Wednesday, April 18

Training as Tic Tacs or Warm Tea

How often have you been in a situation where the training was absolutely wrong for the participant?

I don't mean wrong as in, person will never use these skills, or wrong as in, person should be out selling instead of being in a formal learning program, or wrong as in, this is a very basic program for a very senior person, but wrong as in if a person applies the skills, they will do much worse at their job?

This might be because the program was not fully tested, or the wrong skills for the person.

If the answer is no, that training has never been harmful, then is the corollary true: that training can't do much good? Is training just warm tea and tic tacs to make participants a little better?

I look for evidence that training is getting stronger. Paradoxically, the thing that will be most convincing is a story of a training program actually being disasterously harmful.


B.J. Schone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B.J. Schone said...

No, I don't believe the corollary is true. We intentionally design and develop training to improve performance and enhance a learner's knowledge and skills. We can show this improvement and enhancement through a variety of evaluation metrics. And as our field continues to mature, our design and development strategies improve, thus making our training stronger. This is definitely more than just warm tea and tic tacs. But I would love to see a Clark Aldrich "Warm Tea and Tic Tacs" immersive learning simulation. :)

I'd also be interested in hearing details of a disastrously harmful training program, but I honestly can't imagine how this could happen. You'd think that some element of sabotage would have to be involved!

B.J. Schone

Clark Aldrich said...

Hi BJ,

As with many of my posts, I am exploring issues rather than putting forth strong opinions. I really respect your response. Yet I can't help but think that, necessarily, as has happened to all maturing technologies, as formal learning programs become stronger, the potential for misuse or accidents becomes stronger as well. We culturally have been conditioned to the "mildness" and seemingly holistic nature of formal learning programs. But if formal learning programs jump to the next level of effectiveness, as I am starting to see in sims, what are the broader implications.

Dave Lee said...

My question is what would you define as disasterously harmful? In my experience, when training design goes awry, people vote with their feet, don't come back from breaks or from lunch, or just tune out.

While this may upset the facilitator and may delay employees gaining the information they need, I can't see defining it as harmful.

I would think that for training to cause harm the learners would need to be clueless to the information they are receiving being incorrect. Perhaps finance folks being taught how to transfer funds in a money laundering scheme but not having the pre-knowledge to know that those transfers are illegal. But in this case, the truth of the matter is that the training would be successful in meeting it's unethical objectives.

Because it involves generally intelligent humans in interaction, i'm not sure that training can be disastrously harmful. There are too many squeaky wheels involved.

Useless training - certainly. Disastrously harmful? I'm not convinced.

Peter Isackson said...

The only real danger I see is the risk that training can get in the way of learning. But that has always been the case and in some sense we have learned to live with it.

How does training (or education) get in the way of learning? Basically in two opposite ways, the first being success. If one feels one has achieved the "training objectives", it may be an incentive to stop learning, to let curiosity shrivel and die, to bask in one's achievement. If, on the other hand, we realize that it hasn't achieved a significant purpose once it's over -- and one of the features of formal learning is that there's always a moment when it's "over" -- we may, through a sense of either failure or futility be put off the whole official curriculum schtick, no matter how pertinent and professional it was meant to be.

These are actually common psychological phenomena which we all have our strategies for dealing with. So they rarely end up producing disaster... unless we consider the drying up of curiosity as a disaster, which some us do (myself included)! Yet for the rest of the world observing the rituals and not asking too much from them means that everything keeps ticking in perfect predictable rhythm. We are rarely seriously disappointed so long as our objectives remain low.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely believe training is getting better since organizations realize that our current training methods are not very effective. We are moving towards alternative forms of training that include introduction to key learning concepts, but we are developing our leadership team to continue that training by partnering towards performance consulting as well as future employee development.