Going to Training

I really enjoyed this post by Kevin Eikenberry yesterday. Read This Before You Attend Your Next Training Session

It reminded me of many of my pet peeves when doing training internally, let alone now that I’m an outside trainer. See if this sounds familiar:

You send your folks out to a day of training on some software tool. They are very excited to be out of the office for the day! They spend an inordinate amount of time planning their lunch trip, or maybe their post training class group outing. On the day of the training, they are mostly concerned with getting done early. They don’t ask questions that might drag the class out longer, despite the fact that the instructor is now 5 steps ahead of them and there’s no hope they’ll ever figure out what they are talking about. Or, they spend half the day looking at their blackberry, keeping up with what’s going on at the office instead of the training you’re paying for, because you keep sending them messages.

Then they come back to use the new tool, only they really don’t know much more about it than they did before. At this point, two things happen. They decide the training was bad, and they hate the new tool. Your group never, ever, recovers from this and you wind up with a very expensive tool that your staff simply works around as much as possible.

I’ve seen this in my IT experience as well as in law firms. One of my first IT jobs as working for a small office that had spent a significant sum to implement a customer management database system about a year before I started. I soon discovered that everyone in the office hated it. They had organized training classes, and for whatever reason, everyone disliked the trainer, decided they didn’t want to pay attention any more, never learned how to use the system, and therefore they decided it sucked. I spent almost 7 years in that job, and never, ever overcame that with the folks who were there before me. I was successful, as we had new staff come in, in training them and getting them to actually use it more, but there was no overcoming the first impression of the others.

Now, as a trainer, I keep that experience in mind when I start with a new group. I don’t want to be the reason they hate our product. ;-)

The thing is, I have no idea whether the trainer they had was any good or not. I wasn’t there. It’s possible that this is all that trainer’s fault, but I can’t help but feel like the people who got the training, and the management of the organization also hold some responsibility. When you’re sent to training, you are there to learn. Be professional and put aside your personal feelings about the training and learn what you can, regardless of how much you may not like them.

Likewise, when you send people out for training, look for well-qualified trainers and demand they train your people. If there are problems, talk to someone and get them corrected. Secondly, if there aren’t problems, and your people come back without any evidence of having actually learned anything, hold them accountable as well. Find out why they didn’t ask the instructor, if the class was not structured to fit your needs, etc. It hugely inefficient to have expensive tools that your staff is doing everything they can to NOT use. There was a reason you made this investment, shouldn’t you be getting the most out of it?

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