Why Resilience Workshops Fail

Why Resilience Workshops Fail

I once worked with a Learning and Development team that used the concept ‘transactional elearning, transformative workshops’. Theory was crammed into PowerPoint style online learning resources and teams were sat down with their peers, encouraged to express their feelings openly, be vulnerable and explain their personal irks. At first glance, it makes sense. Let people learn about something before exploring it in more detail. But the term ‘transactional’ never really meshed with me. But should online learning really just be online books being tracked in a learning management system?

More recently, I was experimenting in a development tool called Chat Mapper – a tool for writing and testing complex nonlinear dialogue and events. I found myself recreating situations of conflict that I had experienced in the past. At each decision point increasing or decreasing the level of trust the learner would have with actors in the scenario. The detail to which I could I could control this was intriguing. The context of these decisions were certainly more intriguing than say, “Relationship Management Strategy #4 – Remember that the little things pack a punch” for example.

This prompted me to delve deeper into three of the big challenges of resilience training:

1. Creating a safe environment

Placing participants in a room with strangers – or possibly worse, a group of peers; can be a risky gamble. Especially when asking participants to be vulnerable. The fear of failure in front of peers is enough to make the environment unsafe and non-conducive to learning. In one training event I witness a manager come in during a morning tea break and enquire as to how they were finding the session. Needless to say, the staff unanimously agreed that the session was ‘good’. Emotional Intelligence based subject matter is easy to fake to get more positive results, learners need to be in an environment where they are safe to fail. Particularly for individuals that favour introversion, removing the perceived threat of others in the room will lead to a more sustained outcome.

Solution: Set up your team with practical tools to practice skills in an environment where it is safe to fail.

2. Contrast between training room and on-the-job

In the sterile training room, role plays are only as good as the attendees participating. Facilitators can generate some great conversation and provide invaluable tips; but the harsh outcomes of decisions rarely deliver the impact necessary to drive a change of behaviour. On the job, it only takes a single mistake for years of trust with a team or client to be broken. Reinforce your role plays with rich scenario content, much like the Chat Mapper example where you can fully express the reality of poor decisions before staff make common mistakes on the job. You may even consider hiring a copywriter to ensure your scenarios hit with the impact necessary to drive change.

Solution: Reinforce the outcomes of decisions with online scenarios.

3. Delivery of long-term change

The lack of scalability of workshops demands that training sessions can only be run at specific times or specific periods. Building resilience is a long-term behavioural change that requires reinforcement. Learning & Development teams rarely have the resources to provide sufficient follow up support and this role is pushed onto time-poor middle management. To be effective resilience training needs reinforcement over time. This is not unlike how Marketing departments deliver marketing campaigns across multiple ‘touch points’ over time. Learning and Development departments can leverage off this, by providing their learners with learning tools over time. Context driven digital resources can be a big boost to your learning offering here, particularly as emotional intelligence-based training requires the learner to be in the right state of mind to be effective. You can also consider the benefits of using a buddying and mentoring to support your offering.

Solution: Use a ‘Campaign Learning’ approach to spread out learning over time and mediums.

We have access to more capability building tools than ever before. Yet, often we still cling to traditional learning theories that can limit the extent of the tools we have available and the learning experiences we can create. Look at the successes of other industries and think about how they can be leveraged in the learning offering of your organisation.

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The modern entrepreneur is shifting to become an ‘edupreneur’ – providing an educational and entrepreneurial income generating business, driven by visibility, scalability and profitability. With more edupreneurs delivering online learning programs than ever before, the online education market is expected to reach $325 billion by 2025.

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