bicycleTraining someone to ride a bicycle is different than training someone to have compassion. Both are things that a person can learn, but being able to ride a bicycle is a skill while acting with compassion a deeply rooted behavior. Because they are different types of learning, the training approach should be different.

Unfortunately, these two very different types of learning are often lumped together in one corporate training process. The same method to train someone to use the latest software is used to train middle management to treat their employees with respect.

To have a truly successful learning experience, the trainer must understand the different types of learning and use appropriate tools for the different types of learning. If they don’t, everyone will be frustrated with the results.Disappointment Road

I’d like to call learning that deals with knowledge or skillsĀ Superficial Learning. We’ll call the type of learning that changes the essence of the person Deep Learning. What are some examples of Superficial Learning and what are some examples of Deep Learning? And, what would be the best way to train for these different types of learning in the corporate environment?

Corporate Training With Superficial Learning

Superficial Learning is learning that doesn’t affect the essence of the person. One example might be training an employee on how to use a new accounting system. Another example might be training a customer service representative to respond in a certain way to a customer complaint. Yet another example would be training an employee on how to observe all of the safety rules of the company.

Thinking AllowedThe type of corporate training associated with these activities is relatively straightforward because the person is not changed at the core after they have been trained. Just present the information and once the employee has memorized some facts and understood some concepts, the employee is trained for all intents and purposes, albeit at a superficial level.

For this reason, an eLearning course, served through your company’s LMS or Learning Management System, could be a cost-effective approach to training your employee if Superficial Learning is involved. By using videos to demonstrate a procedure, documents to provide a reference, and an online assessment to test an employee’s knowledge, the learning can all take place online with relatively little cost or time outlay.

Corporate Training With Deep Learning

If your desired result of the training is something that will fundamentally change the trainee, then more time and effort will be required than simply by having a trainee complete an online course. This type of learning will require a person to change at the core, a process which can take a long time.

Some examples of behaviors which require Deep Learning are learning how to:

  • treat fellow employees with respect
  • work as a team
  • work in as efficient manner as possible

Each of the examples above are behavior based and because of this, it will take a much longer time and effort to train an employee. As an analogy, you can think of Superficial Learning as changing a tree by cutting its leaves. With Deep Learning, you prune the tree down to the roots, and create an entirely new tree.

tree with many branches

Because of this, there’s no quick path from A to B. In learning or training that takes place at our core, we need to fundamentally change how we view the world. In “Influencer”1Influence by Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler, Copyright 2013, the authors provide some great techniques to influence or train others to change their behaviors.

In one compelling story, ex-convicts lived together in a communal atmosphere and were made to be responsible for each others’ actions. As soon as a new ex-con came to join the community, someone who was there already was tasked with being a teacher to the new member.

The enormous social pressure to fit in enabled them to learn to become productive members of society with much lower than average recidivism rates. To teach the ex-convicts a new behavior, a much more complicated approach had to be used than a simple weekend training session, or an online course served through an LMS.

band-aidIn the corporate environment, quick fixes or a band-aid approach are unfortunately used as solutions to Deep Learning problems. Weekend retreats, 1 hour online training courses, and guest speakers are used to try to get employees to work (and behave) differently.

And, it just won’t work! If a company truly wants to train their employees to engage in new behaviors, they have to develop a shift in corporate culture, starting from the top, until the new behaviors permeate at all levels.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any anecdotes where your company used a Superficial Learning technique where a Deep Learning technique would have been more appropriate? Feel free to share your story below.

References   [ + ]

1. Influence by Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler, Copyright 2013
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