Why sending your employees on a training is often a waste of time and money

boring training
Sending your employees on a training seldom leads to the desired behaviour change in the workplace. Why is that?

Most trainings are focussing on sharing (new) knowledge, but we all know that more knowledge will not change people’s behaviour. Smokers have the knowledge that it’s not good for their health, yet they keep on smoking. There are thousands of books, articles and seminars around the topics of leadership, creativity and innovation, but the readers and participants find it hard to implement this knowledge into new behaviour and changing a culture.

Some trainings are sharing (new) skills that people need in their job. These are only effective when easy to apply with immediate positive result or something they are obligated to do as part of their job (use a specific IT system). We all know that when people try something new and it doesn’t seem to work out well immediately, they’ll give up quickly and go back to their old patterns of behaviour which feels safer and not like a failure. Also when people try something new at the workplace after a training, their co-workers or manager will respond to it. They are part of a social system. When the response is negative “We tried this before and it didn’t work” or “Oh I can see that you have been to this training, haha”, people stop their efforts because they want to fit in with the group.

Trying something new and changing behaviour requires courage and resilience

Some trainings are sharing (new) mindsets that are needed in our fast changing and complex world. For instance being present, positive and open, creative, more comfortable with not knowing, non-judgemental, feel ownership, learn from failures, etc. When these mindsets are shared like knowledge, they sound very logical and useful, but they will not be adopted into new behaviour.

Most trainings use a seated table setting, where people sit still during most of the time while the trainer is explaining some slides or flipchart drawings. Also all online learning is done in front of a computer. When we sit still, our attentive energy goes down quickly and our minds drift off.

Learning without active engagement is not very sticky.

So how can we move away from this Knowledge will lead to change paradigm? By designing trainings that are far less knowledge based, and far more actively and emotionally engaging and experience based. Adding emotions to the learningexperience will make the learninginsights very sticky.

All learning has an emotional base (Plato)

We are motivated to change by either negative or positive emotional experiences. A heartattack and the fear of not seeing their kids grow up will make the smoker give up smoking. The feeling of true connection after sharing something vulnerable in a positive and supportive atmosphere will make people want to do and create this again. A good trainer will not only create relevant learningexperiences in a safe space, but will invite the learner to come up with their own insights from reflecting on their experience, because…

It’s not from experience that we learn, but from reflecting upon our experiences (Thiagi)

And when the learner has some new insights, they will be invited to take courageous action to apply this insight in their daily practice.

Courage should be a standard (experiential) topic in any trainingprogram with change as a desired result. (Annemarie Steen)

Good trainings need follow up to guide the learner (and it’s environment) in the process of implementation. This can be done by the trainer, a (peer)coach or the manager. How much follow up is there on your current trainingprograms?

Now let’s reflect on you reading this article. How do you feel? Positive and happy that your own vision on learning and change is confirmed? Slightly uncomfortable because you might have made some investments and you doubt their effectiveness? Maybe you feel curious to learn more about creating effective learning and behaviour change? And what action could you take on that? And have the courage to do just that 😉

Annemarie Steen is an international playful learning experience designer and facilitator on the topics of (personal) leadership, creativity & innovation and positive company cultures. She was awarded Best Visiting Lecturer of the year by her MBA students at the Estonian Business School. Feel free to contact SteenTrain (contact@steentrain.com) to have a conversation on how to spend your trainingbudget wisely or to transform your current learning and development programs in having more impact.

Why leaders need to PLAY! more

speaker Annemarie Steen
I was recently speaking at JCI (Junior Chamber International) Nordic Conference in Tallinn, Estonia. The audience: 600 young entrepreneurial minds of 8 Nordic European Countries. My topic: Why Leaders need to PLAY! more.

Creating a positive company culture where leaders give themselves and their employees a Licence to Play (like Google, Ideo, Zappos, Virgin and Mindvalley) are more profitable, creative, resilient and attractive to talent and customers than their industry peers.

So why not more companies adopt a more Positive and Playful Culture?

The problem. The existing Paradigm: Work and Play don’t go together and are seen as opposites. Because of this, working hard, stressful and long hours is valued over laughter and play. Play is something that is trivial, childish and something you’re only allowed to do in your private time (like sports, singing, dancing, goofing around with friends, playing with your kids, etc). This paradigm was already taught to us in school at a very young age. There is a time for play during recess, and there is a time for learning and work in the classroom (what later on became the office). We have been taught to play the Game of Seriousness and behave like ‘serious’ adults, or else…

The result. This has installed a fear/shame on being playful as an adult, especially in business environments and public spaces.

