At the Buck Stop

Why do employees attend training sessions?  Motives are likely to mixed, but will range from a passionate interest in the topic to being told they had to go.  Not surprisingly, responses to training sessions are equally varied: ‘loved it’, ‘boring, waste of time’.  A trainer’s job is to meet the positive expectations of the enthusiasts and to show the sceptics that even mundane-seeming subjects can be both interesting and useful, but whatever the views of the participants, the real measure of the success of a training programme is the extent to which the new strategies are practised back in the workplace. 

However much people enjoy the session itself, it is all too easy for them to tick the been-there-done-that box and drift back into unproductive habits.  The real challenge facing trainers is how to ensure that the principles of the training are sustained – it is just as easy for the trainers to tick the b-t-d-t box!  The Challenge of Change Resilience Training has enjoyed the good fortune and privilege of attracting accredited trainers who are not only exceptionally skilled but also completely committed to ensuring that the four steps become part of participants’ working lives, and a number of strategies are available to help with that.  For example, participants can download mindfulness exercises from the website, and a web-based follow-up programme, the Challenge of Change Refresher, is made available automatically to all participants 90 days after the training session.  CoC trainers have developed their own reminders, such as the ‘Mind The Gap’ cards that Cynthia Johnson devised, the Gaps being the times in the working day when the practice is forgotten.

So far so good, but what’s really required to ensure sustained implementation is local support.  One of the strongest factors has to do with how the training groups themselves are created, and in principle, the more people can attend together with their team colleagues, the better.  Going back to your team as the sole trained person can make it very difficult indeed: it might not be a good idea to tell colleagues who haven’t attended that stress is self-inflicted, and that what they’re churning about is just peanuts that they need to let go!  When everyone’s on the same page there’s a shared language, and these sorts of comments then act as reminders as well as helping to lighten things up.

The combination of support built into the training and the support from colleagues who’ve attended the same workshop and share the language can go a long way, but there’s a missing link.  Training is generally contracted into a company by staff in the HR department, and having put the training in place they may not always follow through.  Apart from human beings (and some primates occasionally), if you want something to stand upright you need at least three legs, so to maximise the benefits of training you need three components to be in place: (i) a strong, well-delivered programme with demonstrable effects and staged reminders, (ii) peer support from colleagues who’ve also been trained, and (iii) an HR department that takes active steps to reinforce the messages.

Without making training available to staff in the first place nothing will happen, but the determination to change established habits like ruminating will fade without the reinforcement of support from colleagues and the organisation itself.  The strategies need not be complicated: maybe start by ensuring that as far as possible, whole teams attend together.  Internal follow-ups could be organised to assess whether the training has given people the enthusiasm to want to change.  Training consultancies worth their salt should be glad to participate, and for participants they’ll feel that the responsibility for outcomes is shared, and that company cares about, and values, their training needs.  To misquote Orwell, three legs good, two (or one) legs bad!