Classroom Training for Companies is NOT Dead! And, here is the business case.

10 reasons why classrooms beat screens – An opinion piece by Matthew Hill

At the moment I am battling with a large client to “save” classroom face-to-face training against the passionate arguments from a few of their senior directors who wish to take ALL content on-line and deliver educational content via virtual E learning packages.

Their logic for this centres on time, money and travel.

Time Management Course

The way they state it, in the long run, if the company builds, say, 100 units of virtual training, the job is done – There will be relatively little further expense. In their utopian vision of the future for education, the company will not have to move people around, book flights and hotels, repeat live training or pay for group suppers and trips to the local town amusements etc. From a purely financial perspective this is both understandable and correct.

But, What is missing here, and what is going to be lost?

Save the Classroom – 10 Things to Consider…

  1. Realism

The classroom affords a much more realistic representation of a corporate meeting, a heated discussion or a simple live pair dialogue. It is this realism that will adds educational value later when the participants are locked in conflict and combat for real.

Studies in learning impact mostly conclude that the closer a learning simulation is to reality, the greater the transfer is, making the new competence ready for use in an actual live and important work scenario.

So, the 3D simulation of realistic soft skills, leadership and change exercises found in classroom encounters is going to almost always be more fresh, alive and more nuance that its virtual equivalent.

You don’t learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book.

  1. Stimulation

A half decent facilitator will bring the room to life, the group to life and the material to life. They will add energy, manage the group dynamic, warm up the participants and use humour, drama and stories to illustrate many key points and, at just the right moment. This makes a difference in driving home the learning and makes any training session, special and memorable. Let us contrast this with many conversations I have had with corporate executives bored and frustrated with long, repetitive and “averaged out” on-line training materials. Just the delivery channel alone represents an unwelcome addition time tying the stressed executive to their laptop.

We are suffering from a plague of screen fatigue.

Change management course

  1. Tailored

A live training does not have to average out the talent in the room and cater for the median delegate. There will be the strugglers, the walkers and the sprinters too. They have different needs, separate learning style preferences and each has an ideal individual tempo. In a live encounter these subtleties can be serviced in many ways to help everybody to get to progress, satisfaction and a fuller understanding of the learning on offer.

One size does not fit all.

  1. Concentration

A great trainer will sense the corporate commercial context they are walking into and feel the energy in the room. Have some awful financial figures just been released? A round of redundancies announced? Has a product or service just failed? Or, is there a tension due to an on-going external threat such as Brexit or US trade protectionism?

The trainer is there on the ground and can shape the day and absorb concerns whilst leading the group to the commercial and educational objective via adapted strategies and behaviours that respect the bigger picture and the current perceived reality.

And, they can respond to the energy levels in the room by scheduling a break or putting in an extra exercise to manage the concentration or mood of the group live, as opposed to guessing the concentration span of the average participant months in advance and having to ignore any real time distractions.

Live energy management adds to great transfer outcomes.

Diverse group of people at a community center. Meet and greet.Group exercises

  1. Exercises

Spending live time with people gives more possibilities – Role play, team building initiatives, group discussion, feedback – giving and receiving, physical breakout groups and the live reconciliation of differing opinions, learning styles and behavioural preferences as experienced when any two or more people get down to business.

Dynamic simulation exercises leads to excitement leads to retention.

  1. Questions

The effectiveness of the classroom is realised when dealing with magic learning moments that are thrown up by a group interacting around critical topics in the intimate and personal space of the classroom.

With on-line delivery, exceptional cases beyond the obvious ones cannot be catered for, as the learning piece must, by definition target a lowest common denominator of material and methods.

When an average person gets stuck, they represent more than themselves. Live, the teaching can be paused as the facilitator illuminates the troubling topic from a new perspective to ensure understanding. It can be in these simple moments that the “aha” breakthrough occurs for many. Or, when the genius delegate spots something that even the experienced facilitator has not come across before. These incidents can be special and make the live event stand out in the memory of the participants and lead to the company attaining a level of awareness or breakthrough.

