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  • Rosslyn Cox

How not to waste your training dollars

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

You have undoubtedly had a colleague roll their eyes while they complained about having invested in yet another professional development workshop for an individual or team, lamenting the time wasted and lack of any positive impact on work practices and behaviours.

I recently had a client who expressed a genuine concern to me that certain problematic behaviours within a team had not changed within a matter of days following a workshop I designed and delivered. While it is always important to listen to the concerns of a client with an open mind, having worked with the organisation for a number of years and having received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the workshop participants, I was confident that the issue was not with the workshop design or delivery.

What it did highlight for me was the importance of ensuring that I manage the expectations of those investing in the professional development, from the outset of the process. Specifically, helping clients to understand the process of professional learning.

There are two important principles that underpin my workshops:

1. Firstly, knowledge does not change behaviour.

If you are seeking to change the behaviour(s) of an individual or a team, understand that knowledge alone does not change behaviour. Behaviour change first requires a motivation to change, knowledge about what and how to change a behaviour, and then deliberate practice of the new behaviour. In fact research led by the late Dr Karyn Purvis at the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University suggests that behaviour change takes sustained, consistent, repetitions over time before it becomes a habit.

2. Secondly, the 70:20:10 framework professional learning philosophy

In general only 10% of professional learning occurs during formal education and training (eg the workshop), 70% on-the-job learning (deliberate practice) and 20% from interactions with others (relationships, feedback and role models) (Lombardo et al). Based on this approach, effective workshops should include practical tools and tips that participants can use to apply the knowledge when they return to their workplaces.

These principles should be noted when reflecting on the expectations of the workshops from the perspective of those investing in the professional development as well as the importance of the leadership team supporting deliberate practice and providing constructive feedback to participants around the expected behaviour change. Expecting that all unhelpful behaviours will cease immediately following a professional development activity is unrealistic. In fact, the leadership team play a critical role in the success or otherwise of achieving sustainable behaviour changes.

Here are some helpful questions for those investing in professional development to reflect on before and after the professional development activity:

- Is (are) the current (undesirable) behaviour(s) due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the participant(s)?

- What responsibility (if any) does management have for the current (undesirable) behaviour(s)

- Do participants have the opportunity (time, capacity, resources, support) to deliberately practice the new behaviour(s) following the professional development activity?

- Does the current culture support the new behaviour(s)?

- Is (are) the manager(s) of the participants(s) willing and able to provide quality constructive feedback and encouragement in relation to the new (desirable) feedback?

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