinking. What’s the real problem? Maybe training was the wrong approach? Or maybe, you’re trying to address surface problems without addressing underlying ones first? By re-examining the needs and goals and applying metrics that dig deeper than course completions you can start to bust this myth and build understanding, mutual respect, and trust with your training audience.
Myth #2 - Our trainees need to be “taught” in order to learn.
Reality: Your trainees are learning all the time - just not in the way you may be contextualizing “learning.” The learning landscape is changing and with the increasing recognition and adoption of informal training strategies in the workplace you could find yourself voted off the island by furthering the belief that instructor-led is always the best approach to training and that other strategies always produce inferior results.
Bust the Myth: The fact is: training happens with or without our involvement. Once we accept that fact then we must educate ourselves in the ways of our audience. We need to understand how they learn. What do they use? What don’t they use? Who is their primary trainer? What independent learning tools do they have and what do they need? Then we need to embrace new strategies, technologies, and ideas and add them to the mix. Busting this myth doesn’t require you to abandon your core beliefs about how people learn as much as much it asks you to broaden your perspectives and adapt to change. For more perspective on the changing world of workplace training/learning, check out this excellent article by Charles Jennings.
Myth #3 - Great Ideas Can Overcome Poor Execution
Reality: From watching 7 seasons of “Top Chef” I’ve learned this: Great Concept + Poor Execution = Recipe for Potential Elimination. When it comes to training, the ability to present an idea is as important as the idea itself. When the fundamental design is flawed, no amount of pretty can make it work. By the same token when a great design is poorly executed, even brilliant ideas get lost in the noise.
Bust the Myth: If your ability to execute a great design fails to meet expectations it's time to scale back your vision and focus on what you can do. First, honestly assess your skills of today by making 3 lists: what’s great, what’s good, and what’s lacking. Then prioritize the skills in your "good" and "lacking" lists by what you’d like to improve near-term and long-term. Next to each skill, list what will be required of you to improve (study, practice, new software, etc.). Then, for each new training project incorporate one design or technical element that challenges you to reach out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill. And remember, truly great ideas don’t need a lot of "design"; communicate them clearly without clutter or exposition and they’ll go viral on their own.
What training myths would YOU like to see busted? Share your ideas with the Mindflash community and leave us a comment.
Trina Rimmer is a learning and communications consultant with twelve years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training solutions. When her training skills aren't being tested by her children, you'll find her helping others to develop their own design muscles. Contact Trina at firstname.lastname@example.org.