As much as the corporate training field is seeking to design and deliver more engaging training, the fact remains that many training programs continue to be delivered the old-fashioned way. And by old-fashioned, I don't mean instructor-led. I mean presented.
One-way communication. Turning on the fire hose. Show up and throw up.
You know the terms; we've experienced them as a student..and we've even delivered such programs ourselves, right? In this scenario, the instructor starts the day at 90 miles an hour and rarely slows down, except for a raised hand from the audience. The instructor talks a lot, often running 2-3 hours between breaks. And the impact on the audience....?
We had a consulting sales trainer once start one of our sales workshops with this phrase:
"All right, we only have 6 hours and we've got a lot of information to cover. So let's get started!"
Translation: Please don't interrupt me because I've got 6 hours of content to tell you about and I've only got 6 hours to give it to you.
Presentations have their time and place. When a speaker is only seeking to disseminate information, presentations work great. But, if the goal is to enhance knowledge, improve skills or change behavior, presentations don't cut it. As training professionals we know this.
But there are life-long trainers that continue to deliver this approach to training. For a small percentage, I think there is a certain pride in being the "expert" in the room. For another small percentage, they enjoy hearing themselves talk. But for the majority, I think there are other issues going on.
Over the course of 7 years, I delivered my Facilitating Basics Workshop to both our internal and external trainers. During that time, I validated the following key factors that contribute to the ongoing "presenting of training".
Little prep time required: When the slides for your training are already complete - either by you or someone else - and they are fairly dense with content, then your job as the trainer is easy, because all you have to do is...
Just read your slides: Although there is a growing trend to incorporate more effective slide design (e.g., Nancy Duarte's Slideology), the reality is most slides are stuffed with content - charts, graphs, data, bullet points. I once saw a slide with 12 bullet points and each bullet contained two lines of text. That's the amazing thing about PowerPoint - the more text you type in the box, the smaller the fonts get. Genius! How can we get around this? Lay out your design and flow on Post-it® notes. In this model, each Post-it represents a slide, so only what you can put on the note will make it into the final slide. Use Post-its that are 3x3 (inches, not 2ft x 3ft Post-It wall sheets).
You get to talk most of the time: Again, if you're incredibly brilliant in your own mind and/or love being the person in the room who knows it all, this is your zone.
You’ve got a lot of material to cover: Often the directive from upper management is to get a certain # of butts in seats in your training workshop. Anything beyond that is bonus, including knowledge transfer. And since you're striving to get as many customers into the room, you're naturally going to hit them with everything you possibly can. Which necessitates you turning on the fire hose of knowledge.
You answer questions when asked: You're willing to back off the fire hose to acknowledge the lone raised hand and answer their question. After that, you reopen the fire hose.
Only 20% will get something out of it: Yes, as the trainer you do realize that you're talking way too fast. But it's the only way you will get through all of the slides in the allotted time. So you rationalize this situation by telling yourself, "Only 20% are going to learn anything today." In the training world, the 10-20% retention metric has persevered for years. But if you put that metric in a different light, it becomes more of an urgent situation. Imagine if you contacted FedEx to have them deliver 100 packages to your customers. 1 week later you find out that only 20 customers received their package. Would FedEx stay in business? Heck no. Bringing this 80-20 approach into the training world is wrong. We should always be targeting 100% of our audience.
Training is not your primary job: Some of the individuals in my Facilitation workshop cite training is as little as 5-10% of the job. We all know that anything that occupies that little of our (work) life is going to be on the bottom of the "I should get better at this" development plan.
You don’t know any better way to train: Your boss trained you and that's the approach to training that you adopted.
When you look at these factors as a whole, it's really easy to see how (and more importantly, why) most instructor-led, classroom training flows this way - and puts a spotlight on some compelling reasons behind the 10-20% retention metric.
Have you seen these factors, or others, in your workplace? What work have you done with your trainers to successfully eliminate or minimize these factors?
Would you like to learn a better, more effective way to train?