Published on 2012/02/13

Spending Effectively On Training And Development

Spending Effectively On Training And Development
Many companies will fall into the trap of believing that information and awareness will create behavioral change. Photo by Nicu Buculei.

The following is an excerpt from Brent Darnell’s “The People-Profit Connection: How Emotional Intelligence Can Maximize People Skills and Maximize Your Profits”.

Is your company wasting money on training and development? Training, for most companies, is about as effective as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Daniel Goleman refers to corporate training programs as the “Billion Dollar Mistake”. (20) Actually, in the United States, the cost could be much higher than that. According to the American Society for Training and Development, in 2007, corporations in the United States spend $129 billion on training. You would think that spending money on training would be a good thing. But is it? Most training is event based and informational. Participants come to a training event and are given loads of information, usually in the form of a lecture or PowerPoint presentation. Normally, there is very little follow-up or coaching. The facilitators of these events tell you the following: If you can just take one nugget from today, the class will be worth it. I think this is a copout. I call these training events “three-ring binder” programs. I’m sure you’ve attended programs where you listen to an eight-hour lecture and take your three-ring binder home, only to forget what you learned and go back to your normal routine in a few days. You put your three-ring binder on a shelf, and a year later, when you need the binder, you take out the contents and throw them away. I think this approach to training may be a sales scheme thought up by binder manufacturers to sell more binders.

There is one other training phenomenon I have seen repeated over and over. And companies waste millions of dollars each year. They will find a book. I call it the “book of the year”. Some examples of the book of the year are Good to Great, Who Moved My Cheese? The Fifth Discipline, or The One Minute Manager. Don’t get me wrong. These are all great books. The company will hire a keynote speaker for their annual manager’s meeting, and they will listen to a session on the concepts from the book. They will find their hedgehog or talk about finding new cheese or how to be a better manager. There is no application, no follow-up, no learning, and no behavioral change. In a few weeks, it’s back to business as usual, and when the planning committee plans their next company meeting, they decide that the previous book didn’t create any changes, so they try to find the next book. The problem is not in the book. The problem is in the application. These companies fall into that old training trap. They think that information and awareness creates behavioral change. It doesn’t.

These approaches to training are ineffective to say the least. The Vice President of a Federal bank recently told me of an internal group that had horrible communication, personality conflicts, and rampant gossip. They lacked the ability to function well as a team. When I asked about her assessment of the situation, she told me that they were sending them to a ropes course. Now I have nothing against ropes courses. They can be quite entertaining and may ease the superficial issues of such a group for a short period of time. But the underlying issues are never addressed, much less resolved. The emotional competencies that are contributing to the turmoil are not discussed, and there is no fundamental change. The group members tend to revert back to their old ways within a few short days.

If you take a group of construction folks with the typical construction manager’s emotional intelligence profile, and try to teach them some type of interpersonal skill, they may not have the emotional makeup or the right tools to be able to implement what you are trying to teach them. The wiser strategy is to start with an evaluation of their emotional intelligence. This will not only provide a foundation from which to work, but it will allow you to target specific areas for development. You will have laid the proper foundation to ensure that all future training will be applied in a meaningful way.

We use the latest neuroscience to develop program content and delivery so that participants will actually apply the information and create behavioral change. We use hands on, experiential learning, role plays, and discussions in our classroom. We get up and move and do a lot of reflective learning and self-directed learning. In addition, it is vital to include coaching and follow-up. Without accountability, it is human nature to set these development strategies aside. We use the principles in a great book called Brain Rules by John Medina. According to this neuroscientist, the following brain rules apply:

  • Our brains evolved while moving. You have to get people moving in order for them to learn.
  • Emotions more readily create memories that you can recall. We tell lots of stories to reinforce the learning. Jesus taught in parables for a reason. It is easy to remember the lessons.
  • Repeat to learn, learn to repeat. We do many reflective learning exercises throughout our programs and there is continuous follow-up and coaching. We encourage participants to roll this learning into their review processes and meet with accountability partners on a regular basis.
  • Sleep is vital to preparing your brain to learn and retain. We encourage proper sleep and nutrition to prepare your brain for learning.
  • Stress will prevent you from being able to learn. We teach participants how to relax. We also have the cell phone jail. Participants must turn in their cell phones for the day. They can’t get them out of the jail until the end of the session. If you’re worried about an email or a voicemail, it is impossible for you to absorb information from the session.
  • Use all senses. Although vision is the most developed sense, all senses should be used whenever possible. Participants listen to music and have in depth discussions. They perform hands-on, kinesthetic exercises. They practice mindful eating and drinking. They watch videos and look at other visual media. There are stories about students studying for tests while smelling peppermint. When they sniffed the peppermint during the exam, they recalled much more of the information compared to a control group.
  •  Curiosity creates a sense of wonder. People will want to learn if you challenge them and increase their curiosity.

Companies can now stop throwing money away on training that is soon forgotten. By using this EQ methodology to evaluate, measure, and improve these emotional competencies, and by utilizing ongoing coaching and follow-up, companies can create fundamental change from within instead of imparting information that will never be applied.

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Readers Comments

Yancy Oshita 2012/02/13 at 8:45 am

Thanks, Brent, for a timely article. Having participated in corporate training with 7 companies both large and small, I can attest to the “wasting money.” Corporate training and education is ripe for “mass customization”, but most executives (and many educators) talk the talk. But is the recent Walmart parthership with an online educator to provide custom programs (i.e., tailored retail management degrees) a sign of changes ahead, or a one-off? What will it take to get this going on a mass scale?

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