Training: an experience that does not think enough about its “client”.

Few things are as experience-driven as training in the employee’s life cycle.

Because it’s something that we receive thus because it implies an interaction whether it’s with a human being or a digital device or both. Because it is something that we sometimes experience alone but also sometimes in a group and that the pedagogical device also involves interaction with the other participants.

Because it is something that should improve the person who receives it, make him grow, allow him to advance in his career, as a person, as a professional.

Because in the end we come out with things to implement and that implementation is an experience in itself, especially the first few times we do something new or different and see that what we have learned allows us to do it well or better than before.

Training Experience vs. Learning Experience

Hence the fact that companies quickly understood the need to work on their training experience. Which is a good thing but only one part of the problem. Because where some people see a training experience, others see a learning experience, which is something completely different.

There are two things intimately linked here.

First of all, a company that mainly looks at the way it delivers or has its training delivered and the employee who looks at the way he receives it. And it is totally different. It’s a bit like the post service saying “I delivered well” and the customer saying “yes, but late, the package was damaged and the contents damaged”. All the difference between product and process oriented organizations and customer oriented ones.

For the company the need is an “input” and the training is an “output”. It receives input from an existing process that aims to identify the needs, qualify them, put an offer in front of it and plan the execution and the service that deals with this “output” does not deal with the way the “input” is managed.

This brings me to my second point. As this article recently published by Cap Gemini put it:

In many cases, in many businesses, these different functions have become embedded in their individual areas of process expertise. They are each focused on what they put out there, and not on how it is received.”

So let’s go back to the employee’s learning path.

Detecting Learning Needs: The Risk of Misunderstanding

Above all there is a need. The need for training arises from a misalignment between what an employee is capable of doing and what is expected of him today or in the future in terms of career development.

Then comes its identification. It can be done by the employee, by others (manager, HR) or by a system (data, predictive/people analytics).

At this stage you may have an experience bug. When the collaborator identifies a need that cannot be satisfied for reasons that are sometimes not even explained to him. A fortiori when he has the impression that the decision is taken by people far away, who do not know him and his job, or even worse, that his manager has not necessarily supported or even did not transmit his request.

There are also cases where the need has been identified on his behalf. This can be a very good thing, it means that one is proactively thinking about it. It can be much worse when it doesn’t correspond to any need (we have free seats that need to be occupied) or when there are plans for him in the future that are not talked about but for which he is being prepared.

Let’s not forget the cases where advancement is conditional on training/certification, which unfortunately cannot be offered to the employee for this year.

There is also the question of cases that are too granular to be addressed: the traditional “how do we do it”, “how do we use such and such a feature” … which is more akin to peer-to-peer training … as long as such a device exists to identify the right person and take some of their time.

Lets applaud, however, the diffusion of “self-service” devices, whether advanced (with a true logic of pedagogical content) or basic (such as “simple” knowledge bases ), which meet part of the needs that a formalized or even industrialized device cannot handle. As long as we find the time to use them.

The processing of the request

Here we enter into the administrative process of which the persons in charge of training have little awareness and which in any case is not their responsibility as we have seen above.

As a recent study shows:

“The inefficiencies of performing even the simplest HR tasks make getting things done feel like pulling teeth—literallyAbout 1 in 3 employees say they’d rather go to the dentist, do the dishes, wait on hold or sit in traffic than complete HR tasks like submitting and approving PTO requests, reading through HR benefits or compiling and submitting expense reports. The problem: subpar technologies that get in the way of getting work done.”

Sometimes the formalities involved in submitting an application discourage many people from applying. Or they discourage the manager for whom training means paperwork, complications and wasted time. Not to mention the fact that often the information requested is already available in another system. I’m not even talking about paper forms! As is often the case, we are faced with the challenge of simplifying first and then digitizing.

The execution of the training

I won’t even talk about the delay between the request and the training or the fact that the training arrives too late or at the wrong time: there are constraints for which the company cannot be held responsible.

Here we are faced with an insoluble case. Not everyone learns in the same way: some need a classical device, others need something practical or participative. Some are very comfortable at a distance, others are not. Some people like 100% digital devices, others don’t. Some people are very comfortable at a distance, others are not. And not everyone goes at the same speed.

And even if we could take into account the specificities of each person, not all subjects are suitable for all approaches, and just because a person likes to learn in a certain way does not mean that it is the most suitable way to learn in a given subject.

However, if the objective of a training course is to have an impact and not just to burn budgets, the adequacy between the mode of training and the receptivity of the person is still important.

After training: implementation

Of course the least you can do is to ask for feedback from the participants to improve the system and in general it is rather well done.

But then comes what brings the greatest satisfaction to the employee (and value to the company): implementing what they have learned and seeing by themselves the progress they have made.

And at this point we have some surprises.

Training that is useless and will not be implemented, training that is useful but that one does not have the opportunity to implement, training that makes one work or behave differently from others and stigmatizes him/her.

When you put it all together you can see that a satisfying experience involves the alignment and contribution of different functions that usually just do “their” part of the job well.

When training does the splits

There are many topics where it is easy to point out the causes of an unsatisfactory experience and propose simple solutions to quickly improve things (at least initially), but in training, criticism is easy, bringing realistic solutions is less so. In any case not in a short time horizon and with a “reasonable” effort.

At the company level, training is a huge machine that requires a great deal of planning, not to mention all the administrative constraints that weigh on companies. I’ll be told that I only see things from the perspective of a large company, but for small and medium-sized companies it’s worse: there is often not the means to afford the necessary technical expertise to properly manage a training system as a whole.

Training must therefore be balanced between the need for control and structure, which can make it rigid (but stable), and the need for speed and local, or even ad-hoc individual responses. And I’m not even talking about the need to digitize the process from end to end, even if it means delivering certain training courses in degraded mode, because we can’t wait until we have eradicated the virus to send people back to training.

  • A long term vision + identify the needs in real time
  • Thinking in terms of business objectives + declining at the individual level
  • Keep control of the devices and their quality + allow flexible paths mobilizing different media/approaches
  • Plan the necessary capacities and resources + deal with specific, urgent, ad hoc needs with internal, HR and non-HR resources
  • Ensure that the plan is carried out + ensure its impact and make the entire chain accountable.
  • Mastering processes + having a client-oriented approach, ensuring that the entire process is experienced as a service provided, not as a constraint or an obstacle course.
  • Thinking in terms of large masses + addressing individual issues

What can be summarized in :

1°) Need for a new structure with a central organization but responsible interlocutors as close as possible to the employee.

2°) Rethinking the system by putting the employee at the center (design thinking) and no longer the training itself, thinking in terms of reception and not only delivery.

3°) Accelerate the cycle by using data, digitizing the process.

Starting from the employee’s expectations

Let’s go back again to the basics of the Employee experience: the employee expects two things

1°) That he is given the means to do what he is asked to do, when he is asked to do it. Skills are part of it and he will not wait a year and a half to be able to meet current requirements.

2°) To feel that his company makes him progress as a person and as a professional.

Again, let’s be honest: it’s anything but simple and training is one of the most complicated activities to transform and adapt. But it is so vital that you can’t give up without trying.

The good news is that here and there we can see that things are changing, in small steps, but that things are going in the right direction.

Photo : employees in a training session by Robert Kneschke via shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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