How to encourage a more inclusive culture in training sessions
We all learn from experiences. We absorb information and practices from those we respect and trust. It is one of the reasons that ‘train the trainer’ can work so well; if we are all trainers, the benefit of collaboration and mutual development is clear.
It could be said that the method of training chosen by an organisation is an extension of their culture. A company that runs a lecture-style training day for its employees, inviting a senior person to explain how something should or should not be done, is a company where the culture is a visible hierarchy.
The employees learn by rote and are given clear directions that are to be followed rather than interpreted.
This is not to say that this type of training and culture is inherently wrong but is something that should be reserved for specific occasions. This is for two reasons:
First, the organisation will struggle to develop the individual and fulfil their potential if they are straight-jacketed by the status quo.
Second, the individual will struggle to feel fully engaged with the company and develop a sense of belonging, which has the potential to result in issues of staff retention or loyalty.
It is vital that new ideas and new ways of thinking are encouraged.
Within a successful company structure, I often wonder how an employee can develop a sense of ownership or loyalty. We are also in a period where the rate of change in society - as well as in the workplace - is at its fastest pace in history.
The five generations in the workplace, alongside the technology revolution, has meant that ‘business as usual’ or historically safe and reliable processes can no longer stand as a baseline for the future. It is vital that new ideas and new ways of thinking are encouraged.
So, what does this mean for training? In a training session, the trainer is there to outline goals, but the participants are there to drive the day, to discuss and learn from each other. In any successful session there will be a mix of participants with respect to age, gender, race, background and experience.
The trainer can then invite participants to draw on their own practices, values and thoughts to come to conclusions that they own and believe in. The trainer should see this as an opportunity for them to learn as much as the people in the room.
How does the trainer lead this? In my opinion, the work done beforehand – in terms of setup and introduction – is vital. Rather than traditional training schedules that follow a set format with predetermined conclusions and methodologies, the trainer should plan based on the wider aims of the day – not how they are achieved.
From the outset, conversations should be encouraged. The day should not be linearly planned, but rather driven by the delegates. This requires a company (in the example of an internal training day) to give far more latitude to a trainer than the historic precedent.
The aim of the day for a trainer should be as much about steeping the delegates in the company culture (where inclusivity is one of the foremost drivers of success) as the specific training goals.
If the session involves practical activities in groups, the groups should be carefully selected to ensure there is a mix of people to represent different viewpoints. The trainer has to encourage, if not actively demand, that everyone has a voice and speaks up, reassuring that no opinion is wrong, and we can all learn from each other.
The trainer must never say that a suggestion of a working practice is not ‘how the company would do it’ but rather encourage the group to discuss variations before reaching their conclusion. This might mean using a different methodology to the one that the trainer originally envisaged. However, this paves way for empowerment.
The company encourages the culture that it strives to live and breathe in, showing that there are no right or wrong ways to do things. Instead, it is the people within the company who have the ability to improve practices and drive themselves and the company forward to better places.
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