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4 Tips to Retain Attention from a Learning and Performance Specialist

Dr. Paula Cruise specializes in measuring learning and performance outcomes and developing bespoke learning/performance approaches. In her two-pronged approach, she examines the effectiveness of existing systems to develop new approaches and then examine their effectiveness.

Q. What differences have you found in performance between traditional and e-based systems?

Performance varies between the two depending on what is being assessed, how frequently it is being assessed, frameworks used in assessment and the relation between learning outcomes and on-the-job performance.

For example, there are differences in the success of learning approaches if knowledge versus specific tasks versus attitudes are being targeted.

Training courses on diversity management at work tend to fall victim to this because giving employees the information is often used as a sufficient index of learning with less attention paid to demonstration of knowledge in day to day working.

Q. What are a few quick tips that you’ve found to help keep the attention of your audience?

  1. Determine knowledge level and expectations before training
  2. Present core information immediately followed by practical, role-relevant activity
  3. Use multiple stimuli to prevent boredom
  4. Use team-pods rather than boardroom or classroom layouts

Q. What is the advantage of using team-pods over traditional boardroom or classroom layouts?

They are more representative of an open-plan office style so they reflect how employees are likely to share information and solve problems in a practical way.

On a training course, team pods help candidates to engage more readily – something that is near impossible in a boardroom setting as access to a wide range of people is limited.

Q. Is there any particular experience that really sticks out in your mind as memorable?

Hmm… had to really think about this one. A few years ago I was invited to be an observer in a team-building exercise for a medium-sized consultancy firm. There were 4 teams with 6 members each who were all equal in job level. The task was to build a bridge using toy construction pieces and a very specific set of instructions.

None of the teams got it right, but the head of the unit declared it a success and indicative of how the team performed as a unit. However in my feedback I stated that the company would have probably learnt more from observing the teams’ interaction in a pub.

Q. If you remember, what was the objective at the end of the exercise?

The objective of the exercise was for team members to learn more effective working styles and understand that each member brought something unique to a project.

Q. What exactly went wrong?

• The task was not a realistic representation of a piece of work the team would likely engage in. Hence neither process nor outcome are indicative of work experience.

• The situation was fabricated hence behaviors are also skewed. Instructions that are too specific do not reflect the way we brainstorm to solve problems or create solutions. Having no opportunity to verify and synthesize information makes the context even more sterile.

• The objective of the exercise was announced at the end so a number of individuals questioned the relevance, applicability and overall value of the exercise. As a result, very few people could say definitively what they learned. It stuck in my mind because these activities are fairly common for organizations. If the learner asks “what was the point?” learning has not been facilitated and the company has wasted time and money.

Q. What have you found to be the greatest challenges in the training profession today?

_1. Organizations buying into the idea that the value of training is more than just the actual cost of it.

2. Sole E-learning approaches are most successful for the transfer of knowledge not skills.

3. Training strategies for leadership/succession planning need to be both functional and relational-based. Success in one does not translate to success in the other._

Q. How do you get leaders to buy-in to training initiatives and to understand the value of training? What can other trainers do to fill this gap?

Before I start to develop any solutions I ask four questions:

_1. What distinguishes a graduate/manager/exec member of this organization from the competition?

2. How does the target role fits into the organization’s strategic vision?

3. How do they envision training?

4. If they could choose 3 core competencies of a leader steering the company to 2020 what would they be?_

I generally find when companies identify deficits in the above for themselves they are more likely to buy into developmental initiatives. However when training is perceived as a check-box exercise it becomes a tedious process for learners, trainers and organizations.

Trainers can take a top-down approach rather than just targeting competency deficits as identified from performance appraisals/organizational growth efforts. There needs to be better connections between the impact of the skills deficits on organizational, team and individual performance as a whole.

Q. Do you have parting words of advice for future trainers?

• Keep abreast of changes in your field. It’s obvious when a trainer is as passionate about his or her own learning. • Be able to adapt to different learning styles. Everyone doesn’t learn from the same methods. Know your audience before you train. • Don’t be afraid to challenge popular trends and buzz concepts. Knowledge and approaches are not advanced by compliance. • The best trainers are those that make the session fun…. people learn best when they have enjoyed the experience.

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