Stop feeding the lowest common denominator An old adage in the training world is that it is better to have a great facilitator and an average design than a great design and an average facilitator. Training buyers recognize this reality and spend a significant amount of energy getting the “right/best” facilitator. We believe this adage exists due to the quality of training design and the concession or trade-off that buyers have had to make. At JMReid Group, we say, why not have both? As such, we advocate designing high.
We have written about the future of facilitation and there is no denying that having wisdom and dynamism in the front of the room is essential. Too often, however, training designs (and also traditional training companies) hamstring the trainer/facilitator by requiring them to follow an uninspired design. The reasons for this are numerous, among them:
- It is much easier and cost effective to design when you are focused on teaching a model versus when you are really attempting to change behavior
- Most training designers lean on traditional pedagogy (the teaching of children) rather than embracing adult learning principles
- Designers tend to over-emphasize writing correct learning objectives and place less attention to the actual learning design and level of challenge and engagement.
We have found that the typical training design attempts to meet the needs of multiple levels of knowledge and motivation. In the pursuit of meeting these varying needs the designs tend to be geared to lower performers. An attempt to make sure everyone is covered.
This design approach is at odds with what we know about another development area – employee coaching. Research shows that businesses are most effective when leaders spend more time with their high and middle performers than lower performers. We think this paradigm applies to training as well. Conservative estimates indicate that the top 10% of performers are accountable for 40% of the productivity in a company. Tapping into the skills and experience of high performers, and challenging this audience’s mental models and approaches should be the design goal.
While designing and facilitating to the lower performers in the room is understandable, we recommend designing high. Designing high recognizes that the majority of the participants are middle to high performers and should be treated as such. It recognizes the importance of getting the full impact from your training investment by targeting the more valuable participants.
What has been your experience? Design low? Design high?