Dislike & Disdain
Learning & Development (L&D) plays an integral role in many organisations: Training is paramount for new recruits to seamlessly integrate into a company; Assimilating and applying technical know-how and industry developments drive value creation; Leadership and teamwork courses support an organisation’s personnel development objectives.
Yet, despite its importance, most people dread attending training courses. Whether it stems from the boredom of dreary training sessions where participants are stuck in a classroom for ages, or because they need to spend a few days away from their desk while work continues to pile up, most employees dislike training. This disdain, in turn, limits the effectiveness of L&D sessions.
Although I have previously written about practical steps we can take to incorporate engaging activities in our training for better results, it might serve us well to use a psychology framework to explore WHY people dislike training and HOW we can use these insights to design and execute better L&D policies and practices.
Let’s Add Some Positivity
Positive Psychology is a scientific model of psychology that provides tools and techniques for people interested in leading a fulfilling life. Martin Seligman, co-founder of the Positive Psychology movement, sought to create a model of psychology that dealt with well-being and “the pleasant life”, breaking away from the traditional practice of psychology dealing with mental illness and negativity. Fredrike Bannink, in her book 201 Positive Psychology Applications defines Positive Psychology as the “study of human flourishing and an applied approach to optimal functioning”.
How does this tie in with L&D? For that let’s explore Seligman’s ‘Well Being Theory’ of Positive Psychology, which is based on 5 elements (also called pillars). The five aspects of the well-being theory (commonly referred as PERMA) are:
Taken together, PERMA offers us a breakdown of the 5 elements that create a fulfilling and happy life.
These pillars offer potentially powerful tools to L&D professionals if they can be successfully integrated into L&D initiatives within the workplace. Most training sessions do not involve any of these 5 pillars, and as such, fail to excite learners. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore what each element really means, and how it can be used to create meaningful, fulfilling training initiatives that are relevant to participants.
Pillar 1: Positive Emotion
This pillar relates to joy, hope, gratitude, and the overall feeling of contentment in our lives. We experience this when we do something we enjoy, whereby the enjoyment comes through intellectual stimulation and creativity.
How L&D Professionals Can Harness Positive Emotions:
- Design learning content and activities based on the Appreciative Inquiry model
- Ask participants “What is working well?” This enables learners to experience positive emotions and gratitude
- Incorporate Play & Fun based learning activities using methods and materials such as LEGO® Serious Play®
Pillar 2: Engagement
Engagement refers to the experience of “flow”, where one is completely immersed in a task or activity. When experiencing flow, our intellect, skills, and capabilities are actively stimulated, and time seems to stand still – Nothing can distract us from what we are focused on.
How L&D Professionals Can Harness Engagement:
- Create an open and free learning environment which embraces all ideas without judgement
- Allow learners to engage and utilise their strengths through challenging activities that stretch them
- Simulate settings that require full concentration and immersion for practical application
Pillar 3: Relationship
The relationship element measures how an individual is helped, supported, and valued by others. Humans, by nature, are social creatures that crave connection and intimacy on some level. Building positive work relationships, even during relatively short training sessions, helps meet this need.
How L&D Professionals Can Relationship:
- Use ice breakers and energisers to allow learners to get to know each other on a deeper level
- Promote small-group and pair sharing activities frequently throughout training
Pillar 4: Meaning
The fourth pillar deals with the meaning and purpose of ones life – one’s purpose for living every day. It is important that individuals know and feel that what they are doing is of worth, and that they are actively contributing to the well-being of others and making a difference.
How L&D Professionals Can Harness Meaning:
- Embrace learning activities that enable participants to connect their everyday tasks and its contributions to others
- Lead group activities that identify the social contributions arising from their job scope
- Seek opportunities for learners to apply their work skills and techniques on a personal level
Pillar 5: Accomplishment
The Accomplishment pillar concerns itself with our goals and ambitions. It relates to mastery at a personal level, our achievements, and having an optimistic mindset that we will succeed. Actively working on our goals, and succeeding gives us this sense of accomplishment.
How L&D Professionals Can Harness Accomplishment:
- Allocate time at the start of training for participants to set personal goals based on the content and topic of the training session
- Ask participants to form small groups and share recent successes they’ve achieved at work, both individually and as part of a team
The suggestions laid out here are not exhaustive by any means, and are meant to merely serve as potential talking points to spark your own L&D Initiatives. Before designing and embarking on your next training session, remember the PERMA Model, and see if you can apply at least one pillar to make your training sessions more relevant and enjoyable for participants.
After all, if participants look forward to and enjoy training, the main objective of the training itself – the development of our people – is more easily achieved.
If you have any ideas as to how you can or will apply the PERMA model, questions about this article, or need more information about how this works with regards to your company/team, please reach out to me. I would love to hear it! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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