Is training always necessary?


To train or not to train. That is the question. Training programs can be very beneficial in either creating new knowledge and skills for the workforce or improving upon existing knowledge and skills. This in turn can make an organization nimbler and can increase the bottom line.

I have certainly been on the receiving end of training that I would consider a yawn fest. It was delivered poorly, the content was uninteresting and the worst point being that I was forced to go. All these negative emotions translated into being a hostile, captive audience. Very counterproductive.

So, how does a training specialist determine that training is the answer? Two words – needs assessment. The needs assessment determines the problem that needs solving which in turn leads to defining objectives for the program.  Imagine this scenario for a moment: the vice president of sales drops a huge, multi-page, cerlox report on your desk and tells you to create a training program.  You skim quickly and determine that sales are down and there is an absenteeism problem with the sales representatives. What’s next? Do you obey the powers that be and hastily draft a training program? After all, there is a problem that needs to be solved. Right?

But, there could be a myriad of reasons for the drop in sales and the absentee sales reps. The training specialist needs to get to the core of those reasons. The right antidote is needed to cure the specific ailment. When I have a headache, I certainly don’t put heavy metal music on blast. I take an aspirin and find a quiet place to recover. The right remedy for the specific problem.

Let’s go back to the scenario. As the training specialist, you conduct a survey with specific questions, conduct some focus group sessions to gain some insight and then you conduct some interviews to gather even more information.  Based on this analysis, you discover that the drop in sales and absenteeism is a result of poor morale rather than poor knowledge and skills. Instead of a training program, you recommend some engagement activities over a period of time. Sales and attendance improve gradually.

Training does not solve every issue in the workplace. Conducting a thorough needs analysis will provide insight into what plan to take to solve the problem. In the scenario: unnecessary time, effort, manpower and costs were averted because the time was taken to assess the situation and apply the right remedy to the problem. Needs assessment is key.

Using memes in learning

Videos can go viral in a matter of seconds – the more outlandish the better to create buzz and the fleeting 15 minutes of fame. With the phenomena of the internet and social media in particular, memes have gained popularity and notoriety as entertainment and distraction from the hum drum of daily life.

The concept of memes has been around for a while but exploded on the scene with the increasing popularity of social networking sites. So, what is a meme exactly? Basically, it is a behaviour or cultural system that is passed around by individuals usually via imitation. Think of a video, an image or text that goes viral on the internet because it is forwarded to many people who then create variations of the original.

Why not replicate the success of memes in the learning discipline? They share the same factors as some of the elements needed to deliver a successful learning program. Factors such as repetition, imitation and engagement comes to mind. A learning program is only as good as its design and delivery. Instructional Designers and Facilitators are tasked with the ability to dazzle, while delivering the practical aspects such as relevance, interest, and retention. Of course, as in any design, the audience and the need will be the driving force.

My most memorable teachers, while in school, were those who “coloured outside of the lines”. They were able to convey information in exciting and memorable ways. I have heard of high school teachers who have used the musical genre of rap to teach math, for example. The brain has a way of gravitating towards the unusual.

Pop culture has given us many tools and ideas that we can use to jazz up our learning programs. I think memes just might be the ticket.