“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?