The American Psychological Association is holding a conference on healthy workplaces.

The conference is designed especially for human resource professionals, benefits managers, health and wellness professionals, business consultants, occupational health professionals, health plan executives, corporate medical directors, business owners, managers and psychologists who work with organizations.

Click to learn more.

Update May 2014

Sarah Boehle wrote an article that included Neil Rackham's famous story on the dangers of measuring training only with smile sheets. The story used to be available from Training Magazine directly, but after some earlier disruptions and recoveries at Training Magazine, their digital archive was reconstituted and currently only goes back to 2007.

Fortunately, you can read the article here.

I've been gathering a list of Myths that the Business Side Has about Learning.

I reached out to my clients, to groups in LinkedIn, to my Brown Bag Learning participants. I also reviewed some books, including Stolovitch & Keeps "Telling Ain't Training"; Doyle's "The Manager's Pocket Guide to Training", Bell's "Managers as Mentors". I also brought to memory my own recollections from over a decade of work and research on learning.

I compiled a list of about 140 myths and then used a card-sort methodology to separate them into categories.

Here are the results:

Everybody Hold Myths

First, it became clear that the Business Side isn't the only group that holds myths. Learners and we as Learning Professionals have our own sets of myths. We can't demonize the Business Side. We have to go out of our way to understand and work with the business side to craft workable effective solutions for our organizations and all the people impacted.

Let me say that sometimes I kind of regret that a distinction has to be made between us as learning professionals and them as the business side. There's something wrong with that distinction (we are IN the business aren't we), yet the dichotomy makes some sense since we support others who do the actual work of the business.

The Most Popular Myths
(that the Business Side Has about Learning, according to Learning Professionals)

These are in order from my card-sorting categorization effort. The most-often cited are listed first.

  1. Bad Learning Designs are Thought to be Good Learning Designs (big list below).
  2. Training Alone Produces Improvements in On-the-job Performance.
  3. Information Presentation is Sufficient as a Training Design.
  4. Training & Instructional Design Require No Special Skills or Competencies.
  5. Learners Know How to Learn.
  6. Managers Think Learning & Development is a Low-Priority Part of their Role.

Other High-Importance Categories

  • On-the-Job Learning is Forgotten or NOT Utilized or NOT Supported.
  • It’s a Training Issue (a conclusion drawn before considering alternative causes).
  • Formal Training has Little Impact.
  • Experienced Workers Don’t Need Training.
  • Development of Learning Interventions is Easy and Can be Shortened or Short-Changed.
  • Measurement of Learning. Miscellaneous Issues thereof.
  • Technology is Key to Learning Success.

Will's and Other Additions

  • Learning Designs Don’t Need to specifically Minimize Forgetting (Enable Remembering).
  • Content Doesn’t Need Validation.
  • Particular Behaviors are Easy to Learn (e.g., It's easy to do customer service).
  • Learning is Always Beneficial. It is Never Disruptive or Distracting. It Never Misinforms.
  • Opportunity Costs of Learning Can be Ignored.
  • We Don’t Have to Measure Learning.
  • We Have to Measure ROI.
  • We can Avoid Measuring Retrieval.

Short List of the Bad Learning Designs that the Business Side (and others I might add) Think Are Good Learning Designs

  • It is good to have new employee take all their elearning
    courses right away before starting work.
  • Employees ONLY learn by doing.
  • Reading is always bad, boring, and ineffective.
  • Training can be just as effective if we make it as short as
    possible.
  • Training doesn’t need pre-work or post-work.
  • A large library of courses or books is the way to go.
  • Employees need to know everything.
  • We should and CAN cater to learning styles.
  • Latest management craze (provide book to everyone).
  • Six-hour online courses are fine.
  • Some learning media are inherently better than other
    learning media.
  • Best value in training is a 10 to 12 hour day.
  • More information = More learning.
  • People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they see…
  • Most communication is by body language (57% is body
    language, only a small fraction communicated is in the actual learning
    messages).
  • We need more exciting visual decorations to grab attention.
  • Immediate feedback is always best.
  • Etc.


The MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:  What do we do?