The solution. Shifting the paradigm, not only by showing succesful companies who are doing it already, but to invite business leaders to experience the power of play for themselves. I love to facilitate CEO Playdays 😉 In my own experience, once I adress the fear and invite leaders to ‘do it anyway’ (in a safe learningspace), a powerful energy is released; Joy, laughter, connectedness and creativity are the immediate result.

And what happens next…

Courageous leaders who are willing to give it a try in their own business!

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

For more updates and resources on playfulness in biz, you’re welcome to follow www.facebook.com/licensetoplay

 

Playful learning Leadership

“We don’t learn from experience, We learn from reflecting upon our experience.”  (Thiagi)

'LeadereshipAs a guest lecturer at the Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg, Netherlands, I was recently asked to deliver an Advanced Course on Leadership to students. The students expected a course with lots of theoretical information in a more lecture style of teaching, with maybe some role-play exercises. What I did was very different. I got them up to Playfully interact with each other in simple Applied Improv Games & Playful Learning Exercises. This was initially not received with great enthusiasm but definitely woke them up in the morning.

In the debrief after each playful exercise the students were invited to give meaning to their experience and connect this meaning to insights about leadership skills, thus creating awareness and ideas for improvement.

Last week I received this review of my course. Proud and confident that my way of teaching is reaching the hearts and minds of these young people.

I was happily surprised to find out what this course was about. I had different expectations and thought that the course would be more about dry subjects and a more theoretical approach. At first, my reaction to the training (dancing etc.) was honestly “oh god, not this hippie stuff”. But as we progressed I could see the meaning behind every exercise and saw that it was actually great for learning some skills and getting insight on the matter. Letting the students come to these insights on their own by experiencing it, is in my perspective way better than just telling us or letting us read it out of a book. Also, letting us choose our own subjects and leaders to write about and making it personal, was a great way to keep it interesting and getting more out the theories rather than just reading. I would like to use the experience from this course to improve my public speaking skills and when I am ever in a position of leadership again, reflect back on this course and see if I’m following some of the rules that were stated here as good leadership. What I liked about this course, is that you looked for personal improvement and reading the message in our papers, rather than being too anal and tripping over every wrong interpretation of the theoretical aspect. It is my opinion, that you learn way more from this approach and make it entertaining, while motivating the students to progress. If I’d have to think of something that could be improved, is changing the day and hour on which this course is given on a weekly basis. While I doubt that having way more people in each class would be an improvement for the learning experience of each individual, I feel everyone should experience this course. Especially if this course, which is also mostly about personal growth, could replace the heavily overvalued and mandatory course of Creativity & Personality. Excuse my frustration, I needed to get that off my chest. This course was a great learning experience and I hope many students after me will be able to experience this as well.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

You’re welcome to stay updated with my projects and resources on playfulness & playful learning by following my facebookpage

The two faces of Estonians

Annemarie SteenLast week I was invited to Estonia (by Parnu Konverentsid) to speak at a Leadership Conference about Playfulness in Business. Estonia is a very nice country, one of the three Baltic States in the North East of Europe. As big (or as small) as The Netherlands, but with 12x less inhabitants. They have a beautiful medieval capital Tallinn and a lot of nature. In Europe they do relatively well.

In the few days that I spend there, I encountered the two faces of Estonians. Their serious, polite and introvert behaviour when they are in a business setting. And their playful, sparkling, more open behaviour when they are having a party, especially the younger generation. Maybe not surprising when you understand that the younger generation was born in a free Estonia and their parents lived many years under an illegal occupation from the Soviet Union (1940-1991). So, when I told some people my plans of doing an interactive speech for the 300 businessleaders, where I would invite them to PLAY, they looked at me in disbelief and wished me “Good Luck”.

leadershipSo there I was, my heart pounding in my chest when I was announced onto the stage. Standing on the stage, with the plan of starting with blowing bubbles, I realized that I had accidentally dropped part of my blowing bubble on my way. I had to quickly improvise and get a new one of one of the tables of the audience. In a way this saved me, because when you’re improvising you’re in the moment, and that’s exactly where you should be during a speech. From there it went really well. Explaining why I believe Playfulness in Business could help them perform better, creating more openness, connectedness, collaboration and creativity. Attributes that are needed to cope with today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) World. Then came the moment of truth, inviting the audience to different kinds of PLAY, like movement play, social play and creative play with a few short ‘Play Missions’.