More,

Those break-time chats or questions can save lives and careers, starting when a quieter member seeks out help. They can do this because the facilitator has established a safe space with sufficient levels of trust and confidentiality for the confession or enquiry to occur. Early intervention can make a significant difference to outcome.

Cater for the exceptional, the quiet and the cautious to help the whole corporation.

  1. Networking

The opportunity in the classroom to meet new people, experience the philosophy of other departments and gain knowledge of alternative points of view from a variety of counterparts can be a major contributor in gluing together a disparate multi-site organisation of virtual workers so creating an esprit de corp that will produce a lasting benefit experienced in elevated levels of cooperation and exchange during a project or around the creation of a new product in the future.

Inspiration can be all around us.

  1. Retention

When pre-reading is assigned, this can be tested for comprehension in the room. During the session, simple memory techniques can be applied to help the learning stick. When a trainer asks what have you learnt to each participant, something powerful and effective occurs. There is a richer processing of the materials, a personal commitment to owning content and a chance to challenge any part of the material just covered.

Profound and intense exercises are the way to max the stickiness of material, and, a post training conf. call can further aid retention with 3 questions; What do you remember from the day? What have you applied and it is working? And, what have you attempted to apply and it is not working?

Deeper interaction leads to greater retention and better application.

  1. Collective Mistake

The best argument for the live classroom comes in the training moment when a collective company-wide misapprehension is revealed. If everybody at Company X believes something to be true and the trainer can show that an alternative explanation or method is valid, there can be a step evolution in outcome. The magic of modern time management or leaving the comfort zone during change are two excellent examples of this, where the majority view does not always represent the “truth” of the matter.

Live training can challenge group-think in a unique and powerful way.

  1. Cost

The number one reason for the shift to on-line learning platforms is cost. But, classrooms do not have to be so expensive and a more dynamic version, blended in with any pure on-line can really make a difference.

When training days are attached to regular conferences or regional meetings, the travel costs have already been apportioned. When the benefit of constructive networking, trust building in reducing escalations or the forming of profitable collaborative partnerships is added back in, the cost per head becomes more than attractive again.

And, in the spirit of constructive compromise, when a summary film is made, pre-reading materials are edited to boost charisma and energy, and, follow up training is delivered by live webinar, the live and virtual costs can be averaged out. When we otimize the cost of classroom and virtual live exchanges and create better non-live materials, we help the finance department to approve investment in training. This then helps generate exceptional knowledge retention to please the L&D department and stimulates and helps create competent and connected workers who now enjoy training sessions put on by the company.

A networked, trusting and collaborative team will beat a siloed one, every time.

Action

Please like and share if you agree with the arguments we have put forward, if you enjoy classroom training, or if, you feel that the classroom is a relevant space for learning, development and business improvement. Thanks.

Have I missed anything?

Can you add to the business case?

Please add any constructive comments that will add value to this piece. Thanks.

About the Author – Matthew Hill is a soft skills trainer working in Europe delivering dynamic group training live in the classroom.

 

Sexual Harassment Part 3. What IS being done? The Final Part in the Series by Intercultural Mediator – Susanne Schuler

What IS being done?

In Part 1 we looked at the cultural origins of harassment. In Part 2 we expanded on what actually happens. Now, in this concluding piece, we highlight what actions are needed to diminish the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Let’s train everybody to be aware…

As a broad corporate response to the emerging crisis (Pandora’s box is now open), a wave of group Sexual Harassment Awareness Training Courses are being spashed over executives. And it is all coming in a rush. Centred on behavioural awareness and compliance (no, the other compliance) they have a very specific tone. Often with stern warnings and containing horrible scenarios, the message is one of shame and blame directed at the vile nature of some male behaviour.

Businessman portrait

But, this rapidly deployed and reactive intervention could prove to be counter-productive.

