Too often, organizations settle for one-size-fits-all training. They simply don't have the time or money to create unique, customized programs for each learner. But the consequence is that they always seem to have a few people in each training session who really don't need to be there.
For instance, if, during your “needs analysis,” you find that people within the organization need time-management training, it probably makes sense to design a training program around it. However, it certainly doesn't mean that everyone needs this training … only that it's something most people need. So what usually happens? We create a time-management training course, and have everyone participate — even when we know for a fact that some people don't need to attend. And managers say they want the entire team to attend, just so they're all on the same page.
Sending people to training they don't need devalues the training and demotivates your highest performers. We ought to be able to exempt some people from certain training. If people don't need it, they shouldn't have to attend.
I know it doesn't seem fair to have some people attend training and not others, but let’s face it: different people have different strengths and weaknesses. Our ultimate goal is to create training programs that add value to the organization and to individual professional lives, so we have to figure out a way to exempt people from our training.
Here are two things managers can try:
First, conduct pre-tests. Assess employees' skills based on the learning objectives of your training program. Anyone who already has the skills you plan to address doesn't need to attend. In fact, they should get some form of credit for passing the pre-test or recognized for possessing those skills, not unlike the people who attend and successfully complete a class.
Secondly, offer training programs as entirely voluntary, so only people who want to attend will attend. This may not ensure everyone who needs the training will get it, but it will certainly ensure you have people in your class who want to learn and exempt those who don't need it.
It would be great if we really could customize our training offerings down to the individual, but that's honestly hard to do. However, what we can do is set up a process that allows people to somehow opt-out of training that we find is “needed.” Allowing people to opt-out of training, is a simple way to customize the training we offer down to the individual level? How do you customize training in your organization? Comment below with your ideas.
Bill Cushard, Director of Training and Development at Allonhill, is a learning leader with more than 12 years of experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable. Image used courtesy of ASTD.
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user arctanx.tk