It is a common error, and one that I made early in my career. Because bringing participants together is so costly to the company, and because it happens so infrequently, there is a natural tendency to cram as much information as possible into the available time.
So, early in my career, when planning a company-
wide training program where we were bringing people in from all over the world, I would schedule every available minute: we had speakers at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and late evening presentations – working the participants twelve or more hours a day. It seemed like the best way to maximize the company’s investment in training.
But it wasn’t.
What I learned quickly was that working participants twelve or more hours a day burns them out and reduces retention of the material. I also discovered from the participants that more than half of the learning that takes place at any learning event comes from the informal, unstructured interaction of participants with each other. It doesn’t matter how excellent the planned training is (although we always want it to be excellent), more learning takes place informally than from formal instruction.
So, while you want the formal training or meeting agenda to be worthwhile, you need to plan time for the informal interactions to take place. Some guidelines:
• Don’t schedule speakers or other activities at more than one meal a day. Often, I will plan for the CEO or another top executive to speak with participants after dinner one evening (to best fit the executive’s schedule), but I will leave other mealtimes without any formal agenda, other than program announcements.
• In a multi-
day program, give participants an opportunity to leave the training/meeting premises for dinner at least one evening. If I am going to assign team-
learning projects, I tell participants early who will be on each team and suggest that each team have dinner together one evening to get to know each other better.
• When assigning team-
learning projects, I schedule time toward the end of the training session for the teams to start their planning. While encouraging the teams to use tele- or video-
conferencing and discussion forums, wikis, and other groupware to accomplish their work, giving the team time to plan together in a person-
person format at the start of a project pays great dividends to team productivity.
Dan Tobin is a speaker, author, and consultant on corporate learning strategies. This post is adapted from his blog, that can be found at www.tobincls.com