The first thing to do is to demonize everyone and give ourselves kudos for our wisdom,  conscientiousness, and whimsical charm.

No.

The first thing to do is to take responsibility. Just as a speaker must take responsibility to ensure that his or her listeners are understanding the intended message (even though much is out of the speaker's control), we must take responsibility for ensuring that our business stakeholders (1) understand learning at a deep level, (2) understand how they can ensure that training is applied successfully on the job, and (3) understand how they can create a work-learning environment that supports employees in learning on their own, from each other, and from their managers.

I got started on this myth gathering as a way to help me build a course for a client (a very large company) to help them improve work-learning at their company top to bottom, including formal and on-the-job learning.

Will this be easy? No. Someone today at my Brown Bag Webinosh asked, "Haven't we been trying to bust these myths for decades?" Great question, and it goes to the difficulty of the task. Many of us have been trying for decades to make changes, but I think also that many of us are just doing our little part as order takers. We build learning interventions when asked. So, bottom line is that I think we could try harder. That's the first thing.

We need to try smarter as well. I've learned over the years, when I've tried to communicate complicated research-based information, that it is critical to find just the right metaphor, just the right visual model, just the right explanation that is both simple and robust to get the job done.

Maybe human learning and performance is just too complicated to enable this, but I think it's worth a try to build some better metaphors, models, and explanations.

We also need to continue to offer research, real-world examples, and valid evaluation results as evidence. We also need to understand our business partners and their mental models and build our case within their frameworks, so they get what we're saying. We need to build into our training-development process our stakeholder-education efforts and our stakeholder-understanding efforts.

Reaching Out

If your company has created a learning intervention to help your business managers better understand learning and their role in it, I'd love to learn more. Contact me.

If your company would like to utilize or co-develop such a learning intervention, feel free to contact me now.

Complete Lists of Myths That the Business Side Has About Learning
(according to Learning Professionals)
(Note that these are offered "as is" with typos, etc.)

