We’ve all heard the oft-used parable about the turkey conference. It’s the one where the turkeys attend a conference where they learn to fly, spending the entire day soaring to new heights over the farm. And when the conference is over? They all walk home.
Contrast that to the treatment of learning as a one-time event. You spend a ton of money on expensive one-day training or pay for an off-the-shelf program to get your employees excited about a new skill. They get amped up and enjoy the learning, but eventually return back to their own ways once they sit back down at their desks. The problem could be retention, but we contend that the main issue is actually a symptom of the traditional way of thinking about learning and training.
The Harvard Business Review studied a tech-facing organization’s approach to training. The organization required every salaried employee to attend a one-day training event and outward looking in, it was a tremendous success. Exit surveys proved that participants felt the program was powerful and spent a week engaging in the behavior taught by the program–any organization could feel good about that response! But, when a new general manager polled the same employees a year or two later, he found that while the initial training had been inspiring, there were no long-term changes. Everyone just went back to business as usual, and the training had been a waste of time and money–albeit inspiring.
The problem with most training programs isn’t that they’re uninspiring or unengaging, but that they’re treated as an event. Sure, they might get employees excited for a change on Monday, but by Friday, everyone is going back to their old ways. Not only do they forget the information taught, but they lose the spark that learning something new causes.
That’s why training should never be treated as an event on a calendar but perpetual learning should be the state of your company’s culture. Instead of a flash flood of information on one day, that drops bits and pieces of inspiration and training, a steady stream helps keep creativity and enthusiasm flowing. These pieces of training, leadership skills, and innovation help create a culture where learning is promoted as a way of life–not just a Friday afternoon.
Rethinking training as a perpetual state also has another hidden benefit: it shifts the responsibility of learning from the company to the employee. As employees are given resources and opportunities, they become more active participants in their own training. Instead of attending a mandatory afternoon of learning, they suddenly have instantaneous, and constant access to perpetual learning materials. This self-guided learning experience makes the training process more personal and more effective.
By offering opportunities for perpetual learning, the old way of training is out: now, it’s about giving your learners ample and consistent learning opportunities. Tailor-made training helps reinforce your company culture as one that embraces personal development and eschews the idea that learning is an event prescribed by the organization. Now, your “turkeys” won’t just learn how to fly for an afternoon but will know how to soar on a regular basis.