Identify the Seven Deadly Sins of Your 2022 Training Program

Corporate Training 2022

At Autodesk University 2017, I presented a class titled “Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins of Corporate Training Programs” with Jason Kunkel. Despite truly being just five years ago, the workplace is a very different place today than it was then.

From where we work to how we work and even when we work, many of yesterday’s assumptions no longer apply.. And since training informs and supports the way our teams work, it seemed appropriate to ask how the seven deadly sins of corporate training programs may have changed in the last two years?

Do the sins defined pre-COVID still apply today, or have they too evolved? How do CAD managers need to adjust for training in 2022?

Let’s jump in and find out.

Sin #1

OLD SIN: Miracle in the Classroom

If I send an unskilled employee to training, they will emerge an expert.

NEW SIN: Miracle at Home

If you send everyone to work from home, they’ll naturally know how to work just like they did in the office.

Even if the work is the same, working from home and working from an office are very different affairs. While different from the “Miracle in the Classroom” sin spotlighted during the original Autodesk University class, the underlying issue is the same.

Just as some attend classroom training and emerge what seems like an expert, some will transition to working from home with ease. While this is true for some, many will struggle to make the transition. More troubling, depending on your company’s leadership style, many employees will feel the need to hide their struggles. This is especially true if none of their colleagues appear to experience challenges when working from home.

Instead of having open conversations about best practices and strategies for success when working from home, I’ve found many firms have taken a compliance-based approach to the work from home paradigm. While measuring performance is important, without any form of training to be successful when working from home, how can we objectively expect that to be the case?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How have you supported your team’s transition to a hybrid or full working from home structure?
  • Has your only guidance been compliance-oriented, or have you worked to find ways to support your team?
  • How have you empowered your team to share their best practices for working from home, and how have you distributed those best practices with your team?

Sin #2

OLD SIN: Classroom is for Training. Workplace is for Working.

When someone sits in a training room, that is where they will learn everything they need to know. When they get back on the production floor, it’s time to be profitable.

NEW SIN: The Dining Room Table Is My Classroom and Workplace (but there’s no longer any room to eat dinner there)

No matter how much working from home has disrupted the dynamics of your home, business is the most critical priority.

Synchronous learning

As spotlighted by the original “Classroom Is for Training. Workplace Is for Working” sin, many organizations have firm boundaries between different parts of their business. Not only have contemporary times removed many of those boundaries, in many cases, it’s also blurred the lines between work and home.

While many organizations continue to grapple with the dynamics of their new work structures, it’s essential to recognize that many employees continue to face similar struggles. A disconnect emerges in acknowledging that many corporate training programs primarily, if not exclusively, focus on hard/technical skills.

This leaves a critical soft skills training needs gap among your team. While conventional technical skill training remains important, soft skills are no longer optional in developing a successful team.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you giving permission to employees to erect healthy boundaries between home and work?
  • How are you incorporating training on the soft skills necessary to be successful in today’s workplace into your training program?

Sin #3

OLD SIN: Teach Everybody Right Now

You will save a lot of time if you get everybody on staff trained in the same class, even if they aren’t going to use that software for another half year.

NEW SIN: Class Roulette

You can give your workforce access to all the training they might ever need with a subscription to an online learning tool.

When the world equated training to something that happens in a classroom, training was often an event. As not to leave anyone out, companies would frequently send everyone to training at once, even if many on the team wouldn’t use the skills taught for months after training.

With the workplace increasingly dispersed geographically and often working asynchronously, new challenges have emerged. Assembling a group of people in the same place at the same time is not as easy as it once was. In response to that, many teams have implemented online learning tools like LinkedIn Learning, CADLearning, or Global eTraining.

While each offers great catalogs of courses, the scale and breadth of their catalogs is as much an opportunity as it is a liability. It’s great that your team can learn on practically any topic they wish, but without focus, what people learn is likely to become a game of learning roulette. The most successful teams using on-demand learning tools curate their vast catalogs, assigning specific learning to team members.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you know the full breadth of courses and learning content available to your team?
  • Have you curated or otherwise organized the learning content available to your team?
  • Does your team know what training they should complete?

Sin #4

OLD SIN: Everyone is Trainable

It will just take some more time to get this person up to speed.

NEW SIN: Everyone is AWESOME

We’re nearly two years into this new life, and everyone has mastered it and is doing AWESOME!

After nearly two of the most abnormal years on record, I believe there is a misconception that everyone has figured “it” out and is doing great. Of course, even if we recognize many are still struggling with our modern workplace, it’s easy to fall into a confirmation bias trap.

What do I mean by confirmation bias? It’s the simple notion of looking to confirm versus disprove a personally held position. Put another way…instead of trying to disprove the training materials you’ve implemented are doing their job, you only look to confirm the materials are doing their job.

Much of the learning materials you’ve implemented in the last year are probably doing an outstanding job. However awesome those materials might be, there are always gaps between what your program provides and what your team truly needs. Continue to challenge yourself to find those gaps instead of falsely confirming recently implemented content fills every gap.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Be honest. How are you doing? Are things genuinely awesome, or could they be better?
  • What training have you provided to support your team in our present-day world?
  • What genuinely awesome ideas and methods have people in your organization discovered or developed? How are you sharing those ideas?