According to some research, there is a downside to this style of teaching approach. Short, high-pressure, punitive harassment awareness courses, that focus on blame and promise punishment, may actually be delaying the desired change in male behaviour in the workplace. A side effect of the powerful content contained in these courses is construed as a general accusation making all men automatically wrong and covering all male executives with a blanket of condemnation. This, in turn, can contribute negatively to the goal, hindering some men to acknowledge the potential for danger. The confrontational nature of the material shifts them from free dialogue into a defensive and avoidant position, where some begin to justify their actions or chose instead to hide in deep denial.

When a corporate sheep-dip course is rolled out rapidly as a reactive tactic by male management, probably in response to a sexual harassment incident within the company, possibly involving one of their own, an instant cure is not always forthcoming.

Unwanted side effects include seeing men taking refuge in polarity, the strengthening of male in-groups for mutual protection and a general disengagement from the subject, and, thus making resolution less likely to occur. When this approach is taken, especially in competitive and sales driven organisations, where the male hero stereotype has been promoted for years as the company ideal, the company finds that their promoted culture of, “hunt like a predator” cannot be switched off so easily or so quickly.

Maybe you can’t sheep dip a wolf.

So, compliance courses, rushed out to all employees in order to kill off the incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace are not proving a panacea.

Maybe we need to go deeper in our study of the abuse of power by men and look to see how women get caught up in this dynamic.

For women, the current rebalancing of #metoo and #timesup is creating a safe space, beyond shame and silence, for those at the receiving end of abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination. This movement has peer support, allowing the sharing of stories with less judgement and is, at last, letting light shine in upon decades of secrecy, silence and fearful darkness.

It has taken action by women for women bypassing the boardroom, to get proportionate airtime, begin the debate and change the ground rules for both men and women in the workplace.

What now?

Will the repeated and amplified myth of man as a dominant, experienced, decisive, macho, courageous and an all-conquering hero, morph into something safer, more savoury and more appropriate for today’s business world?

Or, will the bastions of male power lash out, take revenge and reclaim their territory?

If the #metoo door is shut again, we can expect a panoply of abuse, a continuance of harassment in the absence of consequences for men and justice for women wronged at work, and, a strengthening of the ultra-male script – look out with dread for the return of the ravishing Viking.

Or, a better Hollywood script… Imagine the scene – On a wild and windy beach… there gather a critical mass of modern office workers, reborn and newly conscious – a promising new generation of aware workers committed to the creation of a healthier work dynamic that shows up in meritocratic reward whilst allowing for transparent flirting, healthy romance and witty in-group humour, and, killing off the exchange of job advantage for sexual favours.

And, when the #metoo wave peaks, then it will be time to advocate for a code of conduct that covers team buddy banter, in-house flirting, work romance and prescribes a moratorium on sexual trading, physical threat and the abuse of power in the work place.

Questions – Will we see a revoking of the free wheeling sex pest’s power pass in the workplace and the rise of self-policing and self-editing male work colleagues who are fluent in the modern work languages of respect, restraint and reasonable behaviour in the workplace?

Or, will the wave pass and the doors be locked again for another 20 years?

Only time will tell.

The new paradigm could be liberating for everybody.

About the Author – Susanne Schuler is an Intercultural Mediator at CEDR, The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in London.

Catch up on the Series so far…

Part 2 What Do We See?

https://culture99.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/sexual-harassment-what-do-we-see/

 

Part 1 Where did it come from?

https://culture99.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/sexual-harassment-where-did-that-come-from-an-opinion-piece-by-susanne-schuler-part-1/

 

Pride, Prejudice & Privilege in the USA

A cultural opinion piece about the US Election written by Matthew Hill

Manhattan at sunset Turn to clear vision…

When two polar opposites face off together we get – Option A – a de-escalation of tension achieved through understanding and reconciliation and, Option B – Resistance, mud slinging and an active ramping up of cold or hot conflict.

