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From the Road

From the Road: So Much Training

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Steve WillisSteve Willis is a Master Trainer and Vice President of Professional Services at VitalSmarts.
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From the Road

One of my year-end activities is tallying up the total number of training days I delivered (one way to ensure my fingers are ready for any math challenge that comes my way). It gives me a sense of how many individuals were impacted by these sessions as well as of my own learning experiences with the different groups.

This year, as I was right in the middle of reflecting and pondering—in a state of really “deep think” about the year’s experience as a whole—I received an e-mail from a work colleague. Attached was a Wall Street Journal article titled, “So Much Training.” As that was exactly the topic I’d been contemplating, I opened it straightaway.

It wasn’t until I was about three paragraphs in that I realized that, due to the heavy meditative haze I’d been operating under, I’d misread the title. There was a second half that I had overlooked entirely: “So Little to Show for It.” And as you might guess, this second phrase was more indicative of the article’s content.

The article explores why many organizations aren’t realizing the full potential of their training initiatives and makes the point that, in order to receive the full value, what happens before and after training is more important than what happens during training. While this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard this, because I was in the middle of my review exercise it hit me in a different way. It got me thinking of the degree to which I helped and hindered the groups with which I worked.

In training terms, I’m the “during” guy, not the “before” or “after” guy. I arrive to deliver a training session or two, and then I’m off to another organization. But just because I’m not responsible for the “before” and “after” doesn’t mean that I should focus solely on the “during.” I can talk with those who are responsible—ask them what needs the training fulfills in their organization, provide them with learning objective worksheets they can distribute to the managers of those who will participate in the actual session, suggest ways to measure achievement of learning objectives across individuals, recommend post-training practice strategies, etc.

And as the “during” guy, I think there’s a lot I (or anyone in this position) can do in the session that can help support (not replace) “before” and “after” activities. I have activities to use (have the class take two minutes to brainstorm common tough situations they face), commitments to extend (have participants set a date and time to follow up and practice with a partner from the class), questions to ask (“Where and how do you think you’ll be able to use this skill?”), and tools to offer (introduce the contract cards as an easy-access review or checklist).

As you prepare for your 2013 training sessions, consider what you can do to change the title of the Wall Street Journal article to “So Much Training, So Much to Show for It” for your organization.

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Steve Willis

As one of the original trainers at VitalSmarts, Steve has been on the forefront of developing award-winning training programs, perfecting quality training platforms, and delivering training content that has influenced more than 500,000 people to date. In addition, Steve has trained and certified thousands of employees, managers, and trainers from Fortune 500 companies across the nation. read more

3 thoughts on “From the Road: So Much Training”

  1. Wow, can I relate to this. For 6 years I trained all 3 VitalSmarts programs at a large, international company. And frankly – I have to say, regardless of my “fabulous training,” (ha, ha) the company has little to show for it considering how many people went through the class. I have recently become the HR Manager for a medium-sized international company who is hungry to get training rolling in the company. I can assure you that Crucial Conversations will be one of the if not THE first training I roll out, but I am completely focused on the “before” and “after” of the training before I will let them have a course here. I won’t let what happened at the last company happen here!

  2. I just finished facilitating my second Crucial Conversations session. At the end of the 2nd day, we spent time generating a list of how to make the training more than a 2 day awesome class. I was fortunate to facilitate to a group consisting of a VP and his direct reports. During a break I talked with the VP about ways to extend to get the training to be applied on the job. I conducted one follow up hour session with this group where the expectation from the VP was that everyone would come to the session and share what happened when they conducted the situation they practiced in class. The VP honestly shared his example as did others. This really helped the group see the applications and be energized by them. Two more follow up 1 hour session are planned.

  3. Just last week I was flying to the West Coast to get certified in a new Vital Smarts class and my seat mate on the plane was a high tech executive who had taken Crucial Conversations about five years ago. I asked him the question I always ask, “What are the things you remember most from the class?” He went on to list out almost every skill we teach in Crucial Conversations. I was stunned that he had retained so much. He said that after taking the class he had gone back to his team and shared the messages with them and encouraged them to use them on the job. He said that by sharing what he learned, the skills became a part of who he was.

    Needless to say, it was very gratifying.

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