What we Believe:

If the behavior doesn’t change, the training didn’t work.

 

I hate to contradict a customer.

 

“OK Gordon,” I said, “I have to disagree with you there. So no, it’s not too soon. And training doesn’t ‘soak in’ over time. It doesn’t somehow fix itself. The session either worked or it didn’t. That means your folks should all be doing the new work process next week. They’ll be fresh out of training. If we don’t see it then, the training session failed. Period.

 

Now, if they’re not doing it in the first week after training, do you really think all these folks are going to somehow start doing it, on their own, a month after the training?”

 

He was silent. I could tell it was the first time he’d heard anything like that. Finally, he started nodding.

 

Gordon and I had been standing near the back of the training room for a while, watching a trainer (one of mine) who was just hitting the ball out of the park. The students were obviously enjoying the session.

 

Gordon was a brand new corporate customer – a VP of Sales – and the students were his people.

 

After a while, he pointed at the door and we walked quietly into the hallway, and then he asked a natural question. “I can see that they like it, and the trainer seems to know what he's doing,” he said, “but when will we know if it worked or not?”

 

“That's easy,” I said, “if the behavior doesn't change, the training didn't work.” (Since then, this has served as a core statement on our training.)

 

“OK. Got it,” he said. “So when? How long do we have to wait to be sure?”

 

“Well, next week is their first week back on the job,” I said, “so, you’ll know for sure by the end of next week.”

 

“That soon?” he said, “To me, that means now. Is that enough time? We know it takes about a month for training to soak in, right?”

 

And that’s when I had to contradict that “soaking in” idea. Actually it was more of a polite correction than a contradiction.

 

 Anyway, he got the point. Bad training doesn’t improve with age. It doesn’t fix itself. It has to work right from the start.

 

Then I took up the source of his comment. I told Gordon that, aside from ours, many training sessions simply don’t work. I opined that the “soaking in” idea was simply an excuse, undoubtedly given by somebody who was trying to cover up some bad training.

 

Soaking in? Well. That's another typical response to bad training. Some training people will pretend that eventually everything will be fine. “It's always bad at first,” they'll say. And it just takes time to “soak in.” Or they'll say that all training needs “reinforcement” sessions.

 

But they're wrong. The real truth is that the students didn't get trained during the training session, and there is no excuse for it.

 

Failure is failure, even if you decide to call it something else.

Bad training doesn’t improve with age. It doesn’t fix itself. It has to work right from the start.

So “soaking in” isn't descriptive. What really happens should be called “flailing around.” When training doesn't work, your best students end up trying to figure it out, on their own time, maybe with a friend.  But only your best do that.

 

And “reinforcement” is only accurate if the initial training hit the mark. When it does, you can build on it and train to higher expertise. That's true reinforcement.

 

But when the training is bad, it's not “reinforcement” at all. It's actually “rescue and repair.” And that means the customer pays to train the basics again, months later, long after all the promised benefits and ROI on the actual training sessions were supposed to appear.

 

I told Gordon he could expect to hear all of these excuses and explanations for bad training and that he should never believe them.

When training doesn't work, your best students end up trying to figure it out, on their own time, maybe with a friend.  But only your best do that.

Again, all of this excusing and explaining and flailing and rescuing and repairing happens for only one reason: the training session didn't work. Inexcusable.

 

“Ok,” he said, “What do you think about this training? Do you have a hunch?”

“Yes, I do. And it's more than a hunch,” I said.  “Here's a prediction. Based on what I saw, you'll have great adoption rates. Student evals are going to be high, and they're great predictors of adoption. We'll have them compiled by noon tomorrow.”

 

Gordon and I had lunch together the next day. The scores were very high, as predicted, and I was about to tell him, when he said, “I know. My managers told me in the hallway yesterday after the wrap-up. They looked at the evals while they were collecting them. Every room was about the same as ours.”

 

Two weeks later our final adoption percentage came in. It was high and solid for all sessions – in the low to mid-nineties. I called to say congratulations. He said, “You, too.”

 

Gordon is now both a friend and a believer.

 

Again, the purpose of training is to change what people do.

And if the behavior doesn't change, the training didn't work.

 

At Eagle, that's what we believe.