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Why your workshops aren’t working

As a (sometimes) trainer, I’m surprisingly cynical about the value of training workshops in changing behaviour. I know I’m not alone in this, and I think I now understand why.

Typically, a client comes to us with a problem in their organisation that they feel training can solve. It might be an issue such as bullying or poor productivity. They have the budget and we design a program for them. We deliver the training but only rarely get to know if it has any impact in the longer term. My experience of human behaviour tells me a short workshop is highly unlikely to have solved the problem it was meant to address in the first place. This is why…

1. We are only treating the symptoms

If I have a headache, I can take some painkiller but unless I change what caused the headache, the pain relief will only be temporary.

If you have poor time management skills, I can teach you a range of techniques. They might help you get more done, but if your real problem is not being assertive enough to say ‘no’ when someone wants you to do something, all I’ve taught you is a smoother route to burnout.

Similarly, we could run a session on bullying, but if your managers lack the emotional intelligence to read their impact on others and know when they are being a bully, not much will change.

2. The wrong people are in the room

Early in my consulting life, I conducted a series of half-day workshops on bullying and harassment for an organisation with around 300 staff. We knew bullying was endemic and it needed to be stopped. We also knew this toxic culture was coming from the top as is, sadly, often the case.

As you may have guessed, although they were scheduled and rescheduled into the workshops, the executive were always too busy and didn’t make it to the training. In this case, we didn’t even get the change to share the basics with them, let alone contribute to a wider cultural change – which is what was really needed.

3. Not monitoring return on investment

On numerous occasions, we’ve been called in to deliver a program for a specific purpose. This is well and good: a need has been identified and it is being addressed. But often there’s something missing.

That something is data. Without knowing how bad the problem is and the evidence that supports our assumption a problem exists, it will be very hard – if not impossible – to know how effective the training intervention has been.

Quite often, organisations choose to save money upfront by not doing a good analysis of their needs. Unfortunately, this attitude guarantees they will have no way of knowing – apart from feelings – if they’ve just thrown more money away on a pointless training exercise.

How do you avoid these traps?

1. Do your homework

Know what you want to achieve. Make sure you have current data that will allow you to track progress over time, and clear goals of what outcomes you would like to see in the future.

2. Choose wisely

Sometimes a workshop is not the best way to achieve your desired outcome. For example, poor morale may be due to one person. Then your decision is to keep or let go, and if you decide to keep the person your next choice is about how to manage their behaviour.

3. Monitor closely

While feedback on the day is essential, usually people are basking in the glow of new information or a day out of the office. What matters more is long term change.You must work out how you will measure this change, it could be anything from fewer incidents to feedback after one month.

By following the steps above, you will be on your way to more effective training in your business.

If you have any further insights or tips, please share them below.

 

About Susan Rochester

BSc MHRM FIML
Susan Rochester has been managing director of Balance at Work since 2006. Susan has a natural tendency to balance analytical thinking with an optimistic outlook to set direction and solve problems. She is an effective facilitator and constantly creates new and more effective ways of doing things, motivated by helping others to achieve their goals.

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