Ditch the information dump

Ditch the Information dump

How HR consultants can avoid the information dump trap and create meaningful, engaging, and impactful learning experiences.

In this blog post, we focus on how HR consultants can avoid ‘information dump’ training, and what they need to do to ensure that training developed for clients delivers the results they want.  

The changing role of the HR consultant

The role of the HR consultant is no longer focused solely on policies, process, contracts, and people strategy. More and more I see HR consultants, especially those working with SMEs, getting involved in the design and delivery of training for their clients. There are many reasons why I can see SME clients choosing this option including:

  • The HR consultant knows their business and their employees.
  • The HR consultant has a wealth of knowledge that they can share.
  • It keeps everything neatly with one service provider, meaning the SME does not have to engage with another provider.

However, effective training is more than an hour’s workshop supported by a PowerPoint slide deck. I am making a generalisation here but, in my experience, the time required to design and develop training is often underestimated by non-training specialists (pro tip – for each hour of a planned training session, expect to spend around two hours developing it. That means your one hour workshop will require at least 2 hours of development – even if you use ChatGPT!). Another thing I often see is the dreaded ‘information dump’.

Defining 'the dump'

What do I mean by the ‘information dump’? Information dump training is training that is focused on giving information and knowledge and not providing opportunities for skills development and practice. You have probably experienced the information dump yourselves at some point; sessions that are led by the facilitator, that are delivered in the style of a lecture, and have limited interaction and opportunities to practice new skills. I get it, there are things that people need to KNOW to do their jobs effectively. However, knowledge isn’t always power, and it takes more than just knowledge to change people’s behaviour and thinking.

Let’s consider some basic learning theory and use the example of learning to drive. Did you learn to drive by reading about how to drive? How about watching a video about learning to drive? Or was it these activities, combined with driving practice, that enabled you to learn how to drive? It’s the same with workplace learning. There must be a blend of activities to maximise the learning opportunity. Focusing solely on information only leads to:

  • Low engagement
  • Low retention
  • Time spent on designing and delivering training wasted because it has not properly addressed the business need.

The alternative

It IS possible to avoid the information dump and design employee training sessions that are effective and engaging. To achieve this, you must do the following:

  • Complete a thorough learning needs assessment.

A thorough learning needs assessment goes beyond the basic ‘we need training on X’. A thorough learning needs assessment involves getting to the root cause of a performance need and getting your SME client to define a clear goal for the training.

  • Include interactive elements in the design of the programme.

Interactivity in a training programme requires more than a few question-and-answer activities. Case studies, discussions, and simulations should be included to enable participants to explore new ideas and concepts and practice new skills.

  • Engage your participants.

Use techniques such as storytelling, competition, and online tools (such as polls, word clouds, and anonymous Q&A) to engage and involve the participants.

  • Keep the overall goal in mind.

Remember the goal you defined with your client during the learning needs analysis? Use this as your north star. Everything you put into your training session, including content and activities, must be relevant to the goal. Keep asking yourself ‘will x piece of content or x activity’ help participants to meet the overall goal of this training’. The fanciest, whizziest tool or activity is no good if it does not help participants to achieve the performance goal for the training.

Applying this approach

I’ve had the pleasure of working with an independent HR consultancy based in Surrey. One of their key projects for this year is to develop a suite of line manager training they can deliver to their clients. The HR consultants know their subject and what their clients need but were aware that their training could fall into the realm of the information dump. I worked with them to review their training content and recommended how they could improve the engagement and interactivity factor of their training. Recommendations included:

  • Using Google Jam board for capturing whole group and breakout group discussion outputs.
  • Using Mentimeter for polls and anonymous Q&A.
  • Creating case studies to explore key topics in the training.
  • Transforming straightforward Q&A activities into group discussion activities.

In conclusion

Hopefully you can see that it is not difficult to ditch the information dump and create training for your clients that is meaningful, engaging, and impactful. Just remember to:

  • Complete the learning needs analysis – skip this at your peril!
  • Include interactive elements.
  • Engage your participants.
  • Keep the overall goal in mind.

If you would help with your clients’ learning and development projects, you can:

  • Visit our services page to find out more about the different ways we can work together.
  • Book a call with me to discuss your current learning and development challenge and find out how I can help.
  • Download my free guide which contains 30 ideas for free or low-cost training activities that you can share with your clients

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