There might be a good reason why £1000s is spent every year on training that people don’t remember and don’t use when they get back to their day job…
I’ve just created a session for a client and had to be pretty challenging. Why? Well because I don’t think we can ignore good science…and so I’m not going to give them the “day in the classroom” they had originally wanted. This is because it is pretty soul destroying for a professional people developer (and value destroying for a business) when your training doesn’t actually change anything back in the business.
A guy called Frank Dempster was equally depressed when he wrote “The Spacing Effect: A Case Study in the Failure to apply the results of Psychological Research” – He was spending his time wondering why on earth everyone was still persisting in teaching everything all at once in a classroom…and then wondering why no one could remember it – rather than spacing out the learning…most expensive business schools for example…
Every bit of research I can find (please do shout if you find a different bit that disproves it !) says that we hardly retain anything that we learn on a training course, unless something happens afterwards. For those of you who know a bit of science Ebbinghaus started in in the 1850s with his forgetting curve and McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger built on it in the 80s and 90s with their 70:20:10 model. I’ve attached the scribbles I did on a flipchart to explain these to this post in case that helps.
I asked for a quick show of hands amongst my contacts. These are great people in brilliant UK and Worldwide businesses. Many say that they are still tasked with running courses that they personally don’t think will change things that much on the ground because not enough time/cost/effort has been put into what will happen with the delegates leave the classroom.
I devised a training programme recently and experimented. I spent 70% of my time and the organisation’s supporting the learning outside the classroom. With amazing results. The classroom element of the training cost £20k. A conservative direct return was delivered of £420k. When I say “conservative”, I excluded any examples of learning that translated into profit that was not absolutely directly attributable or crystal clear. Without those (pretty ruthless) exclusions it seemed to have impacted the business to the tune of more like £4m…What ??!!
So what was different? Firstly, I insisted that every line manager of every delegate attending did what I call a GROW to embed learning with their people. I’ll do another post on this but basically line managers have a discussion before one of their team goes on a course using the G and R of the GROW model and the O and W when the team member gets back to the day job. I also insisted that every delegate had to find a way to practise the skill immediately in their day job. This particular session was about having difficult conversations. I also asked their line managers to discuss the financial implications of having that conversation and to record the direct financial impact. I provided an opportunity to share learning and coach at a later date.
So what sort of things gave that return ? Just a few examples were fraud being uncovered and resolved, sick leave being ended earlier than expected, employees staying rather than leaving and so on
This is why at Tea Break Training we focus on sessions that absolutely minimise the time in the classroom – great news for small businesses in particular because time out is time away from the job getting done in some cases.
We use smart techniques during the training session itself and in the days and weeks following to “top” up the learning several times. This means that the Ebbinghaus curve – which shows how we are wired to forget, rather than to remember – doesn’t happen as often for my clients. If you look at the scribble below that I did for the client showing the curve, the interventions I inserted into the training are the numbers 1-6 on that Ebbinghaus picture.
We do this through integrating short, sharp coaching into the session, asking delegates to share their learning afterwards, actively encouraging real life practise and insisting on reflection (If you have not read the HBR report on the increase in performance obtained by reflecting and not just doing, please do !)
Let me know if you want to be part of our ongoing and never ending experiment in how to make learning really stick! We are proving every day for clients that those sort of ROI numbers we first experienced weren’t a fluke…and those of you who know me well, or know your science and research, know that I’m not likely to be proved wrong…