Classroom training is pants…. (well not always but sometimes)

lucy-hayward copyIt is such a pleasure to have Lucy Hayward, one of our associates as a guest blogger again. She is an expert in a number of areas, but has been doing some work in Performance Management recently so I thought it would be cool if she gave us her take on the subject. Of course she had to mention pants!!


Classroom Training is PANTS!!! (Well not always, but sometimes.)Pictures - 61

 Hang on a minute, before I talk myself out of a job – please let me explain…..

Recently I’ve been facilitating some workshops on Performance Management. The workshops look at the whole process from recruitment through to conducting formal reviews and uses drama based learning to bring it to life. Lots of fun to facilitate and very informative for the managers involved!

Once we’ve worked through setting clear and measurable objectives and get to the section about “Supporting Performance and Development”. The thing that continues to surprise me, is that no matter how experienced or forward thinking the managers are. They are still relying on scheduled classroom training as the go-to for all learning and development requests from their staff.

But what happens when this “one size fits all” approach of prescribing training doesn’t work or what if there’s just no budget for classroom training?

From listening to the manager’s responses, this usually means their teams don’t receive the development they require. Staff engagement and morale take a bit of a dive, their individual performance dives with it and the overall department ends up at risk of not hitting target!

Granted, a lot of this is due to the heavy workloads and tight time constraints that today’s managers are working to and sometimes it’s just down to a lack of knowledge as to what alternative solutions are on offer!


In today’s world of Learning & Development we have so many options that can open-up the exciting world of learning to so many people.

One of the exercises we do as part of this workshop is to write down as many ways of learning you can think of in just 2 minutes…you would be amazed at how many there are!

Go on, have a go at doing it yourself…. How many did you get? 10? 20? 50?

Here’s a few to start you off (you’re very welcome). In the workshop, we get up to 90!!

  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Lunch and Learns
  • Buddying/Peer learning groups/job shadowing/secondments
  • Writing Blogs/articles
  • On-line learning/join a forum
  • Reading/Self-study/Book clubs
  • Ted Talks/Pod casts
  • YouTube videos
  • Delegating tasks & projects
  • Action Learning Sets
  • Seminars/conferences/networking

How many of these do managers know about and how many do they make available to their staff on a regular basis?

So, the question I want to ask you all is…

When it comes to Performance Management and getting the best out of your teams is the traditional classroom offering always the answer to development requests?

Sometimes Yes, absolutely it is… I’m a facilitator who passionately believes in the benefits of trainer led workshops. I use accelerated learning techniques to ensure they’re linked directly to the organisational needs, they’re results focused and enjoyable for the individual learners. I love my job and the feedback I receive from individuals and organisations lets me know I’m doing it well!

But as managers, you can take control and explore the other (sometimes more cost effective) options. Try creating a learning culture within your teams and encouraging your staff to book an hour out of their day to study! Allowing your teams to access learning materials online so they can take ownership and responsibility for their own learning and development. Empowerment is the key!

Who knows it could take off and spread across the whole organisation…


Does L&D understand their customers?

TM blogs #2This is the second in a series of blogs inspired by David Hayden, at the CIPD NAP(Northern Area Partnerships) conference June 2016, in a short workshop. The title of his workshop was “Is L&D prepared for the Future of Learning?” and the basis of the discussion was around key statistics uncovered in the “Towards Maturity” report of April 2016 “Preparing for the Future of Learning”. David presented around an infographic, part of which is displayed to the right. What was interesting was the “1 in 3” statistic!

It is an often repeated myth that we have a learning preference and we only learn effectively if we are in our preferred mode. However, David Kolb, when he came up with his experiential learning model, said that to learn most effectively, we need to go through every stage! That means we need to:

  • Do something
  • Reflect on it
  • Make sense of it (with theories etc)
  • Apply it to our own situations

Learners are all different, have different interests and are at different stages of learning. People may have preferences but there is no evidence that matching materials or methods to learning style will improve retention. Could you learn how to plaster a wall by listening to an audio lesson if you are an “auditory” learner or if you are a “visual” learner, did you learn how to walk by your mum giving you a powerpoint presentation? I know these are absurd examples but, somehow it does show how absurd the notion of matching learning to a learners style is. It makes much more sense to match what you learn to the type of activity, so that:

  1. If you are learning a skill, you get to learn and practice that skill – make it appropriate. If you are learning customer service skills, you will need to apply them and so here are a few methods you could use: role play, peer observation, video recording, “stop and rewind” role play (get to correct mistakes as you go along)
  2. If you are learning knowledge, then you need to make sure you understand how to make it “stick”. A little knowledge on what makes the brain retain information and put it into long-term memory can help immensley. You can read some of my “5 tips”, in a  previous blog to help with this.

