Employee training is an infamous waste of time and money. Companies spend billions on training each year, yet The American Society for Training and Development itself says that 90 percent of what employees learn during training isn't retained. Tons of studies show the same. Simply put, most training doesn't work.

Is changing your employees behavior hopeless then? Not according to Google.

Clearly the data obsessed company knows the dismal statistics on traditional training, so when it wanted to nudge their managers to provide more psychological safety for their teams, they didn't call in an expert for a seminar or send everyone to an expensive but useless class.

Instead they thought smaller. So much smaller, in fact, that even the tiniest startup or mom-and-pop business can afford to copy the search giant's idea.

Whisper your way to better employee performance

The problem with most training isn't that the information provided isn't useful. Instead, it's that when trainees get back to the office, it's often hard to figure out how to put that information to use in their daily work. It's also incredibly easy to forget what they learned. What you need is not only to convey information, but also to offer guidance, nudges, and the right environment to help employees actually put that information to work.

The solution to accomplishing all this, Google suggests in a recent Re:Work blog post, is a series of gentle whispers.

"A whisper course is a series of emails, each with a simple suggestion, or 'whisper,' for a manager to try in their one-on-ones or team meetings. Over the course of ten weeks, managers could build better psychological safety on their team by trying these whisper suggestions," explains the post.

It goes on to offer an example of one super short and completely practical "whisper" email urging managers to better acknowledge and appreciate team members. The idea is dead simple, but according to Google's ever present data collection, it's also effective.

"Googlers were invited to rate each whisper email and reflect on their personal takeaways from the lesson. Ratings for this particular lesson on appreciation were 98 percent favorable, and an internal analysis of retrospective pre-test survey responses spanning one year indicate a 33 percent increase in favorable responses to the statement 'I look for ways to acknowledge and appreciate each of my team members, and make sure to communicate this in a timely manner,'" the company reports.

Google's budget not required

The good news about this technique, of course, isn't just that it appears to be way more effective than traditional training, but also way more accessible. What company or executive can't manage to send a simple, short email once in awhile? Pretty much none.

In fact, Google has made it even simpler for much smaller businesses to steal this technique, even offering a completely free guide to help you develop your own whisper course, including foolproof templates for the emails themselves. Now there's no reason not to give it a try yourself.

Published on: Dec 21, 2017