Chances are, at some point in your career, you've been the recipient of some form of "soft skills" corporate training.

And I'm guessing that this training probably happened in a conference room or at a hotel somewhere - if you're lucky, over a nice continental breakfast. You probably paid some attention to the presentation, checked your email, took a few calls, and then, when you returned to your job, retained very little about what you had just learned.

I've been both a participant and provider of corporate training and here are what I believe to be the 3 key problems you need to resolve in order to make your training truly impactful.

Problem 1: Corporate training is not realistic enough

Learning how to deliver bad news or communicate effectively is important. But it's hard to do around a conference table using fabricated role-play exercises. Or, better said, it's unlikely that what you learn in that fabricated setting will transfer over well to a situation with real pressure, stakes, and consequences.

What's the solution? Follow the lead of professional sports and insert realism into the equation. When professional sports teams prepare for their next opponent, they have a scout team mimic the plays and tendencies of the next opponent. If the stadium the team is playing in is going to be noisy, coaches pipe crowd noise or play loud music at practice to mimic game-time conditions. Some coaches even been known to our water on practice balls to mimic slippery game-time conditions. The point is to increase the likelihood of success by preparing people for what they will actually encounter.

Problem #2: Corporate training is too predictable

Corporate training is often also quite simple and predictable. You practice delivering bad news in a single scripted scenario. Or you rehearse a sales pitch with a colleague playing the role of a client. But the unscripted settings in which you actually have to use these skills in the real world are often quite unpredictable. The solution? Build variation and unpredictability into your training, again, just like smart coaches do in professional sports. The more variation people experience, the better able they'll be to improvise and adjust on the fly.

Problem #3: Corporate training is too generic

When encountering - and ultimately learning to perform - new skills in a corporate training context, everyone's challenges will be different. But in a one-size-fits all training system, it's hard to provide this sort of differentiation.

And here too the sports analogy is apropos. In professional sports, you typically see a range of different coaches working with small groups and individuals on honing their personal technique and addressing the specific, individual challenges they face.

In the end, no one wants training to be meaningless or have little impact. So, borrow these insights from professional sports and insert realism, unpredictability, and differentiation into the equation. You'll be happy with the difference it makes.

Published on: Aug 29, 2017