In short:

  • You should design learning with variety
  • Take the learners through the whole of Kolb’s cycle
  • Use some practical neuroscience to help make the learning stick (Recommended good book)

“The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing. If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” (Learning Styles Concepts and Evidence: PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST Vol 9, No. 3 2009)

It’s not about me … it’s you

IMG_1126If you are at the centre of what you do, whether a trainer or leader, you are most likely to push people into what you want them to do. They may well do things under sufferance but the buy in may not be there.

If it’s about them, they have a choice to accept or not. If you genuinely take time to find out what they need, trust develops. So consider this, if you are a trainer or leader, be a servant to the group, go with what they need, make it about them, not you….gift them your time and the space to grow….you will be amazed at what emerges.

How does your training make people feel?

IMG_1415Maya Angelou, author and poet said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This is very interesting, because last week I was flying the flag for a great UK company, Pearlcatchers, in the States, delivering a “Blended Learning Facilitator” programme – they even got to play a little  of the Learning Loop too! I cannot tell you the name of the company, but they are a heavy engineering company and this was a programme to help bring blended learning to their facilitators (technical experts) for their salesforce. They are the only company amongst their competitors who are choosing to do things so differently and Pearlcatchers always do things differently, which is why I love working with them.
The workshop this week, was the first of three I will be delivering in different regions. We covered the “7 Deadly sins of Training” and counteracted them with the “7 Pearls of Wisdom” as well as the basics of Fusion Learning – a holistic approach to delivering learning. We discussed and experienced the 4 phases of the learning cycle – analysis, design, delivery and evaluation was well as exploring the “5 secrets of Accelerated learning”. One of these “secrets” is about creating the right environment for learning (if you want to hear more, then a podcast on the Trainer Tools website might help). This is something that has been fascinating me for a while – how setting up the right environment (physical, emotional and social) can make a huge difference to the learning experience.
As they walked into the classroom, set up with bright posters, review activities (from the learning they had in the webinars), they were encouraged to introduce themselves to each other, to explore the resources and check out the posters (some of the answers in the game were in these posters!) Some people seemed genuinely excited, some seemed curious (I always love that!) and some admitted (later) that they were uncomfortable and skeptical!
The “proof of the pudding is in the eating” is a great saying and as the days unfolded and they “experienced”  how different learning could feel, I could feel a shift and a growing excitement. When reflecting on what they had learned most of the comments were around how different things felt, how engaging it was and how they had not been bored for one minute. All great things….. but would the skeptics be won over?
The smiles grew more frequent, the “aha” moments flowed and one by one as they delivered their sessions, I could see the impact of what they had learnt in what they were now facilitating. They were thinking about the needs of their learners, what stage and state they might be in and the sessions were more about making learning easy than “telling”. What of the skeptics – well these were originally the “Snipers” from the Stakeholder Analysis grid and now they are the “Evangelists“. I have two great testimonials from them speaking of how they felt originally and how they feel now…. what struck me most, was that they learnt most from what we did and they experienced. The environment that was set up and experiencing how learning can be more natural impacted them immensely. They laughed when I asked them if anyone had been taught to walk by their mothers using PowerPoint and then saw the irony in what is so common in the way organisations train in their training rooms.
I am an evangelist for accelerated learning and anything else which helps to make learning faster, more efficient and more sticky, but many objections to using some of the techniques, start with “it’s ok for soft skills …. but not for technical or content heavy training…” I would strongly disagree and you cannot get more technical or heavy than the learning these guys have to deliver. The creativity, excitement and inspirational sessions I witnessed last week have warmed the cockles of my heart and as I am packing my bag and reminiscing about how these people felt ….. I feel it is a job well done….. thanks Pearlcatchers for trusting me with your client….. I loved every minute of it!!! Lets keep making people feel differently about learning.

The Power of Stories


This blog was inspired by a short session I ran in the Experiential Learning Zone at the World of Learning in September 2015, with the team at Pearlcatchers.