  1. "learning" is the accountability of the Training
    or Development Department or staff, rather than a leadership responsibility
  2. 1 and done – one class and they'll know everything
  3. 1 or 2 day management training seminar can turn an
    ineffective manager in to a high performing one.
  4. A best practice is to "get all the PPLs out of the
    way"
  5. A business gives a metrics pass to the learning group
    because “that stuff can’t be measured” and is then puzzled.
  6. A learning buffet (large library of courses) is the way to
    go
  7. A learning group is not integrated with those responsible
    for performance support.
  8. a test is need to prove the learners
    ""know"" it
  9. Any set of questions will do. There is no need to check to
    see which ones are good measures and which are not.
  10. Anyone can train someone else therefore anyone can create a
    training course.
  11. Asking a performance leader (someone good at their job) to
    deliver on the job training should not diminish that performer's output
  12. Bad Learning Designs are Thought to be Good Learning Designs
    (big list below).
  13. best value in training is a day 10 or 12 hours long.
  14. Build it and it will run: it's vital to get IT involved
  15. Build it before or without any needs assessment.
  16. Butts in seats is all that matters
  17. Content Doesn’t Need Validation.
  18. Context doesn't matter; just teach everyone the right steps
    to a task
  19. Courses without organizational support are okay.
  20. customer service is easy to teach.
  21. Delivering or presenting instructional content (via ILT or
    online courseware) is sufficient to elicit improved performance in the
    workplace.
  22. Different media create different learning results.
  23. Don't bother with objectives; just present the content.
  24. E-learning development is fast
  25. e-Learning isn't learning.
  26. E-Learning takes 1/3 the time of classroom instruction, so
    it should only cost 1/3 as much to create
  27. electronic learning is just as effective as in person
    learning
  28. Employees can't manage their own learning successfully
  29. employees need to know everything.
  30. Employees only learn by doing.
  31. everyone learns the same way (often the way that the manager
    best learns
  32. Everyone learns the same way, so only one style of learning
    is required..
  33. Experienced Workers Don’t Need Training.
  34. Facilitators can develop great courses
  35. Formal (scheduled, structured, SME-created) learning
    interventions are the best means of conveying knowledge and skills to our
    workforce
  36. Formal Training has Little Impact.
  37. Getting certified by taking a training class alone
  38. Hands-on training is okay if it just enables
    situation-actions
  39. Help mgmt solve problem, not just do workshop
  40. I already know it so I don't need to go to training.
  41. I attended a training class so I don't need to practice it.
  42. I attended a training class so I must know how to do it.
  43. I don't have to take part.
  44. I don't need to go through training, I just need my people
    to
  45. I know everyone had different learning styles, but I learn
    hands on.
  46. I left them a to-do list–they should follow it. No follow
    up required.
  47. I need new folks to start immediately. No time for training.
  48. I should see immediate results on my bottom line the first
    day after training
  49. idea sharing is a good form of learning
  50. If ""they"" can do it,
    ""they"" can train it.
  51. If I tell all of my people what to do in a meeting, they'll
    do it and won't need reminders or additional training
  52. If someone doesn't know how to do something I will just do
    it myself because it's faster than teaching
  53. If someone is trained on something they will be able to
    easily figure out how to apply it to their current job without any guidance
  54. 'if we build it they will come
  55. I'll figure it out on my own so therefore I don't need to go
    to training.
  56. I'm a Director/VP so I don't need to go.
  57. I'm a visual learner – I can only understand it if I see it.
  58. in hard economic times it makes sense to cut training.
  59. Information makes for learning
  60. Information Presentation is Sufficient as a Training Design.
  61. Interactive eLearning is only for Gen X or younger. Older
    folks won't get it.
  62. It has to be interactive
  63. IT training still needs vaildation if the training is
    presented from a task point of view. Must ensure that the steps taught are the
    steps needed to complete the task.
  64. It’s a Training Issue.
  65. Its a training issue
  66. It's better if I just have someone show them how to do it.
  67. It's easy for people to change if you train them right
  68. It's okay for the training function to be order takers.
  69. I've been promoted so I don't have to go to training.
  70. Just send me the handouts/training materials and I'll figure
    it out.
  71. Lack of cultural sensitivity for global audiences
  72. Lack of performance results mostly from lack of skills or
    knowledge.
  73. latest management book or craze (providing book to everyone)
  74. Learners have misconception that they don't have
    responsibility to go beyond listening.
  75. Learners Know How to Learn.
  76. Learners know what they need
  77. Learning Designs Don’t Need to specifically Minimize
    Forgetting (Enable Remembering).
  78. Learning Development is Easy and Can be Shortened or
    Short-Changed.
  79. Learning does not happen outside the classroom
  80. learning is a luxury. 
    We hired smart people.  Just work.
  81. Learning is Always Beneficial. It is Never Disruptive or
    Distracting. It Never Misinforms.
  82. Learning P's. don't understand that learning happens on the
    job.
  83. Learning should not take a lot of time away from work.  And people should be able to do self-study
    for almost everything
  84. Learning/Training is the responsibility of other departments
    — NOT the responsibility of the managers.
  85. Let's give them a book or seminar on the topic and they'll
    be all better.
  86. Live virtual programs (LVC) are most effective when they are
    recorded without an audience and made available for playback
  87. Managers think it's more valuable to create multiple SMEs as
    opposed to structured learning.
  88. Managers Think Learning & Development is a Low-Priority
    Part of their Role.
  89. Measurement of Learning Misc. Issues.
  90. Money not available
  91. More information provided, more learning.
  92. more/better training will solve the problem
  93. Most communication is by body language (55%) and tone of
    voice (37%) rather than choice of words (7%). [This is a bastardization of
    Mehrabian's studies.]
  94. My reports went through e-learning. I don't need to do more.
  95. My time is valuable, I don't have time to take a training
    class.
  96. need a class [to practice the stuff]; I already read it
  97. Non-business people shouldn’t be involved in business
    decision making
  98. Not just test scores!
  99. On the job training happens without structure or reward or
    cost
  100. one size fits all" approach
  101. Only paper and pencil tests (i.e., multiple
    choice/true-false) are adequate for regulatory purposes to prove that the