What happened was, was what happens everywhere. Once people feel that they get the permission or the Licence to Play, they enjoy themselves immensely. Their eyes begin to sparkle. It’s because Play is in our nature. Play connects us and Play is pure Joy.

So for me this was a Mission Accomplished!

Now back home in The Netherlands. I feel that I will return many times to this charming country and it’s very nice people. Special Thanks to Toomas Tamsar, the man who had faith in me, without ever seeing me speak before 🙂

Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(*) photos taken by Urmas Kamdron

Hospitality Industry struggles with Experience Economy

When we travel, we all have hotelexperienceto sleep. Why are we prepared to pay € 25 for a night sleep in a hostel, € 50 for a bed & breakfast, € 100 for a three star hotel and € 500 for an exclusive hotel? Where we choose to sleep differs and varies with our travelpurpose (business, holiday, romantic weekend), our budget and our previous experience or reviews from friends or total strangers on a website. This is in a nutshell what the Experience Economy (Pine & Gilmore, 1999) is. We are prepared to pay a higher price when the added value and experience is perceived to be higher. “We are on the threshold, say authors Pine and Gilmore, of the Experience Economy, a new economic era in which all businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers.”

wow experienceBut when do we become loyal clients that come back? And when do we become ambassadors for a hotel or restaurant and tell our friends about our experience? Only when the reality is perceived better than what we expected to get. Only when we got the WOW-Experience. And this is where the struggle for high end luxury hotels and restaurants begins. The expectations are allready very high when the guest comes in. Ofcourse a hotelguest of a luxury hotel will expect to get a spacious room that’s superclean, with a nice view, well designed interiors, good and various choices of food, a beautiful spa and swimmingpool and friendly and professional staff. So, what will give him this extra memorable experience? Is it a well orchestrated show with lights and music, an unexpected flashmob of dancing staff, a singing waiter on rollerblades? I don’t think so.

I believe the Hospitality Industry focusses too much on design and concepts. Ofcourse I was stunned with the view on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore, the first time I saw the 150m wide infinity pool, but will this experience bring me back the next time? No, I don’t believe so. So what will?

real-fake smileIt’s connecting with the people and the atmosphere that they bring into the hotel that makes the difference. And with connecting I don’t mean the professional and helpful smile I get when I ask a question. It’s connecting from heart-to-heart. From one human being to another. Sharing a joke or a laugh, a concerned look when you share that your child is sick at home. The singing waiter can be a memorable experience to come back for, if the singing waiter is genuinely enjoying what he’s doing, radiating with fun and connecting to others, in stead of doing a daily routine like the pianoplayer in the lobby. I believe orchestrating experiences to deliver something new, only lasts for a short time and doesn’t create the loyal guest that returns and returns. We all know and feel that a theatre play is not real, however nicely performed. Or are you the kind of person that likes to see the same show over and over again? It’s fake or real that makes a the difference. Can you tell the difference between a real and fake smile in the picture? (Pine & Gilmore also realized this when they wrote their other book “Authenticity”, 2007)

Still, stafftraining for Hospitality Industry is often focussing on doing things right and in the same (our) way. A very logical left brain way of doing things. This results in professionalism with a bit of a distance, easy to measure and control,but leaving very little room for acting out of the box.

So how to get this genuine personal touch into the picture?

Work on well-being, happiness and playfulness with your staff. Playful Training will allow them to open up, connect with others from their own selves and dare to come up with creative ideas to engage with the guests in new and memorable ways that come from their hearts.

Let me hear what you think.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen (Playful Facilitator & Speaker of 21st century Leadership Skills)

Look what happened after a two day Joy-Care Leadership workshop that I delivered with www.ha-p.com for the management of Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore. A few participants dared to take the initiative of organizing this ‘Coffee Break Dance’ where colleagues share the fun of leaving their comfortzone. Do you think the laughter is fake (orchestrated) or genuine (from the heart)?

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