In this piece we will explore option A…

The Swinging Diversity Pendulum

The US election campaign was a war – no doubt about it. Barbs were tossed from both sides with little regard for casualties or collateral damage.

As interculturalists, we understand the concept of privilege, power and what their use can do to the “other”.

The last 8 years have seen genuine gains for diversity, engagement and inclusion. Take, for example, the Transgender agenda – from a near zero mainstream consciousness in 2008 to reality TV and the Amazon Prime award winning series, Transparent now.

Looking back (there has been a lot of looking back…) the darker side of the liberal advance was hubris – manifest in dismissive and pejorative descriptions of the “other” and here lay the seeds of their defeat.

Dismissing does not lead to disappearance

Trashing the opposition’s intelligence was never the way to go – Imagine the emotions felt if the Left to Right labels – stupid, uneducated, white working class, bigots and racists where substituted for Right to Left insults – How outraged would the intelligentsia have been?

It takes two sides to build polar opposites and thus diminish the space for dialogue.

Swing

When the media take up the cause of the “mindful”, we know that tolerance of the liberal agenda pendulum is at the top of its swing. And guess what? It is now falling the other way. Those whose privilege is seen to be under threat will not give up their status without a fight. And in the election we saw that fight. The tide of resentment, backlash and frustration from the ridiculed right is seen in support for outlandish and extreme protectionist measures.

Cultural Relativity

By claiming the moral high ground and naming the people in the White House and media as “thinking, caring and correct” – these labels made the other side collectively and relatively; “stupid, cruel and wrong”. Just as with Brexit in the UK, these shamed people feel they have genuine grievances and are attracted to more extreme solutions.

Exclusion not Inclusion

One take on the scenario is that Middle America has been abandoned by both sides and feels intense pain – lower quality low paying jobs, less money left at the end of the week and unanswered questions about how to reverse the local economic decline of the past 30 years.

Bad or Bad?

The Republicans have behaved appallingly towards Obama and with little regard towards helping the mechanism of Government itself – pursuing a spiteful agenda of zero cooperation. The Democrats have not been blameless either. They have not addressed the local issues faced by the population – low wages, sub-prime fraud, mass house foreclosures and the alienation of the squeezed middle. They have supported Big Money instead.

It is with universal disgust that Americans see Washington as Hollywood for ugly people bargaining for their own self-interest at the cost of the Nation and with no Hollywood happy ending in sight. Trump can be forgiven from thinking, “anything is better than this.” His extraordinary ability to transcend his own privilege, tax avoidance, sexual abuse scandals, serial strategic bankruptcies and contrived conspiracies against opponents to convince people that his philosophy is the best for his country, speaks volumes about the angst and frustration of a vast sway of voters.

Bald Eagle Make America Great Again?

The Dream

“Make America Great Again” – panned by the liberal elite as crass and by many minorities for whom the 1960’s and before where a long nightmare of oppression and exploitation.

The nostalgia pitch seemed to work. Harking back to the halcyon days of the 1950s;

*Vast sexy cars, modern homes crammed with labour saving consumer gadgets and obedient housewives helping the bread winner to a cocktail and having supper ready for him when he returned from a not too arduous but highly rewarded day’s work at the office.

*Smoking, whisky, employing secretaries for their looks, a marriage bar for many office roles and a good time had by (NOT) all.

*Pool parties and picnics – It was not actually the case for the majority then and certainly it is only reality for a privileged few now.

*For many – their role in this world was as the unloved support, with no choice but to accept the inequality that kept this show on the road.

(If you think nostalgia is the way to go, I have one image for you that may blur your halcyon vision of the past – 18th Century dentistry!)

Push and Pull.

If the Pull of nostalgia was a fantasy, the Push was more urgent and keenly felt. The protest was against the political insanity of Congress, the economic consequences of Globalisation, the death of regional metal bashing in America and the starkly contrasting figures – the USA has about 5% of the world’s population and accounts for about 23% of the world’s GDP. “How then”, asked 60 million Americans, “can I not afford to pay my ever-increasing health insurance premiums?”

