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Blame the student

April 7, 2010

In the previous post, I spoke of the four areas you should investigate when a student fails your training program. Everyone’s finger is probably aiming toward the former trainee anyway, so here is a good place to start. Don’t just focus on the student’s shortcomings however, because there are a variety of ways that the student could have contributed to the lack of success and some of these can occur through no fault of theirs. There are six main areas to look at here:

Motivation: Motivation is a very important factor and can mean the difference between success and failure. It is one of the four golden rules of training and a massive learning multiplier. Motivation is a difficult aspect to measure, but there are some behavioural indicators that the trainer will observe during the training. Additionally, motivation is really only a symptom and it is most often the result of external factors, some of which are outside the view of the training team.

ASK: Were they enthusiastic about the training? Did they really try hard, put in extra curricular effort and seek additional assistance for the areas that challenged them the most? Did they initiate the training themselves or was it thrust upon them? Did they actually want to do it? Were they always on time? Early? Late, and if so on occasionally or consistently? Did they speak fondly of the challenges or complain about them to the bitter end?

Incentive: This ties in with motivation and is the external factors that the organisation adds to the training program. However, this is related directly to them due to the way that different students will respond to various incentives. It is the training team’s responsibility to identify which ones have greater value to the student and leverage them successfully.

ASK: Was there a valid reason for them to succeed? Was there added responsibility, credibility or promotional opportunities to enhance their workplace status? Was their a financial incentive? Was the training relevant to them or did it at least equip them with skills that were either transferable or improve current work practices?

Expectations: If the student has a preconceived idea about the training that is vastly different from reality, they may be over whelmed by the complexity or difficulty of the challenges. If it doesn’t equip the student as they’d hoped or give them access to improvement opportunities, they could become disillusioned or even question the value of their own efforts in the process. This ties back into motivation obviously, but could also lead to stress related problems or self-suspension if they consider success unreachable.

ASK: What were their expectations of the training? Were they accurate? Was it challenging? Not challenging enough? Did the training prepare them for the assessment? Were they confident of success? Did they think they would fail? Did they feel that the overall objectives were met? Did the training team live up to their expectations?

Conditions: It is important to consider what else is going on in the student’s life and may have had an affect on the outcome. This need not only be related to personal issues, but could also be the result of competing demands of the workplace. A student already entrenched in the organisation may have other operational responsibilities that demand their attention, whilst new team members have the burden of learning team dynamics and workplace etiquette whilst meeting performance objectives. There is also the additional burden or worry when their continued employment is conditional of a successful outcome.

ASK: Were there and personal factors that affected the training such as family problem, housing issues, financial difficulties, illness etc? Is the student having any legal or social problems? How new is the student to the workplace? Are they having personality problems with other team members? How different is this workplace from others in the same field? Other fields or professions? Does the student hold other responsibilities or subject matter expertise that is continually called on? Are they treat differently as the ‘new guy’? Is it team or solo performance oriented? Is it supervised or self regulated? Is a safety critical role? Is a student treated as a respected member of the team or seen as a burden? Is that the perception anyway?

Preparation: Preparing the student for the training is an essential start to the learning journey. They should have an opportunity to review the the objectives, the training schedule and milestones before taking a single step. They should also have a clear outline of their goals and how they are to complete them. Access to the training materials or pre-training activities will also assist their understanding of the importance of the training in their overall development. Likewise, they should have had some sort of pre-training meeting to discuss the program, commit to the activities and meet the team that will support them along the way.

ASK: Did they know they were going to be trained? Did you conduct a pre-training meeting? Where the objectives made clear? Were all of the training activities outlined? Did they know when and where it was to be conducted? Were they aware of additional support that was available? What about contingency plans should any difficulties occur? Did they meet their trainer beforehand? Did they have an opportunity to request another or at least discuss their own training needs? Do they know the failure policy? Did they have the chance to make their own recommendations? Were they mentally prepared? Physically prepared (if applicable)?

Suitability: A student who lacks the required level or prerequisite skills or experience is facing a tougher experience with a greater likelihood of failure. There is nothing to say that you can’t adjust these  benchmarks to accommodate the variety of strengths each student will bring to the challenge, but you must sure that you can modify the program to account for these relaxed criteria. Instead of asking if the student is suitable for your program, ask yourself “Is the training suitable for this student?”. If not, make the changes or cease the training?

ASK: Did they actually meet the pre-requisites? Do they feel the same? Did they have enough experience, the right qualifications or even the right temperament for the program? Were there physical challenges that increased the complexity of the training (injury, disability, upper body strength etc).  Was past experience actually relevant? Was the program modified? Was it even checked to see if the student qualified?

As I indicated in the previous post, the student is only one part of the training program and shouldn’t be treated in isolation when you are searching for a reason behind an unsuccessful outcome. In the next post, I’ll move on to the trainer.


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