During a conversation last week, Angelo told me a funny story about his father. A university graduate who generally acted quite proper and never swore, he once spent some time working on the floor of a factory with some workers who were anything but proper. During dinner one night, several weeks into this job, Angelo's father excused himself from the table to "take a piss."
Angelo was shocked; he had never heard his father come even close to cursing! So he asked his dad why he had used that language. And he was even more shocked to find that his dad hadn't even realised what he'd said! Several weeks into being on the floor of this factory, he had picked up the language of his peers and it had subconsciously become part of his vernacular.
Upon hearing this story, my mind went to two articles I'd read recently. The first, A Mentor's Advice: Timeless! by Brett McElhaney on the Aspire-CS blog, tells the story of a young engineer in an architecture and engineering firm who had to learn to tailor his language in order to communicate with the drafters. The second, Learning to Adjust Your Altitude by Art Petty, provides some useful suggestions for adjusting your communication style based on your audience.
Angelo quickly related all three of these examples to The Platinum Rule.
Most of us have heard of The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you'd like to be done unto yourself." When it comes to building relationships, this is a great mantra to follow. If you want to be treated fairly, then so should you treat others.
But The Platinum Rule is all about communication: "Do unto others as they would be done unto." You take yourself out of the equation, empathise with the other person so you understand what they need to hear and how they need to hear it, and then deliver your message in the most appropriate way. For people in any line of communication – leading, selling or anything else – or if you'd simply like to improve your communication skills, this is the rule to follow, as it will help you work more effectively with, and influence, others.
As businesses emerge from the global financial crisis, a recent study from DDI World – "Mid Level Managers: The Bane and Salvation of Organisations" – has found that HR executives are citing perilously low engagement levels from their middle managers. Unless addressed immediately, potential consequences include lower revenues and defection of these managers to competitors.
A key takeaway: Organisations must proactively reach out to their managers and support their growth by developing leadership skills. Doing so will allow them to be well positioned to reap the benefits of the growing economy.
Last week we discussed important factors that go into producing effective business training programs.
But sometimes you don't even have to look as deep to determine if a workplace training program will be effective or not. Sometimes it's as simple as judging a book by its cover. Because in today's business world, there are a few terms that many people erroneously associate with training.
Each of the below events is at odds with at least one of the three criterion in our previous post. So if your "training" is categorised as one of the following, we'd recommend you reconsider its implementation in your business:
• Conference – too many companies, usually during the annual conference, will bring in a facilitator for a one-day workshop. To them, the "training" for the year has been done. But without any follow-up and reinforcement it mostly goes in one ear and certainly out the other.
• Public workshop – this is the conference's ugly cousin. Not only is there no follow-up, but if it's public, there's precious little customisation or contextualisation!
• Certificate or degree – it's wonderful to get a Cert IV or another equivalent. But theoretical/academic learning is certainly not training. Simply put, training isn't training if it isn’t applied behaviourally.
This isn't to say that each of the above doesn't serve a purpose. They all do, depending on your desired outcome. But if you're looking to change the behaviour of your people – the very purpose of training – then none of these will do that. To achieve behaviour change, people need a structured environment, context to their work, consistent review and reinforcement, and have the active support of management. Otherwise you're simply providing expensive education.
The Fortune Group has developed and run countless sales, leadership and change management training programs over the last four decades, with businesses of all sizes, in all stages of growth, in every industry there is. For some of the thousands of clients we've worked with, we've been the only training company they've engaged. But for plenty of others – especially the larger corporations – we've been one of many.
It's from clients that have worked with other business training services prior to us that we've heard some frightening stories of training programs gone astray. We covered one such example in Effective sales training is a two-way street, but that story is just the tip of the iceberg.
Because so much time and money is invested in professional development training, we've compiled a short list of the top reasons workplace training programs fail – the red flags you should look out for when identifying an effective training solution for your business.
1. Training that isn't actually training – it's education, masquerading as training
Before you even start to analyse the training program, ask yourself: Is it even training? Or is it education? Because education is not training! This may sound obvious, but we've found many people have trouble separating the two.
When the "training" is simply a transfer of information from the "trainer" to participants, all about 'what' and not 'how and why', and its purpose is to provide people with knowledge, then it's education. The provision of knowledge or information is not training. Training is about changing (habitual) behaviour.
The purpose of training is NOT to provide people with knowledge; knowledge is simply a vehicle or tool used in the process because the purpose of training is to get action. And this action or, expressed another way, behaviour change can't simply be achieved through a one-day lecture or seminar; there has to be a commitment to ensure people ingest and understand the 'what, how and why' of training, make changes to how they behave and progressively improve on it.
2. Training that isn't presented in context
Training needs to be presented in context so that participants can absorb the principles and practice the skills, in the context of their daily roles. We wrote about an extreme anti-example of this in Effective sales training is a two-way street
, in which one business tried to "train" their sales team by having them read a book on sales. Even if you haven't read that post, you can guess how effective (not) that initiative was.
Training like this can bore participants to tears and turn them against learning. How easily people can become disillusioned, sceptical and even cynical about training. If the training isn't shaped and interactive so that it can be experienced in context, then it won't be (emotionally) engaging, and not only will your investment be wasted, your people will resent being put through the process!
3. Training that has no buy-in from management
You'd think that line management, frequently responsible for bringing training into a business, would be (fully) committed to supporting it from beginning to end. But too often this is not the case: managers will put the onus on the facilitator and walk away, thinking their job is done in arranging it. But far worse are the stories of management directly contradicting the training! "I know what they taught you there, but here we do it differently."
Words to that effect kill training stone-dead!
In order for training to be effective, management must be fully aligned with it, and work at providing significant, continual support. And the statistics bear this out. As we quoted recently from a Knowledge Pool white paper in Business training isn't a one-day workshop
, a massive 94% of learners who receive line management support apply what they've learned.
Training is literally one of management's greatest tools.
It's not always easy to distinguish good training programs from the less so. We hope this list will provide guidance on some things to look for when identifying an effective training program for your business.
If you're ever in doubt, please feel free to ask us for our opinion. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.