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Redemption for the Sins of Learning

By Jim Naughton, ILG Contributor

Seven Common Pitfalls of Corporate Training

I have come to a point in my career where I find myself reflecting on the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, and the hopes and wishes I have for those who will step forward when I ultimately, one day, step back. Today, I want to expose some of the challenges we face in our organizations — challenges that I see are leading us all down the path toward “sins” in our learning programs.

It seems that despite our best efforts, organizations often fail to create improvements in performance. Sure, they may provide training, and a lot of it, but when employees don’t change, business results remain stagnant.

Only a full acceptance of our “sins” can allow us to be ready for new growth and move us toward better days. So, take a hard look at the list of missteps below. Which ones can you honestly say you’ve had some role in perpetrating?

  • Focus exclusively on new hires and ignore the rest of the workforce. Then, take credit for providing learning solutions for the whole organization.
  • Teach primarily knowledge and awareness topics that have little or no impact on performance. Then, try to convince business leaders you make a huge difference.
  • Recycle and republish information into thousands of training documents. Then, complain that the Sisyphean task of updating the training leaves you no time or budget to do new and important work.
  • Insist on a form of technology malpractice by making everything e-learning. Then, proclaim that it’s the learners’ fault when they refuse to spend countless hours clicking through screens.
  • Implement hastily assembled, one-size-fits-all rollout training to expediently handle a major initiative affecting the entire organization. Then, wonder why real change never happened.
  • Insist on making every learning program a formal scheduled and planned event and not taking advantage of the massive number of available resources that have sprouted over the past decade. Then, bemoan the lack of initiative individuals have regarding their own development.
  • Chase trends as if the solution to your dilemma was just discovered and announced in yesterday’s webinar. Then, blame the chaos from lack of constancy as a lack of agility on the team instead of a failure to pay attention to the science of learning.

If these sound familiar and you work in the learning function in your organization, please join me for a dose of humility and an opportunity to repent. We can do better! We can help to make our organizations stronger by focusing our efforts on what makes a difference.

The best way to counter the structural flaws in the Learning and Development function is to create a strategic plan for learning. Strategic planning allows you the time for introspection and insight into what’s working and what’s not working. It’s a chance to step back and see the big picture so you can make a course correction for the future. If what you’re doing now doesn’t clearly lead to successful outcomes, it’s time to identify a change in approach that makes sense for your organization. Redemption springs forward from good strategic planning.

So today I plant the seed for green shoots to follow, recognizing we’ll make some progress toward the goal, but perhaps not achieve everything we hope for in the span of our careers. Sometimes we need to nudge things forward in the right direction, and let momentum and time do the rest.

I’m reminded of the words of Bishop Oscar Romero, who shared, “We are prophets of a future not our own.” So, build your legacy on a foundation that paves the way for others to ultimately find the better way. Nudge forward. Redemption is near.

Jim Naughton is a freelance senior performance consultant. He has more than 40 years of experience in the training and performance improvement industry. Jim was on staff at Innovative Learning Group from 2018 to 2023.

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