aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

What Corporate Trainers Can Learn from Associations

Posted by Ellen on March 8, 2012

In her reaction to our recent post, “Did You Feel That?” Adrienne Gross said, “One thing that technology can’t really help with though is motivation: ‘I want to do this training.'”

I responded by agreeing that we can lead people to training but we can’t make them learn.

And that got me thinking about a key difference between corporate training and association training. Our problems are 180-degrees in difference.

Corporate trainers struggle to get learners engaged. Often they’re showing up for courses because they’ve been sent, the sessions are mandatory, attendance is required. They aren’t always in the mood. They don’t feel close to the content. Etc. Etc.

Trainers spend a lot of time with “WIIFM” — what’s in it for me. Getting learners to connect with the content. Trying to motivate them to engage in the content, to figure out how they’ll eventually apply what they’re learning.

Yes, we do some of that.

But mostly we’re struggling with getting the trainers — usually our volunteer content leaders — to get out of the way of our members, who generally show up ready and eager to learn.

Quite the opposite of corporate trainees.

Corporate trainees attend sessions that the company pays for. Even when that training requires travel, the employee’s costs are covered, at minimum via a per diem.

Our members, on the other hand, consciously choose to attend our learning events, whether they be online or face-to-face.

Think about that a second.

They’ve paid to be a member.

Now they’re paying a registration fee to attend an event.

Sometimes they even pay to travel to that event.

That’s motivation, don’t you think?

So if we’re sending people out the door frustrated that they didn’t learn anything, that’s our bad. Our very bad. (And the topic of a different post entirely.)

What are we doing right that corporations seem to be getting wrong? Why are our learners showing up so ready to learn while corporate learners are reluctant to show up at all?

What can corporate trainers learn from us?

Probably a lot more than what I’ll describe here, but we’ll consider it a start. In no particular order, we design sessions that:

  • Deliver what people need to know and do so they can make better decisions and perform tasks more efficiently. We don’t assume we know what they need — we find out from them what they need to know, and work from there.
  • Leverage various experience levels, so those newer in the profession learn from those who have more experience and do so in an environment where organizational, reporting hierarchy doesn’t matter. We know our sessions will be filled with individuals from across the professional spectrum, and do our best to make that combination work for the session, rather than against it.
  • Create online and in-person environments where social, informal learning is a natural outflow from the session. We expect attendees to meet others and learn from them in the hallways, during breaks and meals, and often well beyond the session itself.
  • Start with the assumption that people want the latest information, research, strategies, tactics, tools, etc. They want an edge over their competition and know we can give them that edge. Never mind that those competitors are often sitting in the same room!
  • Encourage an atmosphere of open discussion, networking, debate, sharing, and exchange. Our members have discovered over time that often they get the answer to a problem in the least-expected way — usually outside of the formal training situation.
  • Appreciate the value of social interaction. Sharing meals, taking tours, and participating in other activities together isn’t just about “team building.” It’s about relaxing enough in the presence of others that you can feel comfortable sharing your problems, asking necessary questions, and generally letting your hair down.

Corporate trainers out there: yes, you probably think you’re doing these things already. But you’re not. The next time you attend a professional development event offered through an association, pay close attention.

  • What made you want to attend this event? What about your decision can you incorporate into your corporate offerings? Do you need to change a venue? Re-order your agenda?
  • When were you particularly engaged? Why? What was being done that you can steal and use in your own sessions? Do you need to change-up your facilitators? Tools? Training techniques?
  • Where were you when you picked up a particularly helpful bit of information, advice, skill, or other nugget of learning? Do you provide that sort of interaction in the corporate training sessions you design? How can you do that?
  • Did your attention flag at some point? When? Why? Do your corporate training session attendees suffer in a similar way? What do you wish had been done during that session to re-engage you? How could you elevate the engagement in your sessions, based on what you experienced at the PD session?
  • When did you feel most comfortable? Why? What about the session’s environment or facilitation or other aspect made you feel this way? How can you integrate that into your own corporate sessions?

Generally, you can approach this from a lot of directions.

Here’s one more (a bonus suggestion!): if you were to put a pricetag on the corporate sessions you offer, what do you think your employees would be willing to spend on them? Why? Would they be willing to pay membership dues, then a registration fee and travel costs on top of that us to attend?

What can you be doing differently so they would?

Answer this question, and you’ll likely solve much of that  “motivation” problem that Adrienne mentions and that  plagues so much of corporate training these days.

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One Response to “What Corporate Trainers Can Learn from Associations”

  1. [...] el e-learning corporativo del e-learning desarrollado para las asociaciones y las ONG’s? En eLearning Blog encontramos algunas ideas [...]

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