Best Practices: Training, Engaging, and Going to the Movies

It’s all about involvement—from trainers, learners, and managers and supervisors—as a group of East Bay Area trainers heard loudly and clearly last night from consultant/trainer/writer Rebecca Morgan.
Addressing members of the Mt. Diablo Chapter of the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) during the group’s monthly meeting in Danville, Morgan suggested several reasons why trainings sometimes fail to produce positive effects and offered at least one halfway tongue-in-cheek suggestion for improvement: having trainers evaluate participants at the same level that participants evaluate trainers.
If trainers are judged on their ability to be interesting and engaging, she quipped, perhaps students should be judged on the interest and level of engagement they display. The result, she added, would probably show that high (or low) marks for trainers in these areas would probably be paralleled by high (or low) marks for learners.
The best experience for everyone, she reminded her audience, comes from up-front planning and extended collaboration between trainers, learners, and supervisors and managers—a theme previously explored in an Infoblog posting on “Leadership in Training.” Problems often begin when trainings are set up without a specific business purpose, Morgan said. The situation becomes worse when the wrong people are forced to attend a training and the session offers the wrong intervention—a customer-service session for 30 people when only one of the 30 needs the help and the other 29 are forced to attend just so the employee in need of training is not “singled out.”
If those attending trainings are not properly prepared in advance—by a manager or supervisor, for example—attendees and the organizations for which they work are less likely to benefit from the time invested in providing the training session.
“You’d get as much out of sending them to the movies,” she suggested.
More effective training is likely to occur when everyone collaborates to make sure the session as well as pre- and post-training efforts are relevant, include the follow-up necessary to allow learners to absorb and implement the material to the advantage of all involved, and include a level of accountability.
Morgan counsels supervisors and managers to sit with employees for as little as 10 minutes before the employee receives approval to attend a training session. The purpose is to ask what the employee expects to gain from attending the training; how the employee plans to apply the training to the workplace; and how the manager or supervisor can support the employee through the training process. Post-workshop activities to guarantee results could include a learner’s brief report to colleagues during a department meeting. Simple. Effective. Engaging. And wonderfullly collaborative.