Just Do It


When looking at a traditional corporate training classroom, it’s tempting to ask why this environment hasn’t changed in centuries. The traditional model of students at desks with an expert imparting knowledge is the industry standard for most corporations. But is it effective? When is the last time you truly learned something sitting in a classroom, listening for hours?

Despite evidence that this old-school approach to training doesn’t work, it continues to be the standard for most corporations. But as firms require employees do more with less, it’s imperative that workers be properly trained from the beginning to avoid losing productive work time and, thus, becoming frustrated and ineffective.

Remember how we learned to ride a bike? We didn’t watch a film or read the directions. Instead, a parent or an older sibling took us outside, then walked us through the process step by step, from how to get on the bike to how to pedal. We worked on each step on our own until we finally figured it out.

Consider the same scenario for teaching a sales process. Instead of showing sales team members the steps of the process through a PowerPoint presentation, ask them to bring a real-life sales opportunity to the training session. Have the team members figure out what they need to do to reach their goal. Have them break it down step by step. Have them define each step on their own, with perhaps a bit of guidance from the facilitator. Ask them to include verifiable outcomes at each stage and to define success. Rather than being lectured to, the students become the center of attention and are able to experience their learning.

Here are additional ways to turn corporate training into experiential learning:

• Don’t lecture for more than 10 minutes.

• Redirect questions back to the learners. The facilitator doesn’t always have to be the expert.

• Give time after each lesson cycle for individuals to take notes in a workbook, an approach that helps the more introverted personalities reflect on what they have learned.

• Recognize the energy in the room. If it has lessened, have people stand up and do an activity together.

• Remember the 80/20 rule: The learner should do 80 percent of the work and the facilitator 20 percent.

• Play music during group work to set the tone to the energy you expect in the room.

• Review participants’ learning throughout the day and have them recall their biggest “aha” moments.

These methods work. We asked a group of C-level executives recently hired by a large local high-tech firm to rate three areas after they went through our training process. The executives being trained in this company’s specific methods were asked about their confidence in their ability to do the job, the quality of the work they expected to produce and their intent to use the tools they were taught to use. Before the training, they averaged a 60 percent confidence level. After the nine-day training session, their confidence in their ability to do the job the way they had been taught jumped to more than 90 percent.

Slalom Consulting in Seattle believes in this learner-centric approach, and it is using this philosophy to design and deliver internal training. “Ultimately, these training courses will help our consultants enhance their skills by being able to apply what they learned immediately and deliver even more value for our clients,” says Nicola Russell, Slalom’s director of talent management.

How will this new-school training affect a business’s bottom line? Companies can prepare employees to implement what they have learned, beginning the day after training. Learners can also bring current work to the training so they can apply what they learn to their real world. They know how to do it, not just the theory on how it should be done.

As business changes, the training method needs to change as well. This step begins by evolving the training to make sure it is designed in a way that increases retention and application, improving the way people work. Ultimately, every training effort should enable employees to be prepared once they walk out the training room door.


JULIANA STANCAMPIANO is CEO at Oxygen Learning, a Seattle company that provides an immersive, interactive and innovative approach to corporate training. Reach her at juliana@oxygenlearning.com.

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