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Engineering Management


Training Gone Wrong


Aug 10 2018

Things to avoid when investing in training for your team

When I was a teenager I had a summer job that required CPR training. The session lasted a few hours and consisted of video tutorials, live lectures, peer interaction, and practicing CPR on a dummy in a simulated emergency. All things considered, it was a positive learning experience. And I just might be able to save a life with what I learned!

That was my first experience in a corporate training setting. Many years later, I’m working at a training company specializing in the latest training techniques and helping to create effective learning experiences for corporate and academic communities. Over my 10 years at SolidProfessor I’ve had the pleasure of helping hundreds of organizations implement successful training initiatives for employees in a corporate setting, and for students in an academic setting.

Often times, these organizations share horror stories of training initiatives gone wrong before becoming SolidProfessor members. Their loss can become your gain. Here’s five examples of what NOT to do when it comes to training your team. Hopefully you can learn from their mistakes and save your organization from a training disaster.

 
  1. The classic “Info Dump”
 

The “Info Dump” is a classic mistake and a common trap that many good-intentioned training programs fall into. It usually consists of a large dedicated chunk of classroom time, a trainer lecturing to the students hours at a time, and minimal time for digestion of said content, as well as actual implementation of the material being learned.

Just because information gets dumped on students doesn’t mean it gets absorbed. In fact, studies show that as little as 5% of information is retained in lectures! Unfortunately for companies, this is a very costly proposition, both because of the high-cost of a training expert and lost time for travel, being out of office, and the downtime expense of the employees. It’s also no bargain for the employee attending the training. Imagine being sent to training and being counted on to learn a new software only to retain 5% of that material once you get back to your desk. OUCH!

 
  1. Train once and retain… forever?
 

This is a derivative of the “Info Dump” trap above. This one is really important over time as new technologies, new software, and new processes expand throughout an organization. Whether you’re a seasoned CAD designer working at a company or you’re a tenured University professor, you have to dedicate time to personal skills development and professional development. What you learned 10 years ago is different than what you need to know today. Training done once, years ago, isn’t enough for the long term.

Unless you spend dedicated time training on new techniques and skills, you won’t magically develop them. Sure, you can “grind through it” and “get by,” which is what most organizations default to, but the cost of that unproductive employee time is a major strain on both the organization and the employee. Keeping your skills up to date make you a more efficient and more essential employee, impacting the organization’s bottom line.

 
  1. The messy materials mistake
 

This is usually a symptom of DIY training accumulated over time. Large organizations we work within the corporate engineering space are especially susceptible to this trap because there are many sources of documented training and process material from internal and external sources. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself? Disjointed PowerPoints, handouts with pages missing, SharePoint materials that are hard to locate, home-made videos with dogs barking in the background (not a joke, I’ve actually seen this in a professional training tutorial).

The bottom line, the quality of your training material matters. Seems like an obvious statement, but we’ve found it to be essential for an effective learning strategy, especially if the strategy involves self-paced content. The worse the learning experience is for the learner, the faster they’ll tune out, prioritize everything else above it, and the lower the retention rate. Make sure your training material is interesting, engaging, easy to locate and access as this will make a big difference for the number of people who may now be interested in training and also for how well they retain and keep with the information.

 
  1. New training, old habits
 

What’s the use of investing in training if you continue to do things the old way, with the old process? Seems like this wouldn’t be an issue, but we see it time and time again. Why? Old habits are hard to break. They’re especially hard to break if your training experience was anything like the ones above, in which case you probably didn’t retain much and it’s likely a lot easier and quicker to fall back into old patterns than re-learn the new techniques again.

Organizations need to recognize this as a reality and support the use of new skills. We’ve worked with companies that have invested in training for a new software version only to delay the actual implementation of that software! Or even train their team on new ways of doing things, only to stick with the same old processes. In these scenarios, employees have no choice other than NOT using their new skills and talents. Reinforcing new skills and training is a key part of learning and encouraging the use of new skills will directly impact the ROI you get from your training investment. Don’t make the investment if you aren’t ready to follow through.

 
  1. No dedicated time, don’t expect ROI
 

I recently spoke to a VP of engineering who was proud to consider his company a ‘supporter of skill development and training’ for all employees. When I asked what resources and time are made available for skills development and how those efforts tie into the bottom line…crickets.

At a young age we’re taught that actions speak louder than words and it’s no different for a corporate training program. If you say you’re supportive of professional development but don’t (a) dedicate time for training, (b) provide the necessary resources to improve skills that directly impact a job function, and (c) monitor and track the training by your team over time, then I’d be willing to bet you don’t have a clue how effective professional development is in your organization. Look for training solutions that can be easily integrated into a typical work schedule. eLearning and self-paced solutions are ideal for this, especially if they include tools for tracking employee engagement and provide some sort of certification or badging to measure outcomes.

Learn from these mistakes

Don’t let these bad habits seep into your company’s training initiatives. Learn from these mistakes and make sure your employees are set up to retain the information they’re learning, have the necessary time to put it to practice, and that it’s an engaging learning experience so that they’ll want to continue training and developing the necessary skills to have a positive impact on your business’ bottom line.

Learn how SolidProfessor can help you build an effective and engaging training program for your engineering team.

Matt May
Matt May

About the Author

Matt May

SolidProfessor Director of Sales and golf addict.