A Tale of Three Trainings: The Straw House

By October 9, 2018

800px COLOURBOX9023091This is part one of our series highlighting strengths and pitfalls of three very distinct training methods, relayed by way of The Three Little Pigs analogy. Every training progresses through the same basic stages, from design through to implementation, but the pedagogy, mode of training and the corresponding retention that results offer very dissimilar results – much like the fate of the three little pigs. The construction of the training is important.

Our Straw House training has been in place for years, well before most inhabitants came to live there. It’s fallen apart and been rebuilt many times, as the ancient ones will tell you, with addendum mud patches splattered about, acting as bandaids intended to plug up cracks in the faulty design.

We’ve always done it this way
The needs of the organization where determined long ago as well, for those early inhabitants, and may or may not be relevant to what’s needed for those living and working there today. The training itself happens in a classroom (or similar setting) during a set time and is led by someone who runs through PowerPoint slides or an old manual, skipping lots of it as unnecessary and offering key tidbits around “what really works” but isn’t “officially” covered in the training. And maybe there’s a working or nonworking piece of outdated equipment deemed “good enough” for training standards available to practice on. That, too, is a source of ridicule during the training for its ancient capabilities, but said to offer solid basic training, which is the best that can be done, considering.

Participants leave with a bit more info than they had before they came and quite a bit of confusion, mostly making a point to remember the unofficial tips from the instructor teaching the class, as the rest of the material isn’t very relevant. Those unofficial tips may or may not be safe, up to code, nor the most practical, proven options, but as no other information is offered, it stands. They have that, and the product manual to rely on when needed.

And they will need the manual, as retention of the material is minimal. The test they took at the end of the training was one of their short-term memory, not their long-term retention. THAT is not tested, not until it counts. Learning after fixing a broken part a few times is what’s typical, or technicians don’t last otherwise. Speaking of which, turnover is high – higher than optimal, at least, with low employee morale often indicated as a reason. Technicians have trouble feeling good about a job they aren’t doing well, after all, so it’s a natural cost of business in a straw-trained house. It doesn’t have to be.

The Catch-22 of creating something new
Other associated costs hinder the development of new training though. Beyond the high turnover rate, there are lots of mistakes made at straw-trained organizations – costly mistakes. Were their employees well-trained, they’d dramatically reduce or entirely demolish this figure, but it’s a catch-22 they can’t seem to work their way out of.

The trainings are done the way they always have been, and are justified with the same reasoning. “If it ain’t broke” and so it goes, is often referenced. Trouble is, it is broken and this is readily apparent to the trained (and, after considering above, untrained) eye.
But how do you know if you’re in a straw house training? This checklist will help:

__ Training designed 5+ years ago

__ Outdated information in training

__ Unofficial tips that aren’t part of training are offered as such

__ Testing takes place immediately after training, with little to no follow-up

__ Technicians routinely make mistakes on things they’ve been trained for

__ Technicians routinely have trouble remembering training

__ Cost of doing business includes recurring line item for “operator error”

__ Higher than optimal employee turnover

__ Low employee morale

__ Minimal training budget

__ Trainings viewed as tedious and/or low value activities

If you have more than a few items checked, you’re living in a straw house and renovations are certainly in order.

Renovation checklist
Here are four steps to guide that process and help you transition to at least a stick level! (Watch for our next post to help you jump ahead to a brick level):

  • Requirements Analysis. Time to rethink what you have and why you have it. What trainings do your technicians need, and of those – which is the most essential? Define “essential” as a need that touches a significant portion of your organization and must be done correctly. Just one training. That is where we’ll start.
  • Learning Objectives. What, precisely, must your technicians learn from this training? If it’s an existing training, you can build on it, but be ready to start over from scratch, if need be. The learning objectives must be your guide and end goal, whether or not you can repurpose content is irrelevant.
  • Sorting out how this training should be created and delivered comes next. And the next post in this series – Stick House Training – will provide guidance for your in-house instructional architect around that. Know that a typical classroom model offers the lowest retention rate for your technicians though – and keep that in mind.
  • Evaluating Impact. We’ve skipped a few steps around building a prototype and testing it, as those items are premature considerations at this stage of your construction, but it is important to have evaluation criteria in mind from the beginning – so start thinking on that. What should they be able to do consistently and correctly at the end of this training? How will mastery look? How often should that knowledge be re-evaluated? If unsure, we’ll be sharing info to guide you there as well in the next two posts.

Once you’ve thought through these items, you’re ready to begin your transition to a stick house training. As you may recall, a training made of sticks will have additional shoring and is where many organizations live these days. It’s certainly a step up from your straw house (we’ll share how and why), but even that construction could stand improvement, when ready!

We know you might be impatient to read all about it – straw organizations tend to rush through things, which is why they end up back where they started, unfortunately – but please be patient and come back to learn more! And watch out for accidents (the big bad wolf) in the meantime!