    learner has mastered the content.
  102. On-the-Job Learning is Forgotten or NOT Utilized or NOT
    Supported.
  103. Opportunity Costs of Learning Can be Ignored.
  104. Other High-Importance Categories
  105. Particular Behaviors are Easy to Learn.
  106. People can learn how to use software from a cheat sheet.
  107. people can learn without being made self-aware about their
    own level of competence.
  108. people know "how" to learn
  109. People's overall learning doesn't matter, I just want them
    to do the task right
  110. Performers should be assessed immediately after they have
    received the content from an instructor or from a courseware program.
  111. PowerPoint with narration is good enough.
  112. PPL completion rate is the way to measure quality of
    training.
  113. PPLs and in-store activities are useless – we need to do
    hands-on training "instead".
  114. presentation = training
  115. Pyramid.
  116. Quantify and communicate the value
  117. Reading is always bad, boring, ineffective.
  118. Regulatory and credentialling agencies create good tests.
  119. Reports generated by a Learning Management System (LMS) are
    sufficient for monitoring the learning-to-assessment-to-performance continuum
    in our workplace.
  120. Role plays are a waste of my time.
  121. Seen IT buy ""learning"" w/o consultitng
    HR or Training dept
  122. Six-hour online courses are just fine. i.e. no
    acknowledgement of information overload erasing what is learned.
  123. SME's are the best trainers, and Trainers are always the SME's":
    Pulling an SME to deliver training just because they know the most isn't always
    the most effective approach.
  124. SME's or developers make the best (or even competent)
    trainers.
  125. So often what is perceived by mgmt as good training is
    attributed to the skills of a good presenter, not to training design.
  126. successful performance during training usually results in
    improved otj performance.
  127. Technology is Key to Learning Success.
  128. Technology is key to learning success.
  129. Tell me what I need to know and that's enough.
  130. tell once, people know it.
  131. tell them and they'll do it.
  132. Telling is all we need to do."
  133. Telling somebody once means they will remember it AND apply
    it to their work.
  134. That "presentation" = "training".
  135. That stakeholders will see imediate results (i.e. less than
    1 year).
  136. The best way to design is to use the "present and test
    method"
  137. The biggest myth is that training alone will change people's
    behaviors.
  138. The business believes that they can put an employee through
    training (be it live, web-based, etc.) and magically they will automatically
    put the skills into place
  139. the course alone will solve the problem
  140. the HR as a service provider model gives problems as your
    'client' is your customer – and the customer is always right
  141. The more slides, the better (death by PowerPoint)
  142. The only way to learn is on-the-job-training; spending money
    on training programs is a waste
  143. The skills of instructional designers and educators are
    pretty shallow and their key abilities are primarily related to instructional
    technology.
  144. the training department can't help – they don't know our
    side of the business
  145. the training is bad
  146. there are learning styles
  147. There are way too many PPLs… but we need a PPL on
    _____________.
  148. There is no special knowledge needed to teach, design, or
    organize training
  149. They can learn all they need to know in (pick arbitrary unit
    of time)
  150. they don't realize the importance of reinforcement, repeat
    sessions, follow up
  151. They have a college degree so they already know it.
  152. They need a course in order to learn
  153. Think in-person learning is more effective than online
  154. too busy
  155. Training & Instructional Design Require No Special
    Skills or Competencies.
  156. Training Alone Produces Improvements in On-the-job
    Performance.
  157. Training can be just as effective if we make it as short as
    possible (one day instead of three days)
  158. training course will solve the problem.
  159. Training determines job content and tasks, not the
    supervisor or work center.
  160. training doesn't need follow-up
  161. Training doesn't need pre-work or post-work
  162. Training done to replace what managers should be doing
  163. training fixes everything
  164. Training is a cheap-quick-easy solution to a problem with my
    people
  165. Training is common sense.
  166. Training is the responsibility of the organization that
    sponsors it and the trainer who delivers it.
  167. Training is time consuming and does not produce results
  168. Training isn't very important in my responsibilities.
  169. Training Just Happens
  170. Training takes too long.
  171. Training will automatically change behavior on the job
  172. Training willing workers creates willing and able workers.
  173. Training/teaching/telling = learning
  174. Trainings are luxury and sometimes seen as a cookie for the
    staff at a time no one really need it. Let them have some legal fun
  175. Try again, make sure you use the Access Code that is showing
    and follow by a # sign.
  176. verbal responses (for example to customers) are easy.
  177. We can Avoid Measuring Retrieval.
  178. we can send them an email.
  179. We can train people to do anything…
  180. we can train people to instantly recall anything.
  181. We can use common sense to guide training design.
  182. We can't bring in outside help – our industry is too
    specialized and our needs are too unique.
  183. We Don’t Have to Measure Learning.
  184. We don't have to look at the performance situation.
  185. We don't have to validate our content.
  186. We don't need to learn! We just need to prove we meet the
    regulation.
  187. We don't need to practice. Just tell them.
  188. We have no time allocated for training in our budget so it
    doesn't happen (mgr may not realize that a lot of training happens on the job –
    not only as a formal process where the employee sits at the computer).
  189. We Have to Measure ROI.
  190. We only hire people who know what they are doing, they don't
    need to learn anything, and if they do, they'll pick it up on the job
  191. we should automatically assume that an SME is ipso facto
    'the best trainer'.
  192. We should/can cater to learning styles.
  193. When things are not going well it is clearly a lack of
    skills and knowledge – so TRAIN them
  194. Why explain to all levels of employees how the organisation
    works, how the departments relate to one another, etc
  195. Why would I train my employees if they are already doing it?
  196. Why would I want to train my employees in specific
    sub-skills
  197. You can develop a perfect course without SMEs.
  198. you can fix anything with enough training.
  199. You can’t teach people relationship skills (either they have
    them or they don’t)
  200. You don't need objectives, any one can write training.
  201. You either have the ability to learn or not.
  202. You have competence or not, then you learn it on the job.
  203. You need to use a technology to train people properly

