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What learners want….


I asked the question recently to a group of individuals – about 300 in total - spanning government and non-government organisations, and a across a variety of roles, and levels: What do learners want from great training?

What learners want, it seems, falls into four specific areas: 
1.      Expertise.
And not just subject matter expertise either, though this was important. Learners want trainers who not only ‘know their stuff’ but are also experts in designing and delivering it in ways that make it easily accessible and entirely relevant to their learning needs and clearly aligned to the strategic outcomes of their organisation.

2.      Connection.
One respondent answered, “I need the trainer to understand that when I ask a question, I’ve made the brave decision to speak up in front of a room full of people. So when they answer, I need to feel as if answering my question is, to them, the most important thing they could do in that moment.”   Another respondent said, “I need to feel that they ‘get’ me. If they just talk at me, I switch off.” Other responses were along similar lines, speaking of a “likeability factor”, the “x-factor – when you just have to keep listening because you have to”, and “they need to be excited about what they’re telling us. If they’re not excited, how can we be?”.

So connection, though at first appearing an elusive concept to pin down and understand, is in fact quite straightforward. The learner wants a trainer who connects with them intellectually, linguistically, psychologically, socially and emotionally. A trainer who makes them feel important and understood, and actively involves them in the learning process.

3.      A Learning Experience
It appears our learners want a great learning experience when they attend a workshop or are involved in our training interventions. They want interesting visuals, and learning environments that are stimulating and thought provoking. They want to be actively involved in the search for knowledge, rather than passive recipients of information from ‘the font of all knowledge’ standing at the front of the room. They love a mix of theory, supported by stories and examples to make it real, and interesting activities where they can ‘play’ with key concepts.

4.      Value
This comes in the form of tangible new skills, knowledge and processes that they can apply immediately when they get back to their work place, quality support materials and tools they can use beyond the training and an ongoing information flow of relevant resources. Value also comes from training interventions that deliver outcomes directly related to organisational objectives.
A few interesting conclusions emerged from these results.
1.      Subject matter expertise alone is not enough to deliver value. (However, if the training professional is not perceived as an expert in their field, then learners feel they receive little or no value.)
2.      Learners who perceived the trainer to be a SME but one who had no delivery expertise, felt no connection with the trainer.
3.      Connection with the training professional is essential for learners to have a positive learning experience. Connection is the catalyst for learning and value.

So I guess it comes down to what I've believed for a long time - consistently developing our craft as trainers in focused and strategic ways, is the only way to deliver outstanding value and service to our clients.

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