We are constantly being bombarded by information. Our phones ring, text, and connect us to the Internet. We engage in multiple chat sessions with colleagues. We try to focus on work discussions while the news runs in the background. Clearly, there is no shortage of information on any given subject.
With so much information swirling around us all the time, how do we focus on what’s really relevant to us and give ourselves the time and space to think about important topics, understand them, and then apply them to our life and career to help us get ahead?
The same thing happens in the corporate training world. When we design training, it's not unusual for clients to bring us loads of content and then say, "It’s imperative that ALL of this information be included in the training." The clients argue that learners need to know everything to be more effective and successful employees.
Perhaps. But no learner can sit for two hours and take in, understand, and then retain all the information that a subject matter expert has taken months to compile into a slide show. Adults need to receive information, understand why it’s important to us, then have time to work with it and understand the application to make it part of our lives on a consistent basis.
Knowing this, we ask clients two questions about how much content to include in a training session:
- When learners leave training what do they have to KNOW?
- When learners are back on the job, what do you expect them to be DOING?
This is primarily how learners, managers, and executives will decide if training was worthwhile. Do learners know what they need to know to be highly effective at their job and are they putting that knowledge into action and making it happen at work? When we ask those questions and really press on the content development side, clients start to understand that it's not necessary to include every detail during the training.
Much of the information can be given through different modalities. Maybe it’s a list of links that reference different resources and where they are kept. Perhaps learners need to understand their network and how to use it. But all they need from the training is to know where and how to access that network—but not every person, each person’s role, and how each person can help them.
Organizations try to hire smart people, right? So let’s believe that if they receive the right tools and basics to be successful and know where to find the rest, they are armed enough to be able to do their job in a way that the company expects.
Trainers that try to give learners every last ounce of wisdom on a subject are not helping. In fact, too much information can hurt. Unfortunately, retention rates after most training decline over time. Perhaps that’s simply a result of too much information being presented. Learning is a journey and not something that begins and ends in a two-hour session. Let’s be realistic and fair to our learners, and only give them what they need to KNOW and DO post training.