If your team groans when training day rolls around, you don’t have to despair. By shifting your perspective and opening some additional channels for learning, you can make work training a positive and engaging element of everyone’s job.
Why do people hate training?
There are plenty of legitimate reasons your employees hate training.
It’s too much information at once.
It’s hard to maintain attention as a passive listener.
Much of the information is irrelevant to their jobs (or they see it that way).
After class, no one will ever mention this training again.
There’s no career benefit, such as bonuses or advancement.
They actually have a lot of work to do, and they want to avoid staying late.
Even if none of these points apply to a particular workshop, people who’ve been through poorly planned classes in the past will expect the same from yours.
So what can you do to help your team love training again?
Stop thinking of it as “training.” It’s about mastery.
According to Daniel Pink, author of Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the pursuit of mastery is one of our key motivators. If you think about how you practice a hobby and the satisfaction you get from getting better at something you love to do, you’ll understand that motivation.
People can feel desire for mastery at work, too. In fact, we know from research that people want to grow their job skills and deepen their interest in work when they do so.
But when you switch your goal from training to mastery, you have to go beyond the classroom presentation or video course. You have to plan for how employees will use what they’ve learned and help them practice it until they’ve achieved some level of ability.
At that point, your team will probably not even think of the process as “training.” They’ll just feel the great satisfaction of getting better at their jobs and ask for more.
Align mastery with value.
If you think of the abilities you’ve worked to master in your life, you’ll find they’ve had some value to you. They give you pleasure, help you make more money, confer prestige, or make your life easier.
Your employees want to work on the same kinds of skills. That means that your training can no longer be “one-size-fits-all.” You have to understand what each person values based on his or her natural preferences, job roles, and career aspirations.
You have to step outside the rigid classroom and find more fluid channels to mastery.
Weave mastery into the work.
Starting at the age of 5, we understood that classrooms are where you learn. But that’s a myth, of course.
We absorb new experiences all the time, inside classrooms and out. So as you broaden your concept of training toward mastery, widen your options for learning channels and make them an integral element of your team’s daily activities.
Here are some ways to do it:
Learning from more experienced colleagues is interactive, social, and relevant. And Millennials love to learn this way, according to recent research from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Mentors don’t have to be long-term career coaches. People can work together on a particular skill or project, or peers can help each other reach a specific goal then move on.
Stretch assignments ask your employee to tackle a new challenge – something which requires a skill just beyond their current abilities.
The immediate, relevant objective of successfully completing the project, combined with the potential for career growth will motivate your folks like no classroom training ever could.
You can also match up mentors with stretch assignments to provide support and ensure employees don’t struggle and get discouraged as they grow.
Having people learn skills relevant to other job roles may seem counter-intuitive, but cross-training can be a great motivator. Trying out a completely different job adds some diversity to your team’s day, which will stoke their interest in the business.
They might also find new kinds of work they truly enjoy, and if anyone is thinking about making a career move, cross-training offers a “try before you buy option.”
A recent article in Training Industry notes that cross-training increases employee engagement while improving productivity and reducing turnover. When employees can fill in for each other across departments, you have a more resilient workforce in times of stress, and they have the satisfaction of mastering new and interesting abilities.
Give employees the responsibility.
When you switch from offering training to supporting mastery, the associated activities are no longer “something HR is making us do.” Employees become more active in their own development, which in turn increases the motivation.
As a recent Association for Talent Development article notes, when people are involved in the decisions about how they spend their days, they’re much more engaged with their work.
That doesn’t mean you, as a manager, abdicate your role as leader and adviser, but you ask your team to own their advancement and take accountability for following through.
But what about the mandatory trainings?
Sometimes, you just can’t let employees take the wheel. There may be a mandated compliance class or required sexual harassment training (which you don’t want people to learn by experience).
But you can still find ways to make these classes more valuable and less intrusive.
- Make the training an objective that gets dedicated work time, not a task to squeeze in after hours.
- Break up the training into shorter modules that can be completed once a day or once a week, so people don’t face several hours of classroom sitting at once.
- Link the training with work objectives, bonuses, or career advancement and follow through.
- As a manager, take the training yourself, explain why it’s important to you, and follow-up afterward to answer questions.
Required trainings often force you back into a “one-size-fits-all” framework, so you may have to ask your team to follow your example of taking them seriously and giving them undivided attention.
But if the rest of your program focuses on mastery, folks won’t have time to grumble; they’ll be looking forward to meeting their mentors about that new stretch assignment they’re about to tackle.