There are few things more disheartening—and common—than hearing people bemoan training when I have built my career around that very thing. But because I am a trainer, I also completely understand why others feel this way. I spend a lot of time in trainings. You don't hate trainings because you aren't “in the know”; a good trainer hates bad trainings too.
So what are the pitfalls of training? While they vary depending on the topic, the audience, the location, and about one million other factors, I've distilled it down to a list that I will explore this week and next.
Checkbox Approach These are trainings that have to get done because the higher-ups say so. Often, that's the only explanation given. Too frequently, even the trainer says something like “I know, I know, but we gotta do it...” That doesn't exactly motiavate the masses. While there are trainings that are required in certain work places, if that is how anyone involved approaches them, they are almost guaranteed to fail. After two very high profile Supreme Court cases in 1998, sexual harassment training has become ubiquitous in the work place. Not necessarily good sexual harassment training, mind you. But training none the less. And around a topic like that, you want buy-in. But you cannot expect those receiving the training to buy-in if the trainer and those hosting the trainer are not buying in. This means that even if you are not training, but hiring a trainer to work with your people, you have a critical job:
Prepping the audience for best outcomes When I taught sexual health education to middle schoolers, I would often arrive on my first day hearing the teacher from the classroom door as I approached. “Now I know this is going to be awkward, but we have to do it.” “I know you don't want to do it, but get over it.” Inspiring, huh? This sets me up for failure. A skilled trainer can work to recover, and I have definitely done that many times over the years. But starting in the red with people is not ideal. If you are bringing a trainer in for your organization, your work is to motivate the group to get something out of the training you paid for. Tell them why it is important. Tell them why it will be beneficial. Believe in the training you are providing to them. And of course, that is easier to do when...
You hire a solid trainer We have all sat through bad training. It happens. But it can happen less if you take the time to vet your trainer when you're hiring them. I know this takes more work, and I know you may not know what to look for in a trainer (and that will be a separate blog post, coming soon!). But probably the trainer you're engaging calls him or herself an expert. But are they? A lot of independent consulting trainers, non-profits with a training arm, and for-profit consulting training firms like to throw that word around, but when you dig deep, their trainers are anything but. I have seen “expert” trainers in the domestic violence field who have never worked a domestic violence case, from any angle. I've seen “expert” trainers hired to help teachers who have never had their own classroom. Anyone can learn facts and statistics and read them from a slide—including you, and your team. Hire someone who has more. Sure, the trainer knows 1 in 3 women experience intimate partner violence, but can they answer a specific question about the process of obtaining a protective order or how the local shelter system operates? You are the client. You can ask them what they know, how they know it, and how they educate. The “how” of their work is called
...their pedagogical approach, and it super matters! A good trainer will have a lens through which they approach their work, other trainers/facilitators/educators they admire and follow, and can describe their approach to you and why they choose that one. Ask them about it! Why did they put that activity in that part of the training? Why do they use PowerPoint? Why not? How do they go about arriving at their curriculum? How do they evaluate their efficacy? We will delve more into how to hire a trainer in a later post, but start with these. A trainer who will be enthusiastic and engaged with your organization will be excited to talk about their work.
Do you want a *truly* expert training for your team? Visit our training page to find seek&summon's areas of expertise.