Reflections on skills training
E-Learning: Why your employees may be left wanting more
By Tiffany Bowles
About 12 years ago, I clearly remember receiving feedback from my mentor that I shouldn’t have told my 12 senior manager course delegates I was going to ‘teach’ them a particular model, that I should have said I’d ‘share’ it with them. I was a bit puzzled as to the difference at the time, but took it on board as another nuance and cultural difference in the new language I’d need to adopt as I moved my mindset from being a class teacher to commercial trainer.
I don’t find it surprising that people sometimes have negative reactions to being taken (metaphorically speaking) back to school, I personally didn’t enjoy school and couldn’t wait to leave. I found the expectation to be one of conformity (everyone doing and being the same), disempowerment, and being forced to learn stuff that I wasn’t really interested in. I’m glad to say things at schools have definitely improved since I was there, but why, when you are choosing how your employees learn a new skill or set of knowledge, would you choose a class based learning experience and risk evoking these kind of associations when you could use E-Learning and give employees control of how and when they learn in an intimate way and in familiar surroundings?
There are some subject areas for which E-Learning is a perfect fit, for example subjects which are very knowledge heavy, or training to use computer applications. And it clearly fits in with our modern way of living, i.e. communicating and connecting conveniently and remotely via a screen. But for the majority of people and the majority of subjects that organisations require development in today, E-Learning will simply provide a short term sticking plaster that covers over the real needs that training should address. For the types of management skills training Getfeedback typically provide to organisations, it is not enough to simply know the theory, it’s actually what you do that counts. In other words it’s about the skills and behaviours, being able to identify what you currently do, what you should do instead, how to make that journey and receive feedback as you progress along the way. By their nature these courses are highly practical and interactive as well as containing relevant and interesting content.
To me learning is a bit like eating – we need it to survive, and if it’s simply a means to an end, anything quickly grabbed and hastily eaten in between other activities will do the job, and often the cheaper and more convenient the better. However eating is much more than this, it can also be highly memorable and enjoyable. I love meals which engage all my senses; they smell wonderful, look delicious and taste divine. They’re not to be rushed, taking time to savour and really explore each new mouthful and that lovely sense of completeness tinged with disappointment when it’s over. Combine this with great surroundings, engaging company, fun and laughter and I think life doesn’t get any better!
Although informal learning (like eating) occurs daily, this is not the case for organised, structured learning (when we recommend our people attend to improve job performance for example) and I believe this type needs to be treated as a gourmet experience for maximum effect. This is the experience I have in mind for my delegates: first and foremost I want the training to deliver the organisation’s aims and their own objectives but after that I want them to relax, enjoy the experience and learn from each other, feel a sense of belonging to the group, have fun and feel that sense of completeness and disappointment when it’s over. They will have new knowledge and skills but more than that they will have had an experience they will remember. And associated with this experience will be the learning they have embedded along side it.
Part of providing an experience is realising that one size does not fit all, in front of me are individuals each of whom needs to be read and responded to at a level and rate that’s right for them. My mentor was right, in this situation I am not a teacher, I am instead a conductor of an orchestra, I’ve brought along the music we’ve committed to playing and while I can guide and illustrate, they are the musicians, they have so many skills already, they are in control of interweaving their sounds and exploring, improvising until it makes sense to them. As a conductor, I aim to bring in all the senses, using visual, auditory, kinaesthetic material, ensuring the music weaves around and meets different learning styles.
But most of all I remember that we are human beings, not computers. We are emotional, over-sensitive, irrational and all the other things we strive not to be. And with emotion comes connections, with emotion comes engagement and with emotion comes deeply associated and embedded memories. My delegates will remember the areas that resonate for them personally, I can’t make them learn. I just set the scene to be relaxed and empowering and allow them to be themselves. I provide information, facilitate and give them gentle, respectful feedback on their skills and they do the rest. They engage, connect and learn.
Can their PC provide all that?
At Getfeedback we have a wide range of core skills training programs suitable for all levels of seniority and experience of managers. We know our courses deliver because our clients tell us they do when they come back year after year. Like me, our hand picked trainers are equally passionate about ensuring the delegates are engaged emotionally as well as mentally. E-Learning is great when used in conjunction with experiential learning but let’s stop the pendulum from swinging too far away from what we know is needed and what works. Talk to us about your training and development needs and we will help you achieve an engaging and memorable experience.
Tiffany is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist specialising in coaching and development. She started working life training and counselling mentally ill offenders before becoming a primary school teacher. Since retraining in occupational psychology 13 years ago, Tiffany has designed and delivered a very wide range of programs from performance management skills and communication skills courses (using NLP techniques) for large corporates and blue chip organisations through to meta-thinking skills workshops on behalf of government to help the young, gifted and talented get into university, and everything in between.