My Love/Hate Relationship with Training Activities

Training activities.  Classroom participation events.  Facilitated group learning exercises. Whatever.

Often, something designed to provide an “a-ha” moment to workplace learners ends up creating discomfort, dismay and even distress.  In an attempt to make training FUN (with a capital F!!) group facilitators require attendees to play BINGO or pass oranges with their chins or do art projects.  I’ve been there and done that – on both sides of the equation (mea culpa).

While an employee who is a creative or conceptual thinker may very much enjoy participating in such a learning environment, Mr. Practical and Ms. Reflective will quite possibly resist and end up just being annoyed.  And while most of us know by now that there are a variety of ways that people learn (visual, kinesthetic, auditory) for some reason a LOT of trainers/facilitators seem to want to focus on the fun-and-games in an attempt to d-r-a-w everyone into some sort of activity.  Are training facilitators frustrated wanna-be kindergarten teachers?  Disgruntled ersatz brownie troop leaders?  Discouraged community theatre directors who had their dreams of Hollywood directing stardom dashed?

Why the fixation with arts and crafts and skits and the like?


But I can tell you I’m straight-up conflicted.

Here’s some of the love:

  • I totally get into it when we have slinkies and Play-Doh and goofy toys strewn about the room so that during some monotonous training session I can make a bet with my tablemates to see who can stretch Stretch Armstrong’s arms the furthest.
  • I enjoy nothing more than being a member of a lively group that has to problem-solve and demonstrate that we “get” a just-learned concept via a presentation or a role-play (and the ability to create sets and use costumes just makes me go just bat-dip happy-crazy!!).

But here’s some of the hate:

  • I find it incredibly uncomfortable when a facilitator asks attendees to ‘read aloud’ for the group from a document which we all have and are fully capable of reading ourselves.  Not everyone has the solemn basso-rumbling projection of James Earl Jones.
  • I dislike forced games that are designed to BUILD the TEAM but only increase the likelihood that Joe from Accounting will never ever EVER be able to look at Gail from Marketing the same way again.  Ever.

Training is a tough gig.  I have great respect for anyone who designs and facilitates training programs that appeal to a cross-section of people with different learning styles and varied thinking styles.

But sometimes it sure makes me wonder – does the transfer of knowledge or information depend upon someone’s ability to role-play? Or make paper-chains out of construction paper? (**)

(**) yes; I had to do that once.  And no, I’ve never replicated it during any training session I’ve led.    You’re welcome.


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