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The Half Hearted Virus: A trainer's tale of despair

Philip Roycroft

There is growing pressure on trainers to deliver quality outcomes within tighter budgets and in less time. To be honest I don't believe its possible! BEWARE of those who say otherwise, for although there are a few evangelists who can help you to change through the 'laying on of hands', the majority are telling you what you want to hear, and like eating a slimmer's meal, will leave you feeling dissatisfied. In my opinion training is about change, whether that be by applying knowledge or skills learned, or adapting behaviour in response to changed attitudes, and there are no quick fixes when it comes to change!

When under pressure, e.g. feeling isolation, or over stretched, we revert to our tried and tested approaches, we don't experiment, don't take risks. Although this is a reasonable coping strategy it blocks change, and in a training context prevents us from being fully receptive to the learning opportunities presented within a training programme, and applying learning on return from that programme. This is reflected in post-course evaluative comments like: "the course was interesting and enjoyable, but there's no way I could apply that at work". or; "I went back to work determined to put these ideas into practise, but ..." These but comments need to be addressed. They need to be addressed because training is expensive, and when managed well can significantly improve the quality of the service we deliver. They need to be addressed because they have a negative impact on peoples expectations of training, and its potential to effect change, and those expectations in turn impact on the eventual outcomes.

Change requires confidence, commitment, and above all time:

  • Confidence that one can change, that the training is relevant and the trainers are competent.
  • Commitment to be there for the duration, focused on the task, and commitment to applying the learning.
  • Time to reinforce the learning by sharing ideas with others and setting aside the time to apply new ideas.

On every event that I ran for one of our voluntary sector clients, people either failed to turn up on the day, substituted others at the last minute, arrived late, or left early! Everyone had a 'legitimate' reason for making their choice, and although most didn't see it as a choice, I would suggest that it was. If it had been a dental appointment or holiday flight rather than training would they have made the same choice? In my experience this half-hearted virus is particularly prevalent in the voluntary sector, and although only a minority of people are carriers, the virus can cause enormous disruption to the group dynamics and culture within a course. Training is not like filling your car up at a petrol station, when if you haven't got as much money or time as you would like, then half a tank of knowledge will do. It is a living thing, in which we all play our part. Treated mechanically, or with disrespect and it will turn out to be a dull and flat occasion. Enter into the spirit of the occasion and there is the potential for something of real consequence to happen, even something magical . The quest for that magic is what keeps me so young!

Signing up for a course should not be seen as a way of keeping ones options open, it should be taken as a firm commitment to changing the way we work, and to making the time to see the course through. Anything less devalues the experience both for that individual and for everyone else on that course, and is a waste of valuable time and resources.

If you haven't yet made your New Year's resolution then can I suggest that you tackle the half hearted virus whether within yourself or in your colleagues. Go for training, make the commitment, risk success; or don't do it. BUT what ever you do, don't be half hearted!

Articles in this section:

Intellect, Will and Passion: The Art of Facilitating Outdoor Development Training

Putting Fun Into Work

Developing a Learning Organisation

Hearts & Minds Wins Latest Work Force Battle

Principle Centred Leadership

Becoming an Employer of Choice

The Half Hearted Virus: A trainer's tale of despair

Leadership: Death of the Hero?

Engagement: Increasing productivity by gaining the commitment of the workforce