Training should enthuse, inspire and motivate you. But it doesn’t always…

In our last post we looked at a genuine example of where delegates were put on courses which were explicitly designed not to be useful to them.

But it’s not always as cynical as that. Sometimes, yes, but not often, I’d hope.

So here are the top five reasons why, in our experience, training can be a waste of time

1. Content that’s not relevant

It’s the best course for you. But it’s still far from perfect.

In the average public enrollment IT training course, if you’re lucky about 60% of the course really gives you what you need. And another 10 – 15 per cent surprises you by being what you need – even though you had no idea about it before the course! But that still leaves a quarter of the course being not relevant. Interesting, hopefully, but not actually relevant. That’s a quarter of your time being spent doing things that are irrelevant.

2. Content that’s relevant, but disconnected

Conditional formatting in Excel is great. And our Excel training courses can show you how to use the feature. But that’s probably no use to you, if your data doesn’t look like mine.

Training adults is not the same as teaching children – who are often like sponges, soaking up everything in their path. Adults will only learn when what’s being shown to them chimes with their experience, their world-view and their needs. So, I can show you how to make a cell go red when the value goes above 450, but your brain will be saying “So what?” Unfortunately, most training takes this approach – here’s our sample file, here’s our standard exercise, here’s the feature. It just won’t work.

But if I can use your own file, showing the invoices you’ve sent out this year, and then use conditional formatting to highlight any row where the invoice took more than 4 weeks to be paid – now it will be of interest to you. And once your brain has made that connection to the “real world”, it will remember the information easily.

3. Content that’s incomplete

This is a problem with many standard courses, organised by Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3, or Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced.

You want to learn about, let’s say, charting in Excel. The Excel Level 1 course you are thinking of booking includes “Creating charts in Microsoft Excel. But the Level 2 course contains “Modifying Excel charts”. Which do you book?

If you’re thinking – “That would be stupid; no one would create such a course outline” then we agree, but you’re wrong. That is to say, we agree that it’s stupid, but it’s done all too often. It’s a deliberate policy to get you to book onto two courses instead of one. It shows a disrespect for the value of your time, and it’s about giving the training company what they want rather than the customer what they want. It’s another of those things that makes us angry, and led to The IT Service being created.

4. Poor trainers

Not as in “Ahhh…. poor trainers, they’re so overworked” but as in “That trainer was really poor.” I attended a course not so long ago where the first eye contact the (hugely knowledgeable) trainer made with any delegate was at 11am to say “Shall we break for coffee?” Literally. He spent the whole session leaning against the wall as he wrote on the board – to the extent that his writing was followed a circular line, because it followed the arc of his (anchored to the wall) elbow.

Just as bad are trainers who don’t know their stuff. I know for a fact that in some training companies, trainers are given just 1 day to learn a new 1-day course. Of course they don’t know it properly! How could they?! And so they have little confidence, understandably, in what they are teaching.

It’s not about knowing everything – no one can. But if the trainer is enough of an expert in their field, they will know most of the answers, and importantly, they’ll have the confidence to admit to not knowing when they don’t. Then, they can go and find a solution, without feeling that they’re looking stupid. It’s not just about the knowledge – it’s about honesty and integrity.

5. Too much packed in to a course

It’s a natural instinct. You’ve paid for a day’s training, so you want to cover as much as possible in that day to get the most out of it that you can.

The problem is that these two don’t always go together. Putting a lot in does not equate to taking a lot out, and that’s why a good training company should guide you as to the contents of a course. If you pack a day with content, by the end of it, your head will be spinning. And you know what happens with things that spin? Centrifugal force dictates that things will fly out again!

Much better to cover a bit less, but to do so in depth, with time to discuss what’s being covered, and time to see how we can apply it to the real world of the delegates.

Over to you

So, that’s our list. But what about you? What made a great course great? Or what made a poor course poor? Let us know your thoughts by providing your comments below.