Stories have been around a very long time. The oldest one recorded was written in 1200 BC and is called the “Epic of Gilgamesh”. It is based on real characters and was about a man who lost his best friend and so went on a long journey to search for the secret of immortality. The story is perhaps not a true reflection of reality but more like a Hollywood blockbuster, that has been digitally enhanced for effect. But nevertheless it illustrates the power of stories.

Stories are “narratives with plots and characters, generating emotion in narrator and audience, through a poetic elaboration of symbolic material. This material may be a product of fantasy or experience, including an experience of earlier narratives. Story plots entail conflicts, predicaments, trials and crises which call for choices, decisions, actions and interactions, whose actual outcomes are often at odds with the characters’ intentions and purposes” (Gabriel, 2000, p. 239).

So stories are part of our history, our cultures and we know how they work. But how many of you use stories in your training? Or those of you who do, to good effect?

Stories, in training can have many uses, so here are some of my thoughts on their use:

  • Introducing a topic
  • Making a point
  • Making a boring topic come alive and highlighting its importance
  • Closing off a topic
  • Changing minds and ways of thinking
  • Staring a discussion
  • Sharing successes in an organisational or in a personal motivational way
  • Developing empathy for others
  • Metaphor for something difficult to cope with
  • Helping people to identify with certain situations and relate to their own
  • Envisioning the future for change programmes
  • Simplifying complex issues

It is often useful to tell your own stories and I use Larry Reynolds 6 part start structure when I have to create one. It gives me a format and stops me from rambling on too long! Here is Larry’s story structure:

  1. Think of a time when you faced some kind of challenge. (happy ending!)
  2. How did you feel when you encountered this challenge?
  3. What unexpected help came your way?
  4. How did things work out in the end?
  5. What did you learn from this experience?
  6. What does that say about your values and beliefs as a person now?

So here is my example of a story using Larry’s useful structure:

  1. This year in May, for the first time I had my own stand at the CIPD exhibition, to launch to the wider world, the Learning Loop. The challenge was for me – how do I design my stand? In line with what is expected or in line with how I work?
  2. It was a pretty daunting prospect, actually terrifying. My style as is playful, creative but professional and my biggest fear was that it would just look childish and at worst unprofessional
  3. My biggest help has always been from getting great feedback from clients and my associates who work with me and of course my husband Gareth who is always encouraging of my ideas. It gave me the courage to stand by my convictions and do it my way.
  4. On the morning of the first day of the exhibition I was so nervous, I felt sick and had to force breakfast down. I had seen everyone else’s stands the night before and thought “This is either going to be a huge mistake or they will love it”. Mine just did not fit in with what was there. From the moment the doors opened we were inundated with visitors. People were curious and came to speak with us. Even people from other stands were curious, why we had so many visitors. Feedback was fantastic and follow is still on-going. Orders are coming in
  5. What I learned from this experience is that sometimes when you believe in something, really deeply you can get frightened just because your idea is so different and new. The fact that it is different and new attracts people. So if people you respect and believe, encourage you to “go for it”, then do, with the confidence that they have your back
  6. What this experience has done for me is to help me have more courage in my ideas as well as confidence in the opinions of those I respect and trust. I say if you have a great idea “Go for it!”

So what is your story? I would love to hear it!

Adding fuel to your rocket……..

IMG_1349Today I had a lovely tweet from Jean Crew about the tweets I share and it really gave me a boost. Sometimes, I do wonder why I bother to write blogs, share updates on LinkedIn and tweet about what I am doing/thinking. Sometimes what I share, barely seems to get noticed and it starts to become a numbers game.

So this got me thinking about encouragement and feedback (again) and how important it is. As trainers/facilitators, when we take people through any sort of change whether it is time management, leadership, conflict management, how do we make sure that the changes in their behaviours are long-lasting? How do we make sure their rockets have enough fuel to keep them going along the trajectory they have started on?

Here are some of my thoughts :

  • Before the workshop, ensure their line managers know what they will be learning about and have agreed some objectives with the learners
  • In the workshop, give praise where it is due, in a genuine way
  • Get them to give each other feedback – give them a model that works
  • Post- workshop encourage the line managers to reinforce the good behaviour and any changes that they see

It sounds so simple….. and yet….. do we always give our learners enough fuel for their rockets?

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