Ideas Participants in My Brown-Bag Learning Event Offered on What We as Learning Professionals Ought to Do about the Myth Problem
(Note that these are offered "as is" with typos, etc.)

  • Our responsibility – gently guide. Present the right solution when asked for the wrong one
  • Give examples of whether X type of intervention has been successful
  • Offer performance solutions: this is what we can do (beyond training)
  • Bring out the research to dispel the myths
  • Develop solid business acumen and work, plan, collaborate from there
  • to educate clients
  • We need to discuss the learning models and theories that we support when appropriate
  • We should be advocates for learners
  • We should questions their thinking, ask for evidence
  • Provide real evidence of success.
  • educate, communicate, inform
  • We have to walk a fine line between sticking to the ""truths"" we know, yet dealing tactfully with management's myths.
  • myth busters
  • Don't be an order taker
  • I have found that the RIGHT manager can make a difference. Sometimes change can come from within, by working to influence a middle manager.
  • SHOW OUR VALUE
  • Have proof/case studies of effects of good design and guidance.
  • Don't wait to be invited to clarify them. Anticipate the reality and invite yourself to the table.
  • Sell our clients on our skills and recommendations. It keeps coming down to convincing management about the value of what we have to offer.
  • As learning professionals we need to promote the effort to focus on what is needed to improve performance.
  • To have a clear focus and mission for learning in our organizations, and to be able to communicate clearly, with supporting information.
  • Dealing with these myths is our reality and part of scoping a project and defining target and objectives realistically… all the time…

Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, administered the oath of office for the Presidency of the United States to Barack Obama on Tuesday January 20th, but screwed it up big time while relying on memory, even though the oath is only 35 words long.

He's a very smart guy and thought he could easily recall the words to the oath.

Steven Pinker, linguist and cognitive scientist extraordinaire wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times trying to explain the cause of problem, but as is often the case with grand theorists, missed a much more practical and important point.

When in situations of high stress, people may be better off relying on external memory aids (performance support tools) than their fallible memories. Actually, this is true for periods of low-stress as well. Our memories are fallible.

Later in the evening of the 20th, Roberts and Obama got back together to perform the task again. Hmmm. Let's see, two of the most powerful people in the world wasting time due to a learning-and-performance failure. What's the ROI on that?

Here's a nice presentation about what makes Steve Jobs a great presenter.

