When conducting a training class in Australia recently, I noticed a number of typical training class rules being broken. Horrors! The room was smaller than all the books say it should be. There were breaks on top of breaks shortening learning time and there were crazy things like SNAKES brought into the class! For many a rule oriented, by the book trainer, it would have been a tough environment in which to learn, much less to transfer knowledge and skill. However, on the contrary, this class was amazing, powerful; bonding for all involved, and created even more “take-aways” than a college class would have. Here’s why, in training adults at the office, it pays to break the rules AND which ones this company broke with pleasure and outstanding results!
Rule: People Should Have Room to Move
Depending upon the activities the instructor will lead, there is some truth to people needing room to move around. But, too much room and the energy in the class is lost. Are there the standard three feet between your team tables? Are people stuffed in the room like sardines? Tight spaces contain energy. Dry material in a tight space might land better than in a room that resembles a football field. Size matters also in acoustics. Can the back row hear you? Can those in the back see the trainer’s eyeballs? How can you engage employees in a training class when the instructor is barely visible and miles away on the other end of a long room? The final reason for tight spaces? Team members tend to bond over common complaints. Make it tight and they’ll tell their neighbor there’s not enough room. What better way to get those who don’t know each other, to start talking?
Rule: Only Serious Content Allowed
Some corporations have made this mistake by bringing in a trainer who has status or a speaker who is “famous” to that group. They are dry and boring as all get out but used to be the world leader of ACME widgets. This rule is about training classes, not keynotes. Boring keynotes don’t work either, but if the wisdom is profound, people will stick around. Training is different as you need them to have rolling cycles of learning including serious emotions and humor, followed by serious, then humor. Break it the heck up and they’ll learn more. This program I did in Australia included a birthday party, a nerf gun shoot out, an insane asylum (see picture) break out all at impromptu, unscheduled breaks. I even took them on an unexpected field trip to play with markers and post-its. Don’t worry, the content was still serious and the “take aways” very real, but they had fun. Adults learn more when they’re having fun and the truth is: If they don’t have to pay attention all the time, they’ll pay more attention at the RIGHT time.
Rule: It All Must Be Relevant
Now this rule actually holds true. It’s how one makes the training material relevant that makes all the difference. In your workplace, if the instructor is sticking only to work examples, relevant means they need to apply the information to real scenarios that exist in their real world, not the executive level office suite. This creation of relevant learning and application is always up to the trainer and must occur. How do you do it? Could you also apply something to people’s lives? Everyone has a life, or most everyone. Could you take something silly and make it relevant so that your silly example sticks in the minds of the learners? In Australia, one of those impromptu breaks involved snakes. Yes, real live, moving, squishy snakes. I stood on a chair! Ha! Then, I also at some point used the reactions to the snakes as an example of reactions to stress. “Stressed out by a snake, it triggers your stressed out reactions. Do those reactions make you difficult or reacting to a normal trigger? Now think of your difficult people as snakes…”you get the idea and it was the appropriate context at the time. Yes, training must be relevant, but using myriad ways to make the training relevant is paramount in importance and key to long term retention and learning.
I hear employees and leaders complain about boring training classes often. They describe dry instructors and dryer material and are so excited to hear that one of our key priorities is to engage and actually entertain the group. If adults are bored and free to move around and get up and leave and have no interruption in the amount of attention they must pay, your training dollar gets lost. More importantly, the boost in results you were looking for in that training program don’t happen as fast. Break the rules, let the mayhem ensue in manageable ways and watch the participants truly engage…. and then use what they’ve learned in that training class. Isn’t that the point of training them in the first place?
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!
P.S. Thank you Synchron for your incredible hospitality and wonderful penchant for breaking all the right rules! Good on ya!