Add to this the unpunished crimes of the sub prime housing scandal where the biggest banks were bailed out and rewarded for their immoral exploitation of US working citizens whilst the average Joe and Joanna were not helped out in any way as they experienced the burning shame of house foreclosure. This dark chapter was remembered by many.

Changing the game

For DJT to win against the tide of the media is nothing short of extraordinary. His bizarre and extreme statements gained enormous airtime. His conspiracy theories laid waste to opponents and his nationalist rhetoric resonated with the dispossessed – pushing a complete outsider to the most important job in the world.

With Facebook fake news, a departure from facts and proof (post-truth) and the wildest campaign promises seen since Hitler, the ground was set for a revolution in a country still seeing itself as a Democracy.

The real marketing miracle was for a man tide to Big Money and an address book that went right the way to the top to convince Middle America that he was one of them and would serve their desperate needs for jobs, better wages and a return to easier times. The push and pull must have spun heads.

And with a little help from the Democrats

Many commentators where offering the advice; “the lesser of two evils”. Looking back, this may not have been the MOST appetizing choice at the ballot box. It was matched in the 2002 French Presidential elections by the, “vote for the criminal, not the racist!” slogan that WORKED and got Jacque Chirac elected back as President of France.

Hilary had a ton of baggage to carry around with her on the campaign trail – a list of dubious business connections and dealings, a propensity for war and shameless connections with Big Money. And a less that world changing promise that NOTHING would change.

That and an old man sitting in a blue “court dock” behind his wife during the TV presidential debates looking on with a tired and stony face whilst the most sordid chapters of US Presidential history were dredged up again and flung about the debating hall.

We guess that Bernie Saunders made a pact with Hilary a couple of years ago to mop up the next generation and anti-Hilary liberals and hand these free thinkers over to the Hilary camp at the last minute – A cynical move too far?

What of the Future?

DJT’s Roosevelt / Keynsian infrastructure investment proposal – enormous sums of printed and borrowed money will keep the country calm for now – Nobel Prize winning , Joseph Stieglitz, points out though that the innovation and new industries that will drive US growth will be very light on labour and will fail to provide the promised vast increase in new jobs or a general improvement in the quality of living for most beyond giving them new domestic, leisure and work based gadgets to buy.

New jobs will be created. The majority, however, will be in construction and will be accompanied by minimum wages, poor working condition and little dignity – Not quite the dream of 1950s Hollywood as seen with John Ham in Madmen.

Ripples around the world

Overseas, the French Presidential election will be the first barometer of the world’s reaction to DJT. Before we saw Slovakia, Austria, Poland take a clear step to the right. Who will be next to join them?

One cent coins and Dollar banknotes Big money or local income?

Conclusion

Forget the FBI last minute e mail actions, computer voting fraud, the Popular vote and Russian interference – DJT’s rhetoric about immigration, closing borders and his promise to create jobs for regular people is what the frustrated and unheard responded to.

All that has come before has lead to the nice folks of the USA listening to these words and taking notice.

A sobering thought for all of us.

 

RANT – The Quirkier side of British Culture Part 1

Culture WarningSome of the following is not pretty – If you are an ardent British nationalist or lack a sense of humour, please look away now. All stories have been gathered from conversations in the training room both in the UK and abroad.

  1. Avoidance of Confrontation

The Gazpacho is warm and the rack of lamb is cold. The Spanish waiter approaches the diners and asks with a smile, “Is everything okay with your meal?” What do the Brits reply?

“Fine. Everything is lovely”

The waiter walks away, unaware of both the trouble in the kitchen and the two faced lie he has just been told. If he were to keep listening, he would hear the bitter mutterings that follow. “Dreadful food. We are never coming here again!” and, “I will destroy this place on TripAdvisor!”

