Training Industry Magazine - Summer 2016 - (Page 59)
SCIENCE OF LEARNING
- ART KOHN, P H.D.
All of us believe in knowledge. And when
we teach a seminar or deliver an online
module, we are confident that someday,
somewhere, our students will find the
new information valuable. In the modern
age, however, we may need to reconsider
whether "training for knowledge" is really
helping our organization.
When you deploy a training program,
what is your real objective? For example,
do you want people to "understand
effective leadership" or do you want
them to lead effectively? Do you want
firemen to be able to "describe the
techniques for extinguishing fires" or
do you want them to be able to put
out fires? And do you want people to
"master the rules of compliance" or do
you want them to comply?
DOES NOT CHANGE
Stated simply, our real objective is
not to "impart knowledge." Instead,
our objective should be to get people
to behave in ways that will help our
companies and organizations.
If changing people's behavior is our
real goal, is imparting knowledge at
least a means to an end? That is, does
providing knowledge cause people to
behave differently? Surprisingly, the
answer here is "no, knowledge rarely
causes behavior change."
For example, I worked in Zimbabwe
for many years, trying to get people to
modify their sexual practices in order to
avoid contracting HIV. Our team educated
people about the risks of HIV, how the virus
spreads, and ways to avoid contracting it.
Despite this knowledge, it did not change
their behavior at all. And as a result, we did
not mitigate the epidemic.
Other examples include people who
know about the risks of tobacco, but
continue to smoke. And people who
know a lot about nutrition, but continue
to eat an unhealthy diet. The simple
fact is that knowledge usually does not
change people's behavior.
DOES TRAINING EVER HELP?
So does teaching new information ever
make our companies more profitable?
The answer is "Yes, but only under
specific conditions, and you have to
know your audience." For example, I
once consulted with a regional home
improvement retailer. They provided
their associates with extensive product
knowledge training and they enjoyed
a dramatic uplift in sales. When these
associates knew more, customers trusted
them and bought a lot more products.
In contrast, I also consulted with a trendy
sportswear retailer. They provided their
employees with extensive training and
within six months their employees had
become product experts on fabrics,
design, and manufacturing. And you
know what? This training drove a
zero uplift in sales. All of this product
T R A I N I N G I N DUSTR Y MA GAZ INE - SUMMER201 6 I WWW.TRAI NINGINDU S T RY . C OM/ MAGAZ I NE
knowledge was wasted because,
frankly, the customers were inspired
by the brand's wow factor and not
by any details of the products. With
this company, the only training that
increased corporate profits were courses
that taught associates new ways to
promote the trendy brand.
Finally, consider a large discount
department store, the kind that sells
everything you could want at low prices.
When we provided their associates with
increased product knowledge, there was
no uplift in sales. And when we trained
their associates on "brand spirit," again
there was no uplift in sales. In fact, the
only training that produced any uplift
in sales was "courtesy training." When
they taught their employees to be
more gracious, to escort the customer
to particular isles, and to compliment
the customer's children, this training
resulted in a significant uplift in sales.
A MODERN WORLD
In the modern world, traditional training
may be overrated. Knowledge rarely
produces behavior change and most of
the world's information is only a click
away. And while developing employees is
important, enthusiasm and courtesy often
increase profits more than knowledge.
Dr. Art Kohn is an internationally honored,
cognitive psychologist who studies the
processes of teaching and learning. Email Art.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - Summer 2016
Table of Contents
Three Strategies to Ensure Your Training Has Tensile Strength
Experience, Exposure and Education
Beyond the Classroom Paradigm
Applying the Buddy System
Purpose-Driven Professional & Organization Success
Making It Personal: The Four Pillars of High-Impact Mentoring
Blowing Your Millennial Mindset
Hidden Forces: Unconscious Bias in Learning
Memory: The Critical Bottleneck to Learning
Gender Barriers & Solutions to Leadership
Cognititive Collaboration: Utilizing Diverse Thinking & Behavioral Preferences
Get Into the Act: Accelerating Collaborative Teamwork
Dispelling the Five Myths of Microlearning
Quicken Loans: Culture Driven
Developing Global Leaders: On-the-Job Leadership Development
From Where I Sit
Why Do We Wait to Train Our Managers?
Is Knowledge Overrated?
Is Your Business Acument Showing?
Avnet Expands Services with ExitCertified Acquisition
Training Industry Magazine - Summer 2016