For years, organisations have invested in training to try and change the behaviour or increase the skills of employees. Most of this training is founded on good models or research, but fails to implement the real mechanisms that are necessary to elicit sustained change.
It’s not rocket science, but it is hard to get training right. And often the superficial economics of training don’t seem to make sense … until you start to count the cost of repeated, ineffectual training.
I’ve undergone two ‘training’ programs in my life that have stayed with me for the better part of 20 years. I think these two encapsulate the best practice I’ve experienced and I’ve tried to integrate into all of my company’s subsequent development and change programmes. Here’s what I’ve picked up along the way.
The first was at a US financial services company, and it was for selection (ie behavioural interviewing). The bar was set high. You couldn’t hire others until you got your recruitment license, so the course was in demand – and it was three days ‘off the tools’. The course make up was 20 per cent theory and 80 per cent practise, feedback and more practise.
Feedback, practise, feedback, practise.
We might not have got the 10,000 hours to achieve mastery, but by the time we left we were as prepared as we could be to select the best people using the most consistent framework. Recruitment is a skill, and as a skill it needs to be practiced. This is true for all skills. Models are useful for understanding the ‘how’, but the only way to get better is to ‘do’ and then be observed (ideally in real time) and then have another go. It’s no wonder organisations are bemoaning the lack of courage of managers to tackle sticky situations. Would you be upset if you put a child on a bike for the first time and it fell off even if the parent had read the instructions?
Tougher! I once had a ‘timelord’ sit with me to look at my personal productivity. She sat with me for two days and A) threw away two bin bags worth of paperwork, and B) set up a productivity system that worked specifically for me. Categories were reflective of my mind and the way I worked (mostly based around the Getting Things Done model). The model was interesting, but customising it to work with me was essential. People are different; we learn differently and respond differently. Only by seeking to understand those differences and unlocking the individual can we hope to see behavioural change.
So, the only way to get a skill is to get people to practise, and the only way to unlock behavioural change is to understand individual motivations and preferences. There’s no doubt it requires more time and more investment, but the returns in sustainability and impact are exponential. Stop expecting people to change or learn just because you tell them to.
Laurie Hibbs is an international HR executive and co-founder of Not Just Another Consultancy (NoJAC), which specialises in re-humanising the workplace and human-centred design.