Why does training fail?

Imagine you were doing a bit of DIY in your garage  – putting up a few new shelves, lets say. Mid-way through your project, you went out and bought some new tools.  Rather than unwrapping them as soon as you got home and set to work using them, you thought to yourself “No. I’ll leave them in their packaging and save them until I’m doing a really important DIY job in the house.”

Unlikely, eh? You’d probably want to practise a bit in the garage before heading into the house to do something important and highly visible with  said new tools.

Funnily enough, a pattern of behaviour I’ve noticed a LOT is for training participants to earmark newly learned techniques and skills for a ‘special occasion’…rather than look to put them into practise as soon as possible. 

Using a specific skill set and structure to deliver feedback, for example – a very useful tool indeed – often seems to be put aside for a one-to-one meeting, or a performance review. Active listening skills will be tried out ‘in my next departmental meeting’.  Assertive body language will be attempted ‘when I give my next presentation’.

Two things here: the longer you leave implementation after the end of the training programme (or any new knowledge acquisition) the less likely that implementation is to actually happen. Those new learning tools will stay in their packaging on the garage shelf.

The second thing is….why wait until a crucial moment to bring those skills out? Doesn’t it make more sense to practice in low risk, everyday situations  before embarking on that highly visible front-room project where everyone is going to see the results?

Pick something you’ve learned. Practice the day after your course. Heck, practise on your friends, your family, your dog, on the evening after you’ve finished your course. 

Do something. Test it out. Refine it. So when the big moment comes, you’ll be ready and able, and not looking blankly at a shiny new tool still in its packaging, wondering what to do with it.


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