Do You Subscribe to the Myth of the Silver Bullet?

subscribe-to-the-myth-training-is-a-silver-bulletThe ‘post-course evaluation form' or ‘The Happy Sheet', has formed a staple element of the trainer's toolbox for many years now. Have you ever wondered if they actually have an impact, however? The simple answer is a resounding no.

The issue is that these measures offer practically no value in the long-term because, no matter how good the feedback they provide is, they offer no guarantee that the individuals will actually make changes following the conclusion of the course.

At the end of the day, an organisation has to get its money's worth when providing training. For example, were the delegates actually able to make measurable or discernible changes because they attended training? Whether the tea and cakes were good is an irrelevance…

How do you measure success? If you or your training department simply looks at the number of people who turn up and complete these events, you're not telling the full story.

The Silver Bullet?

Earlier in my career, I worked as a training project manager at Tesco. I once had to write a business case that explained the predicted organisational impact of the workshops we were running.

I did that a decade ago, and I've barely written another since.

It's no surprise then that Brent Peterson, a former professional ice hockey coach and player, did some research and found that the majority (85%) of training course costs cover what takes place in the classrooms.

Conversely, just 10% goes towards preparation, and only 5% to follow-up.

The issue is, as research by Bersin & Associates found out, that 70% of the learning process occurs once training has finished, while back in the workplace. Just 10% of it actually takes place in a classroom.

The message this research gives us shouldn't be a shock. At the end of the day, the process of learning is simply to draw meaningful experience and value from any given experience.

What this does tell us, however, is that perhaps you should be asking your trainers what measures they are taking to support learners after they leave the classroom? Are they sending line managers helpful learning materials that can be used to ensure learners are able to get the best out of their experience while back on the job?

Or perhaps you've made the mistake of subscribing to the persistent myth of the silver bullet of training. This myth suggests you can dispatch anyone with a problem off for a bit of help, and they will return back completely fixed.

Blended learning fits into this context. Robert Brinckerhoff, a West Michigan University Professor, conducted research that found the following:

  • Less than 15% of those on a training courses implement what they learn
  • 70% will make an effort to implement what they learn but give up because it's too difficult
  • 15% will do nothing after they've attended a course

Blended learning

This undeniably means that, when supporting learning post-event is left to the learners themselves or their line managers, training is likely to provide a pathetic return on investment.

Despite that, you can still tick the particular box that says the training course did what it was supposed to. The trainer receives a good happy sheet score, and the training is labelled a resounding success.

Alternatively, a blended learning approach can be used to compensate for poor learner support levels following workshops.

To put it another way, investing some time in guaranteeing that all learners receive full support following training sessions will ensure you are able to achieve a far greater ROI.

There's no reason why blended learning methods need to be particularly expensive. As long as you:

  • Give your line managers assistance to acquire simple coaching skills
  • Instruct learners to support each other, and buddy up in order to help each other achieve learning objectives
  • Separate time spent in the classroom into different modules, and ask attendees to do field work in between the separate modules
  • Ask those who attended training to work together on projects afterwards so they can use the skills they have acquired
  • Create action learning groups once the course is finished that ensure each member of the group makes the other members accountable for completing what they pledged they would do

It's time for you to be proactive. Lay down the challenge to your entire organisation to offer training that actually meets a strategic requirement.

Follow this up by designing a training course that ensures the learning is continued once the employees have returned to the workplace, and that the required mechanisms are in place to allow you to maximise and measure the value learners extract from training after the event has finished.

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