Remember the last time you went to a truly awful movie? Chances are you haven’t in a while, right? I’m willing to bet that not many people take the risk of going out for the evening without doing their “due diligence”, because when it comes to stuff we savour, we tend to pay attention to the details.
That approach usually sums up our approach to work. But, what if we extend it to a very important, but underrated aspect of our work lives – training?
What if we treated training programmes in the same way that producers of movies treat their work?
You’re no doubt sceptical. After all, most of the movies that make it to the big screen are big-budget affairs and in recent years, the blockbusters have tended to be franchises or productions that have a tried-and-tested formula guaranteed to woo audiences.
And that’s the point – what if we aimed to get the same impact out of training programmes that we would out of a mini-“blockbuster”? Think about marketing the programme to staff, creating a buzz around the benefits association with such training and making sure that the captive audience you have, leaves feeling excited and invigorated and not a hostage to mandatory learning.
It can be done.
First, let’s examine the spend.
A lot of money is committed to training programmes in South Africa and very often it’s the amount spent and not the outcomes achieved that are measured. To get an idea, let’s do some cursory math.
The Skills Development Levy compels all employers to set aside 1% of their payroll for training and I’ve found that in the case of listed companies and large state entities, the figure allocated is closer to 3%. For instance, Transnet’s spend on training in the 2018 financial year was 3.1% of the labour cost bill, amounting to R745 million, and that amount was purely for operational and technical training.
It’s not an exaggeration that spending by some of the big banks works out to an average of R1.5 million/day just for training.
Extrapolate that across the economy and we’re looking at billions. The 20 Sector Education and Training Authorities (excluding the public sector) will pay out R14.5 billion to employers for skills development by the 2020/21 financial year. A fair whack of that amount will go towards training programmes.
So, the question is, are we getting a decent return on that investment? I don’t think we always do.
In my experience, there are a few common shortcomings that persist, and which often make training a “grudge” activity. Here’s my list of bugbears:
- Attendance. Like movie-goers, employees have myriad other demands on their time, so it’s important to make sure that we make the programme compelling and create excitement around the content. Often employees pitch up in the morning, sign the register and disappear for the day. If the programme is a “must-see” then those who simply leave after the opening credits must feel like they missed out on a blockbuster.
- Poorly designed materials. If all we’re going to do is throw the manual at staff, then forget it. No one can absorb vital information when it’s packaged in a mundane, run-of-the-mill format that’s competing with a severely outdated telephone directory for thickness. Think about your training material like a movie script and make the effort to design engaging content, and half the problem will be solved.
- Using online platforms is often a misnomer for accessible training. Yes, employees can sit at their desks and work through material, but often there’s a gargantuan waste because employers don’t distinguish between education and training. Staff studying to better themselves is completely different from them being trained to better serve the business.
- Uninteresting content. When trainers are competing with smartphones, tablets and laptops in sessions, we have to be innovative in the way we capture people’s attention. In my experience, using tactile products such as cards, Lego and other blocks, maps, and in one instance even PVC posters on a floor, ensures that the material is interesting, but more importantly, memorable.
- When training is poorly designed, it short-changes those employees who are genuinely interested and want to learn. If we alienate those who are enthusiastic, then we might as well not have bothered with the session at all as it’s hard to win back the attention of someone whose enthusiasm was dampened. And we miss out on the opportunity of using them as ambassadors of the programme.
- Which brings me to the all-important marketing. There’s no reason why we can’t create a buzz around training, much like those done for new movies, theatre productions, or books. Some anticipation is better than none and don’t underestimate the value of curiosity.
- Skimping on food, venues and accommodation for lower-level staff is another short-sighted move. A shorter, well-designed session will be a way better investment instead.
I’m willing to bet that most of us have seen at least one movie that was life-changing or at the very least downright memorable. And believe me, properly designed and thoughtful training programmes can have the same effect.
In our experience, even the most reluctant critic and distracted participant can be won over, much like the sceptical movie-goer.
So, maybe it’s time we all tried to unleash our inner Steven Spielbergs or Ryan Cooglers. It’s guaranteed to please …
* Rob Dennison is the Founder of Trainiac and is hell-bent on shaking up the learning and change industry