Brits will sometimes go to great  lengths to avoid confrontation. “It could be worse”, “mustn’t grumble” and, “at least we got a nice dessert.”

Which leads us to the most popular and ubiquitous word in the British etiquette lexicon – “Sorry”

Sorry can mean, “I am innoculating myself against a constant downpour of disappointment”, “You have done something wrong but it is me uttering the word sorry so as to avoid violence so I can just carry on with my life.” Or, something else.

A contradictory and more assertive version is employed when sorry is used to mean, “I am apologising for the injustice or hurt that I am about to inflict upon you.”

Cheerful male cafe worker is serving a customer

“Is everything OK with your meal?

  1. A Meal Deal like Brexit itself

We have a 20-year-old lunchtime ritual in offices across the land – of queuing up to buy a flat, factory-made, dead sandwich which is full of fat, sugar and chemicals, a tooth rotting and chemical laden bag of crisps, and a pressurised ecologically disastrous plastic bottle of sugar water with artificial colouring, all of which will definitely make you feel worse for having consuming them. All this whilst sat at our desk surfing for kitten videos on YouTube.

The truth is – it’s not a meal and it’s certainly not a deal. A cultural anthropologist or sociologists would take a look at this bizarre British ritual and relate it to another ceremony closer to home. The Meal Deal is, in fact, the fodder found at a 5-year-old child’s birthday party.

I make no attempt at a cultural excuse for the meal deal. Its success is probably based on the temporary chemically induced high it produces in stressed workers suffering from low self-esteem and post Brexit poor job prospects. These overworked people have been tricked into consuming both the modern work myth, misguided popularism as well as the meal deal, as if it were designed to be enjoyable and beneficial.

  1. The Misery Line

The population of London swells by 1000 souls every week or so. Most of them seem to commute on the Northern Underground Tube line. This produces an etiquette maze and one or two cultural phenomena that are hard to fathom for the outsider. In days gone by the savvy commuter employed a broadsheet newspaper as a shield against eye contact, social interaction and to protect their medium-sized personal safety zone. Now necks are bent as the stressed executive watches last night’s documentary on the breakdown of civilisation or knife crime on an android phone whilst trying to endure the torture of London commuting. Like the 1970’s game “Operation”, where the “surgeon” extracts plastic organs and tries not set off the buzzer, the modern commuter must desperately achieve separation from other humans – contact is NOT desired. In a cultural coaching session held recently with an Indian executive from New Delhi, he became quite upset at this avoidant behaviour saying, “I felt like an untouchable.”

London Train Tube underground station Blur people movement

“Can you move inside please?”

  1. Street Life

You could be mistaken for thinking that the main motivation for earning extra money and collecting work related bonuses was to allow the middle-class family to move away from their town high street as soon as was convenient. The modern scene includes post-war prefabricated shopping centres, pound shops, charity shops and inflation fuelling, morally cauterised estate agents all vying for your attention. And, the most vile of British inventions – The gang of charity workers clogging up the pavement pestering members of the public for signatures and monthly payments to support a wide range of worthy and bizarre causes.

Having developed my presentation and communication skills to public speaker level, I can proudly claim not to be pestered by the average Chugger – my doom laden scowl (known to make babies cry) and a refusal to engage with the Chugger’s dance, ensure a clean path from the beginning to the end of any high street. I note with incredulity that most people are much nicer than me. Fabricating sugary and polite lies, they attempt to avoid the patronising and manipulative pitch of the Chugger to maintain face all-round and continue on their way, feeling strangely guilty as they get on the move again.

It is the disenfranchised, the sick and the vulnerable who don’t have the energy to escape the Chuggar’s gravitational pull. They are sucked into the black hole of the manipulative Chugger script. When next in town listen out for the word “Sorry” spoken by those caught in the Chugger web and see if you can spot the context in which it is being used.

About the Author – Matthew Hill is an intercultural trainer, speaker and writer, working in more than 30 countries, 4 of which sometimes call themselves the Dis – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.