Check it out, then read my comment below:

Here's my comment on this:

Okay, Steve Jobs is great at giving a product-sales presentation. No
doubt about that. But let's not generalize this too far. In my field,
the learning-and-performance field, many of the recommendations made
here are spot on (for example, keep slides simple and relatively
undecorated), BUT some are not relevant (for example, "and one more
thing") and some important things are not mentioned (for example,
provide people with practice opportunities, etc.).

Jobs also
has a big advantage that most of the rest of us don't have. He's a
celebrity. For some reason, deep in human evolution, this gives him our
loving attention.

Presentation characteristics depend on the
audience, purpose, etc. If you acted like Steve Jobs at a scientific
convention, you would not be trusted. If you acted like Steve Jobs in
training people, you would not create long-term remembering of key
learning points.

Again, I'm not criticizing Job's presentation
skills. He's perfect for his audience and purpose. I've even used him
as an example for some of my training-and-development clients. It's
just that we have to be a little discerning in deciding what we can use
of Jobs' repertoire for our particular purposes.

Tomorrow (Friday January 23rd, 2009), I'm holding a webinar on the Myths the Business Side Has About Learning.

I've gathered a list of myths from learning professionals (folks on LinkedIn, clients, books, me), have done a card sort on the myths, and I'd like to share those myths with you and get your additional thoughts. I hope also to have time for a discussion regarding what WE (as learning professionals) need to do to overcome these perceptions. What responsibility should we take?

I got started on this because a client has asked me to build a course to teach the business side about learning and their role in supporting learning, both formal and informal. Confronting myths directly is one thing I'll need to do in my course design.

You can sign up for the webinar by clicking here.

Today, Roy Pollock (CLO of the Fort Hill Company) and I release our job aid, "Building Measurement Into Your Training-Development Plan."

It's not rocket science, but it is our attempt to provide some guidance for how you might better utilize learning measurement.

Good learning measurement enables us to:

  1. Boost Learning Results
  2. Improve Our Learning Designs
  3. Prove Learning's Benefits

Unfortunately, in general we aren't very good at measuring learning. This is not only an embarrassment, but a big missed opportunity to improve our practices and our profession–and to grab a competitive advantage for our organizations.

Roy and I wanted to develop a job aid that would help (1) remind us to plan for measurement, (2) see where and how measurement should be integrated into our training-development plans, and (3) provide the reasoning behind the key steps.

There are two ways to use the job aid. You can use it "as is" to guide your training development. Or, you can utilize the wisdom from the job aid and add the key measurement steps to your own training-development process.

Roy and I will be teaching our learning-measurement workshop at the upcoming eLearning Guild conference in March. We'd be delighted if you would join us. Click to learn more…

As predicted, Adobe is on the march to monopolize the e-learning development world.

Their new suite.

Have they really integrated intelligence about human learning in there? Not sure, but I'm skeptical. If you're a competitor, that's probably your only path to success. If you're Adobe, that may be your only weak link.

My services are available.

Below is another example of the misuse of the now-infamous bogus percentages by a speaker at a prominent international conference in the workplace learning field, this time in an online session in January 2009.

I have documented this problem starting in 2002. The following posts illustrate this problem.

A manager at Qube Learning joins the list of folks who have been fooled, and who foolishly and irresponsibly re-gift this faulty information. Point: If you can't verify the credibility of the so-called "research" you come across, don't share it.

Cone_January2009

And this follow-up slide:

Cone_January2009b

It's a shame we have to keep revisiting this bogus information. I truly wish I didn't have to do this.

Of course, even if you and I wipe this bogus-information example off the face of the earth, there will be more misinformation we'll have to deal with. It's okay. It's the nature of living I think. The learning point here is that all of us in the learning-and-performance field must be vigilant. We must be skeptical of claims. We must build structures where we can test these bogus claims in the crucible of an evidence-based marketplace. It is only then that we will be able to build a fully-worthy profession.

Keep sending me your examples. Thanks to the helpful soul who sent me this example.

Interestingly, just today a major player in our field asked me permission to publish the original blog post (the one debunking the bogus-percentage myth) in their company newsletter (which goes out to over 100,000 people). They too had been using this misinformation in their work and now wanted to correct their mistake. I salute their action.