Training should be beneficial, not a burden. Unfortunately, many see training as being forced to sit and take notes while someone else talks. If you'll pardon the pun, sticking strictly to this method is "old school."
As with any educational endeavor, workplace training is most effective when it engages learners in ways that appeal to them.
During a recent conversation with the training coordinator of a large manufacturing company, I learned that many of that company's seasoned employees - those who have been working there for 25+ years - distain any kind of training. They view it as something the company must do so it doesn't get sued, not as something that can help them in their work.
This is evidenced in their in training feedback comments with statements like, "I just want to do my job and retire. Stop making me attend training classes."
No doubt many factors contribute to such resistance to learning. But, from a trainer's perspective, I'd guess a lot of that resistance comes from the format of the instruction they're receiving.
Let's face it: People in their 50's and 60's sitting in a class with someone half their age elaborating on a topic the employee has been doing since before the instructor was born can be rather taxing.
Perhaps it's time some companies reconsider how training gets delivered.
The Common Paradigm
Most of us have a picture in our heads that's been there since early childhood:
1. Learning occurs in a classroom with someone more knowledgeable than us providing information, and
2. we sit and sponge up the material.
With decades of this as our conditioning, it's only natural for us to believe that this is how training occurs.
While that method of instruction certainly has its place, it also has its limitations. As a result, in recent years we've seen a rise in more interactive training. The now-common "ropes course" activities are one result of that change.
But while such activities are good at engaging learners in topics such as management, leadership, and teambuilding, they're not too appropriate for teaching annual refresher classes on workplace safety.
Reiterating that training should be beneficial and not a burden, a simple way to engage even the most seasoned employee in a classroom environment is to change the training delivery method.
Switch from 'Teaching' to 'Facilitating'
To someone unfamiliar with the differences between teaching and facilitating, here are some simple definitions:
In teaching, students focus mostly on the instructor. In facilitating, the instructor draws out and builds on the experiences of the students.
Think of it this way: A teacher is viewed as the person supplying information and is the central figure in a classroom. Learners are supposed to tune in and absorb what the teacher has to say.
A facilitator does things differently. He tunes in to the interests, attitudes, and experiences of the group. Then, with the learning objectives in mind, he poses questions to stimulate meaningful dialog and discussion in the direction of those learning objectives.
Done right, learners explore their past experience and previously-formed conclusions while they answer the questions or solve the problems offered up by the facilitator. Ideally, learners begin posing questions back and forth to each other.
Perhaps we could say teachers do more telling, facilitators do more asking. We might also borrow a phrase used in training sales people; "if you say it, the customer can doubt you, but if the customer says it, it's got to be right."
Because there's a big difference in these instructional methods, we have to be careful who we select as instructors. Facilitators can't be trying to prove that they're subject-matter experts. They simply need to set the stage for students - even 60-year old students - to learn through their own thinking process, not "because the instructor said so."
Bottom line, if using old, canned presentations have resulted in stale training, perhaps it's time to try a different brand of instruction. Depending on the subject matter and the type of learners you have, a facilitation method may produce much better results.