Making it Stick

“For decades many in my business assumed that people could not improve workplaces without training in-pick your favorites-assertiveness, communication, computer literacy, conflict management, cultural sensitivity, finance, group dynamics, decision making, leadership, negotiation skills, problem solving, statistical process control, whatever.” (Weisbord, 2012. p.205)

As I read this quote in our text, Productive Workplaces, I have to admit that I began to truly tune in more than normal.  For these were all topics that I not only value, but offer at my own organization.  So I was confused at first as to where Weisbord might have been going with his thoughts, was he trying to say that these offerings were not valuable and could not improve workplaces?  I was intrigued to say the least, and yet as I continued to read a bit further, I took note of another quote.

“What training did not give them was influence over policy, procedure, system, and structure.” (Weisbord, 2012, p. 205)

It was here and through continued reading that my thoughts began to go back to the idea of making training ‘stick’.  Or, more specifically, ‘stick’ in terms of continuing the encouragement of change in an individual’s or a group’s behavior.  For training will not “fix” an issue when it comes to behavioral competencies or relationships among coworkers. You are instead asking someone to step back and become a bit more aware of how their behavior may be impacting others, and perhaps even why it can be important to an organization (including their bottom line or longevity).  And while that awareness may come in the three hours they are there, visible even as the employee exits that classroom with a feeling of hope and perhaps a bit of inspiration to change.  What happens to that awareness as they return to reality?  What happens when they return to the same environment, the same rules, the same coworkers, the same…everything?  Nothing around them has truly changed in that three hours; they are in fact the only ones with the new awareness, that inspiration that we hope for.

But it is these readings, and as I continue further into our text, that I find myself at a new conclusion.  While I appreciate and value continued support and reinforcement of the training for the individual, all of the things that are the typical response to the question of making it ‘stick’, in order for the change in the employee to fully take effect, should we also allow for knowledge transfer?  Are we allowing enough opportunity to hear what they have to say, help them feel as though they can be the catalyst in the change that our organization may need to create the environment that we are hoping to inspire in the classroom?

“Many clients come to me with a great deal of internal tension, falling back on top-down, command-and-control-style management.  Sadly, this style deprives leadership of an organization’s capacity to respond at the time it is most needed.” (Weisbord, 2012, p. 219)

So I continue to muse…reflect…consider; in order to really ‘make it stick’ perhaps we need to change our own awareness when it comes to the definition of the classroom.  As we style our curriculum, should we step back and think about what’s available to the employee? Should we ensure that once they leave us that they have the tools to continue their learning, awareness and inspiration?  Should we be helping our organizations to understand that if the organization is not open to change, how can we ask the individuals within it to change themselves?



About hdjackson

Graduate Student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying the theoretical world of Adult Learning along with its relation to Human Resources Developement. View all posts by hdjackson

3 responses to “Making it Stick

  • Laurie Niestrath

    You’ve asked some good questions, many of which may circulate back to an idea of scaffolding. I think that it’s important for instructors to consider what the learner needs for the “in the moment” training as well as the tools that the learner will need in their real world. Should there be a component of training that considers what comes next? Are there components in the training that allow for follow through? I can’t tell you how many times I have attended training where I struggled to implement what I had learned because tools were not in place to allow me to do so. Good food for thought. Looking forward to the next post!

  • maryrwaters

    Holly, you write so well and so thoughtfully. I can always count on you in class and in your blog to give further insight to what I’m reading and give me the HRD professional perspective. As I read your post, I thought about what I wrote in my Theory X and Y paper. I wrote that Theory X is everywhere – not in a time clock or narrow job functions; rather, workers are not let in on the strategy side of decision making. Management doesn’t give us (the workers) the opportunity to be an active partner in the major policy decisions. Instead, we are told the objective and expected to come up with an implementation plan to meet that objective (sometimes little or no time to plan). When I read Weisbord’s thoughts on the “flavor of the month” programs, I read it as the training programs still don’t give the workers influence over the policy or procedure (Weisbord, 2012, pg. 205), but focus on improving the individual. Weisbord advocates getting the whole system in the room when it comes to constructive strategy discussions. From my experience, I’m often told to get in teams/committees at my work to help come up with an implementation plan. We’re all about being democratic when it comes to strategy implementation. However, the workers are not involved on the key decisions that influence university policy and academic advising. Instead, decision making is reserved for the higher up administrators who have “more experience” and “more knowledge.” 🙂

  • Elizabeth

    Holly, I love this post! How can we truly be effective as HRD professionals if the work environment does not allow employees to apply the skills they’ve learned? For example, why would a manager send an employee through a training program on communication skills and then not display the same behavior? If an organization is going to embrace training, they need to embrace the change that comes along with it. At times this requires a complete shift of culture and the mentality of those leading the organization. If the training programs we offer are in place to support the strategic direction of the company, it won’t work unless the whole organization/department is able to apply what they’ve learned. I believe one of the best ways to do this is start with leadership support and training. If we have buy-in from them, they should help pave the way to shape the environment in which new learning can be applied throughout the organization.

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