A workshop is not learning. Learning is what happens as you absorb and use the information gained in the workshop to change your behavior, attitude, and world.
HOW WE WASTE
Three things happen too often in organizations when people attend off-site learning events:
1) They do not learn anything
2) They learn, but are not recognized for what they have learned
3) They learn and are recognized, but nothing else happens
WHY WE WASTE
The reasons why this is so vary:
1) Those responsible do not set professional expectations for those attending.
If the employee has not been told why they are going away or what is expected of them as they return, they will fill that void with their own ideas about what should occur and what is important.
This is great for those at the higher end of the self-motivated employee list, but disastrous for most others.
2) Those responsible do not follow-up in a timely or focused fashion with those who attended.
Asking and probing about what the employee learned goes a long way toward reinforcing both the focus of the employee’s time away and the importance of what they bring back.
Asking a month later doesn’t count …
3) Those responsible do not trust the change process to actually, well, change things.
Ever had the experience of coming back from a workshop or conference just brimming with enthusiasm and on fire to make things different … to be eitehr ignored or even worse, told to cool it?
To use the professional terminology, that “sucks”.
4) Those responsible do not recognize or accept the value of learning.
Sigh … I hate to speak ill of those responsible, but some managers and leaders just do not value learning. Maybe they believe that learning consists of fads which are temporary and just waste time. Possibly they feel that formal learning, as occurs at workshops and professional conferences, is not a valid method for transformation and change. Some may just not be very bright and do not appreciate the value of learning, because their own learning has not been valued by others.
Whatever the cause, if the learning brought back by the employee is not valued, it will probably not survive.
5) Those responsible view learning events as just that – events, to be checked off a list or a personal development plan.
This reason relates directly to number 4. If learning is not valued. learning events are seen at best as necessary evils. Something to be endured, completed, and filed away. We’ve probably used the term “butts in seats” to describe this mentality, which views the events as the requirement, rather than the outcome of the event.
HOW TO NOT WASTE
So, some simple guidance:
1) Identify the expected outcomes of any learning event and communicate those expectations clearly to those attending … before the event.
2) Explain specifically how you expect them to meet these expectations.
3) Prepare those attending by providing support materials or preparatory activities to enhance what they will receive at the event.
4) Schedule immediate follow-up after they complete the learning event. No, not the morning after they return … a little later. Let the learning gel for a small amount of time.
5) Listen to what they say. Ask questions and probe to find how their knowledge has changed and how deep their committment is to what they have learned. Reflect on what they now have to offer.
6) Collaboratively plan on how they will share their new knowledge with the organization. Keep in mind: They are now the experts in whatever they were sent off to learn.
7) If legitimate and overriding reasons exist not to use the new knowledge, explain those and thank them for their efforts. These reasons must be compelling and significant.
8) If change is to occur (Best Scenario), support them with resources, action, and words through all levels of the organization.
In this day, formal professional development less often comes in the form of a day away at a workshop or a week at a professional conference. The advent of online professional development, distance learning, virtual conferences, and other cost-effective learning events has changed the landscape … in some ways.
You still have to plan, follow-up, and support those who learn on behalf of the organization.
What have I missed or misstated?
Remembering both time-wasting and world-changing conference experiences in the Heartland ….