Sin #5

OLD Sin: The Only Classroom People Need is Work

Knowledge is power and there is no need to share it. If people value their jobs, they will learn what the need to do to excel on their own.

NEW Sin: Synchronous Learning is the Only Way to Learn

Training should always be an event, and we achieve everything we previously did in-person on Zoom – just like before the pandemic.

AutoCAD training

Just because you can host eight consecutive hours of training on Zoom doesn’t mean you should. Attending full-day training in-person has always been tough – even for the most well-intentioned learners. Asking someone to endure eight hours of training on Zoom (or other web conferencing platform) feels more like punishment than a learning opportunity.

Shape your training around the way your team works today. Not how it previously worked. If a significant portion of your workforce works asynchronously, synchronous training probably isn’t the best format for your program today.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the training have to be a synchronous event?
  • For synchronous virtual learning, how can you adjust the delivery (2-hour/4-hour sessions instead of 8-hour sessions) to better support learning?

Sin #6

OLD Sin: The “Perfect” Class

All we need is the latest technology, one kind of training, the curriculum we made five years ago, and one class for each topic, and our program will be a success!

NEW Sin: The “Perfect” Video/Online Class

We’ll be ready to record awesome learning content as soon as we create a high-tech studio, buy an expensive camera and microphone, setup perfect lighting, and record a complete course of videos without any mistakes.

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. No one likes how they sound on video. But here’s a little secret. How you sound on video is how you sound to everyone else in the world. It’s a hard mental block to get over, but you sound completely normal, despite what your inner critic might say.

Although fancier tools can make life easier, none are necessary. Remember, progress is far more important than perfection.

Pairing something like Techsmith Snagit or Loom with your existing word processor and presentation software tools is all you really need to get started building on-demand learning content. Over time you’ll begin learning more about the types of content you would like to create. As you do that, you can focus your objectives for procuring additional tools to support your training efforts.

Above that, given the pace of the world today, it’s always better to publish before you are ready. Training is about getting knowledge into the hands of your team. The longer they don’t have that knowledge, the longer they’ll continue their lesser efficient workflows.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What will your team value more? Hollywood-quality video, or instruction that will help them be better?
  • Do you need a full course of videos, or would a single 5-minute video suffice?
  • Can you publish smaller batches of content versus an entire course? For example, publish one chapter/topic at a time versus the whole curriculum.

Sin #7

OLD Sin: Establishing a Fine Line, But No Mileposts

We can just tell our staff that they need to be experts in this when they are done and they can fill in the blanks on their own, successfully finding their way to thefinish line.

NEW Sin: Running Toward Yesterday’s Finish Line, Not Today’s

What we’re doing now is just temporary, we’ll get back to the way we did training in 2019 as soon as the pandemic is over.

Although more things are getting back to a normal, that normal is often critically different in some way from what we once knew. Many of our work habits and methods have advanced the equivalency of five years in what the calendar tells us was just a year. Training for yesterday’s normal is a surefire way to ensure your firm falls behind the curve versus ahead of it.

As life continues returning to a normal, it’s essential to recognize how that normal is a new normal, not the old normal we once knew. Just as we’ve all advanced the way we work, the ways we train must also advance. That’s not to propose throwing out the entirety of your old training program. However, it suggests an objective evaluation of that program to see what elements are still relevant today.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How have your client’s needs, demands, and expectations changed during the pandemic? Do you expect those changes to be repealed?
  • What changes has your firm implemented in response to the pandemic that unexpectedly improved the old way of doing things?

Final Thoughts

Fundamentally, the objective of training in a corporate environment is unchanged. The goal is to elevate the skills of a team so they can do better work. I believe that goal is as true today as it was before the start of the pandemic. However, what has changed is the most effective means and methods to achieve that goal.

Just as the workplace has changed, so too must the way we structure, build, and deliver learning to our teams. For every metaphorical door closed during the pandemic, I believe many more have simultaneously opened. The challenge for those, including myself, who lead the training efforts for their firms is to find those doors, whatever they might be. While there are undoubtedly many paths to those doors, the best way to miss them is to insist on keeping things the way they always were.

How have your company’s training methods changed since the pandemic? Share your experiences in the comments below or with me @TheCADGeek and @AutoCAD on Twitter.

Donnie Gladfelter

Donnie Gladfelter is a highly visible and respected thought leader in the CAD community. Named one of Autodesk's Top 35 Young Designers Under 35, he is well known for The CAD Geek Blog, six Autodesk Official Press books, and dozens of Autodesk University classes since 2007. An award-winning and top-rated speaker at Autodesk University and other industry events, Donnie has presented to audiences of 60,000+ people, and provided training to thousands on Autodesk design technology. As an Eagle Scout, he helps design teams be prepared for whatever their projects throw at them as the Design Technology Manager at Timmons Group (an ENR Top 500 Firm), and as an Autodesk Expert Elite Member.

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