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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Does training create permanent change?

[Click on above picture to enlarge]

I believe that training is a waste of time if it does not create some permanent change in the trainee. The sad truth is that, a lot of the training courses do not achieve this. Usually, some impression of the learning remains in the trainee’s mind for a while after the course, and then it fades away. [That is, the change in the trainee’s mind is only temporary]. 

I like to use an analogy from materials science to illustrate the concept of temporary change and permanent change.

If a steel rod is bent slightly and then let go, it will regain its original orientation completely. This kind of deformation is called elastic deformation. However, if the same steel rod is bent to a very large extent, then it will not fully regain its original shape even after it is let go. This type of deformation is called plastic deformation.

In the same way, if the training session is moderately effective, it will probably create some temporary change in the trainee’s mind. The change is likely to undo itself as time passes. However, if the training session is rigourous and impactful enough, the trainee will walk away a changed person. Even the passage of time cannot take away the effect of the change. It is as though the trainee’s mental computer chip has been reprogrammed. A training session that brings about this kind of permanent change is truly effective.

Great leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Gandhi had the ability to create permanent change in the minds and lives of people in the course of a single speech. They achieved this kind of change by the force of their personality and the strength of their conviction. It is not reasonable to expect every trainer to be as effective as these leaders. However, all trainers can adopt a few strategies to make the training “stick” – i.e. create permanent change.

My personal strategies to make training stick (i.e capable of creating permanent change):

          - Don’t overload trainees with information. Identify a few key learning points and repeat them over and over, instead of dumping a lot of information. It is better to have a few learning points firmly entrenched in the minds of the trainees rather than providing a lot of learning points with none of them being remembered.

          - Create a very conducive learning environment in the training session and eliminate distractions.

          - Identify if the training is really needed for the trainees. Will they be sufficiently motivated to learn ? Will it make their life better ? Or their jobs easier ? If not, the training session is better avoided. Training that does not cause permanent change is a major waste of resources.

          -  Try to follow up with the trainees a few times after the training session to reinforce the learning. Provide trainees opportunities to apply the learning.

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