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.

Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning

What’s the difference or relation between Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning?

I’ll try to explain how I see it (at this moment).

violinPlay is an act, something that we (can) do. We can play with objects, play a game, play tennis or the violin, play a role, etc. Scholars say that Play has these following traits; “PLAY must be intrinsically motivated, you must be free to play (it has no utilitarian function), you don’t know the outcome, it is outside your ordinary life and it must be fun.” (Gwen Gordon)

play, playfulness bookPlayfulness on the other hand is not an act, but rather something that we are. It’s (as Bernie deKoven mentiones) inherited. It’s in our nature to be playful. And nature in itself is playful (Alan Watts). Bateson describes Playfulness as a positive moodstate, from where the act of playful play starts. It’s this moodstate that we see in young children much more often than in adults, who are told to act serious instead of playful. Only when we are really happy, in love or a bit typsy on alcohol, we cannot hide our playfulness anymore. It breaks through the surface of ‘behaving’ and reveiles itself as a force of our nature. No doubts: We ARE playful.

Some Play-practicioners, like Bernie de Koven, choose the path of purposeless play in the sense that pure play shouldn’t have a purpose or goal. It’s the act of play itself that’s fun and rewarding.

In Playful Learning things are a bit different. Learning games and experiences are designed to meet certain learning objectives. So it’s not play in itself that’s the goal, but the learningobjective is. In this case, Playful Learning is a mean towards reaching a desired outcome. This in itself seems to contradict with the ‘you don’t know the outcome’ of play.

I am passionate about Play AND Learning. So I develop playful experiences connected to objectives that are important to my clients. For example, a client asked me to deliver training to improve their performance at a businessfair. I designed games and exercises to raise awareness about groupenergy, connecting to strangers using status, collaboration, daring to ask for an order, etc. The client was surprised and delighted at how effective the team worked together (just after 2 sessions of 0,5 day) and delivered a peakperformance.

For me the learning that comes out of the playful exercises is more natural and much more powerful and longerlasting than traditional training. The participants are invited to make sense of their personal experiences, thus creating individual learning with possibly very different outcomes for different people. It’s teachless teaching in the sense that I don’t teach knowledge. I create playful experiences and invite my participants to make some sense out of them. And they find out: There’s sense in non-sense!

I also create Play Missions that don’t have any other purpose than to just enjoy doing them. And by doing them uplifting the energy of the player (and it’s surroundings).

So I haven’t yet made up my mind to what category of Play-practicioners I belong to. The ones that see pure Play as a goal in itself, or the ones that see Play as a mean towards reaching a goal. I play both 🙂

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen
Playfulness & Playful Learning

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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