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.

How my quest for Playfulness began…

high wire“Play is not the opposite of Work. Play is the opposite of Depression.” (Brian Sutton-Smith)

A lucid dream came to me in my late twenties, when undergoing a holistic massage during a phase of burnout in my career as a corporate sales- and managementtrainer. Here’s what I saw; I am standing way up high in a circustent. Feeling very nervous about the thing I am about to do. I have told the people that I will make the pass on the high wire, ofcourse without a safetynet (who needs a safetynet!). I see the people far below me stretching their necks to look up to me. I do make it to the other end, sweating and exhausted from anxiety. When I am on the other side, I get this moment of deep insight. I recognize my constant and stressful struggle to raise the bar to attract attention and distant admiration from others. I now feel strongly, that I don’t want this anymore. It is costing me too much energy and not delivering me the real connection to others that I long for. I suddenly realize that I want to go on a swing instead, being able to look other people directly and on a same level in the eyes, and have some relaxing FUN.

serious playThe first thing I did was to pick up my love for acting, so I joined an Improvisationgroup in Eindhoven (Netherlands). Improvisation learned me a lot about being in a playful state and our weekly training did me very well. I felt happier, more connected to myself and others, more creative and resilient. And today (almost ten years later) I’m still having this weekly dose of Playful Fun.

It was not untill 2010 that I thought of making a connection between my work as a corporate trainer and my actingexperience with improvisation. When I attented my first Applied Improvisation Network Conference, it felt like I was coming home at last. Since then, a lot of wonderful things have happened. My quest for Playfulness is leading me to bringing Playfulness (and it’s benefits) to the workplace.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(Annemarie Steen is working as a playful learning designer & facilitator)