One of my managers asked about the value of classroom training.
The conversation then promptly veered from that topic. Quite honestly – it is something that probably requires more than 30 seconds of conversation.
So this gives me an opportunity to revisit some of my thinking on the value and purpose of the classroom training model.
The problems I see:
– Classroom training is not scalable by
distance, time or human resources – especially when we are staring at a
few projects that will require us to provide training and support for
30,000 including a new China campus. Even if that was part of our
strategy – we won’t have the resources (ie people) in place in time for
us to do that + perform all of the other tasks already on our plate that won’t be (and shouldn’t be) removed. And what about the future?
People say they want classroom training, then don’t bother to show up,
then complain that we can’t do training on their schedule or when they
need it. One of the other managers picked up on this right away.
– There is a level of fear for many adult students as soon as they step into a classroom. Mostly from negative early experience. That environment kicks up a lot of stuff for a lot of people. Highly educated people with multiple degrees forget how to read. A large chunk of my job is fear mitigation. The classroom environment – with its chairs and industrial strength walls and often orderly seating arrangements focused on the “front” doesn’t help.
Our IT organization is moving to a new development model where they are
purposefully sending unfinished products out into the wild. The
developers are setting the proper expectation that they are doing this
to get feedback and quickly implement changes that will make the product
more useful. As a result – training has zero development time and a
dizzying evaluation cycle. Our current models don’t adapt to that.
of us have made a career living the trainers nightmare. Not so sure
that is something I want to inflict on my peers. Classroom training
(particularly for the nervous) works LOTS better when the product is
complete (or really close to it).
– I have learned that
retention is minimal with single events. And research has proven that
out. Some of our more pro-active students will attend the same class
multiple times. I fear that this is a waste of their time. This is why almost all of the training I have designed
in the past has had the sole objective of finding help when you need
it. The other stuff (navigate the system, perform x task) is
secondary. It’s nice if they remember the secondary – but very few ever
Classroom training definitely has its place:
During an implementation as an option for education. We want people to
be comfortable – and if they are comfortable in a classroom, then they should be given the opportunity of the classroom.
When the discussion is needed (IT example) “How do we fit this tool
into our processes?” Or “What improvements do we need to make to our
process?” Ideally – the end-users wouldn’t need to ask these questions
at all because they would have chosen the tool and adapted their
processes to solve the problem the tool is supposed to solve. But I
don’t live in an ideal world.
– When the discussion is needed (soft-skills example) – One of the most effective trainings I delivered was Magic classroom customer service training.
Lots of discussion, interactivity, peer coaching and mentoring designed
in the class. (I still wish I retained the recording of one mock phone
call). The other thing that made that particular effort useful was
higher management support and consistent, daily feedback after the
training. This was also a manageable audience (about 200 people across
Maryland) for the resources we had available (me + 1 other) and it was
done as it could be scheduled for each site on their time
So do I teach them to fish? Or do I give them the fish?
Do I meet expectations? Or give them what they actually need when they have to perform?
Sage on the stage? Guide on the side? Give them access to REAL expertise in the context they are in?
I’m thinking that if we are going to legitimately have a learning environment for staff, one where the staff is constantly learning, one where the staff feels EMPOWERED to reach out and gain expertise – classroom training is only one set of tools in the toolbox – like a crescent wrench set.
You can use the crescent wrench like a hammer, but it is not as good as a hammer.
You can punt if you have the wrong size crescent wrench, with some difficulty.
But to build a house – you need more than just one type of tool.