I train my people. So why don't they learn?

I hear this type of sound bite all too often.  

I walk into a meeting with a CEO and straight away they seem agitated. They’re frustrated by certain behaviors in the organization. Why don’t my people collaborate? Why don’t they speak up in meetings? Why don’t they communicate with each other? And why is the training we put them through not working? 

In these types of meetings, I’m quick to point out that not all training is equal. As Benjamin Franklin once mused: ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn.’  

The fact is, if you’re running training programs that are rote. They’re going to fail. If the programs are one-off events. They’re going to fail. And if the programs are boring and lack engagement. They’re going to fail.  

So, what to do? As obvious as it might seem, do the opposite. 


Successful learning has three key dimensions to it. 

  1. TWO-WAY: The programs have to be designed so they are involving. They need to be two-way (or even multi-way, for that matter). True learning comes from an interplay between student, teacher and other participants. Solutions are achieved through self-discovery, self-awareness, problem solving and teamwork.  
  2. ON-GOING: The programs should be sustainable beyond the main event. Far too often, ideas, tools and experiences are delivered on the big training day but are then quickly forgotten because there’s no follow up. The training fades like writing on a sandy beach. The waves roll over it and, before long, it has disappeared. 
  3. ENGAGING: The programs need to be delivered in a way that is interesting, engaging and interactive. The formats need to immerse the participants in a learning experience that is unforgettable. If people enjoy learning, they will retain more knowledge and embrace the right behaviors. 


Learning isn’t an end point. It’s a continuous journey.

In the past, companies viewed training programs as once-in-a-while intermissions in the business. Training was quite often an afterthought that would be scheduled once or twice a year.  

But that thinking has become outdated. Training is no longer a nice to have, or an exercise to fill a temporary void. Now, it is a strategic imperative.  

Those companies that integrate continuous learning into the day-to-day operations of the business see better performance from their employees.   

That’s because continual learning has an influence on several key factors that are vitally important in today’s fast-moving, tech-driven world. 

First, in the modern workplace, ‘employees’ are looking for career satisfaction. Continuous learning helps them skill up, grow in their chosen field and feel a sense of value (because of the level of commitment you are showing to their development). This obviously leads to greater morale and contentment. And therefore loyalty. 

Second, continual learning should be linked directly back to business objectives. The right type of training ensures participants commit to agreed-upon goals and actionable tasks. In the other words, the training never stops. Rote type learning, on the other hand, works differently. An employee completes their training, shoves the lesson to the back of their mind and then gets back to ‘work as usual’.  

And that’s the difference between ‘old’ training and ‘new’ training. Continual learning doesn’t allow that kind of capitulation to happen. The employee is continually reminded of their commitments. Their line manager is also continually nudged to review the progress of their team member. If there is a problem (and invariably, there always will be something that hasn’t gone as planned) the employee can talk things through with their manager and work with them to get things back on track. Revisit their original plans. 

Third, continual learning has a huge and positive impact on culture. Collaboration increases, transparency becomes the norm and a loop of immediate feedback becomes established. Issues are not left to stagnate and fester. They are dealt with promptly and positively. 

In other words, a powerful system is formed. A cycle of learning and coaching becomes intrinsic among teams and in the workplace. We call this “Leaders as Teachers”. It’s a system that ensures a constant feedback loop between seniors, peers and juniors. A symbiotic network that continually supports behavior change and empowers people to perform to their best. 

This approach has traditionally been difficult for large corporations to achieve. But with the advancements in technology and employee platforms, this is now something that is very doable, even in the largest of companies. 



Making it fun.

No-one comes to work to have a miserable time. We come to work to strive, have purpose in our career and, ultimately, have a gratifying job.  

The best continual learning programs have fun baked into them. That’s because having fun is the best way to absorb important lessons. Fun makes learning stick in the mind. It unleashes our dopamine and makes it a stimulating experience. Literally. 

Which is why I advocate an approach to training which is based on gamification.  

What does that mean?  

Simply this. The best way to shape culture, build the right mindsets and teach the right behaviors is through games.  

Games? I hear you say. Yes, games! 

They are at the heart of our experiential learning approach. People are thrust into an unfamiliar scenario. A hostile desert, a treacherous jungle or outer space. During the game, unexpected things happen. Weather can turn, objectives can change, and hurdles appear. 

What has that got to do with business?  

Everything! Business is a game, too. And the challenges that people have to overcome in our games are mirror images of real life. 

Our experiential training brings out the true nature of people without them realizing it. We make them aware of their attitudes and working style – and help them understand how to work in a team, set boundaries and manage a crisis. But most importantly, how to persevere when things get tough.  

In today’s pressured business environment, it’s hard to get people to drop their guard, recognize the opportunity for self-growth and embrace change. Our experiential approach creates psychological safety for ‘heart of the matter’ type conversations.  



Making it sustainable.

Fun alone, as we all know, is not enough. Today, training programs need to have a longevity to them that ensures continual success for a company’s workforce. The energy participants soak up from a training program needs to be sustained beyond the ‘3-day’ course. CEOs, HR Directors and Training & Development Leads need to champion a different approach. They need to move away from day-restricted training programs and move to an always-on learning approach. Because, as we constantly hear from a new generation of workers. Learning is no longer constrained to a specific age-group, or certain career level. Today, learning is lifelong. It never stops. 

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