Training Activities: A Waste of Time or Necessary Part of Learning?

July 7, 2015 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

I recently attended (and spoke at) the Association for Talent Development (ATD) International Conference in Orlando. I overheard this conversation, one trainer to another:blog pic 7-7

“I need better training activities. Every time Leadership sees me coming down the hall, they hide. I hear them say things like, ‘There comes Laura; [not her real name] she’s going to waste our time again with one of those stupid games.’”

The two individuals were deep into their conversation, and I didn’t want to interrupt, but I couldn’t help thinking about how backwards Laura’s thinking was. She doesn’t need more activities in her trainer toolbox, she needs to stop wasting her learners’ time.

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If I Were Coaching Laura
If I were coaching Laura, I’d start by throwing out all of her training activities, then together we’d find relevant ways to design learning transfer. Finally, we’d work on her facilitation skills so that she doesn’t feel the need to fall back on those rusty tools in her toolbox.

Is There Another Approach?
A dear friend and colleague at the ATD Chicagoland Chapter, Matt Elwell, and I often spar over learning activities. Matt and I have a lot in common. We both have a theatre background, we’re both passionate about adult learning, and we both have a preoccupation with the need for better communication, but we’ve taken slightly different paths on this one issue.

I asked Matt to sum up his position on Learning Activities. His response was, “Blaming learning activities for bad delivery is like blaming the electric guitar for Nickelback. Learning activities are powerful tools, but they need to be chosen and modified with the learning outcome and needs of the participants in mind. Like any other element of talent development, it requires honest discovery, insightful design, and expert delivery.”

So where I’m skeptical of activities in general, Matt’s skeptical of the way trainers handle training activities. However, we both agree that activities:

  • Ought not waste peoples’ time.
  • Should show a return on investment (ROI).

The Unintended Damage of Poorly Executed Learning Activities
Poorly received activities don’t just fail to meet the needs of the business, they can actually cause harm in the form of wasted time (money) and squandered goodwill both for the trainer and for training itself.

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So Now What?
Matt actually spoke at an ATD Chicagoland Chapter (ATDChi) event last February about this very thing, and I’ve been encouraging him to speak more about it. He makes a great case (and he has a calculator!) for ensuring each segment of training is worth the time, money, and effort and that training has a positive effect on the business.

What do you think? How do YOU feel about training activities? I’d love to hear from both learners and trainers, both pro and con.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Communicating Relevance and Earning Trust: What we can all learn from ATDChi’s Panel Discussion

January 28, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Talent Development

atd logoEarlier this month I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion for the Chicagoland Chapter of the Association for Talent Development (ATDChi, formerly CCASTD). The title of the panel was “Earning L&D’s Seat at the Decision-Making Table.” It was an impressive group of panelists and a huge topic. During the hour-long discussion we focused on many of the challenges those of us in learning and development, HR, and OD face.

Two things struck me about the conversation. The first had to do with how much we focused on communication issues. The second had to do with the fact that L&D professionals have been struggling with the seat-at-the-table issue for as long as there have been L&D professionals. And I think that’s OK.

It starts with effective communication
Let’s talk about the communication issues first. Whether you work within a single business or are an outside consultant to many businesses, the panel agreed that your ability to communicate relevance is essential. When we demonstrate that we understand the business and clearly communicate what we have to offer it, we earn the trust we need to succeed. Here are a few of the comments from the discussion.

  • “We have to speak their language and communicate the value we bring to the business. And we should be able to do that quickly. So many people in our industry simply take too long to get to the point.”
  • “The work we do involves people and change. It’s necessarily a messy and organic process. To succeed we must communicate relevance.”
  • “We must communicate a deep understanding of the business as a whole—we need to know how it functions first-hand.”
  • “Our seat at the table is earned with trust. If we aren’t trusted, we’re not at the table.”

At Turpin, we talk a lot about trust. Presenters, meeting facilitators, trainers, managers, and leaders must earn the trust and good will of the people they work with. They need to understand and respect another’s perspective—whether they agree with it or not. And they need to trust the “messy and organic” process of communication itself. Failure to do so erodes the foundation required for a fruitful conversation—no matter where it takes place within the business.

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorWe never stop earning our seat at the table
The second thing I took away from the panel is that L&D’s seemingly endless battle to earn a seat keeps us on our toes. It’s like a CPG sales person who has to go before the same retail buyer month after month, each time working hard to stay relevant, adapt to the changing market, and to deliver what is needed. A good sales person works hard to remain a trusted resource, just as we should.

So maybe we should give up the assumption that earning a seat at the table (regardless of whose table it is or what decision is being made) is a goal to be achieved. Maybe it’s more of a process; one that, in the long run, makes us better at our jobs.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Turpin Leadership to Host/Moderate Chicagoland’s Annual January ATD Chapter Event

January 6, 2015 in News, Talent Development, Training, Uncategorized

January 15th is going to be a big day for Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin Communication’s leadership duo. They will be intimately involved with the annual January meeting of the Association for Talent Development, Chicagoland Chapter (ATDChi).


greg_owen_boger_300Greg, who also serves as its President, will host the event. Dale will moderate a panel discussion with the topic of “Earning L&D’s Seat at the Decision-Making Table.”

dale_ludwig_300“As consultants, we’re often called in to assess the effectiveness of our clients’ trainers and programs. We see a lot of effective and not-so effective behaviors, both inside and outside the training room. So, I have a good idea for the whys and why-nots of earning a seat at the table,” said Dale. “It will be interesting to hear what others have to say.”

The panel is made up of four impressive individuals that serve the Learning & Development field in a variety of ways. They are:

Barry Altland

Author and Thought Leader at Head, Heart and Hands Engagement Collective, Past President of ATD, Central Florida Chapter

Specialty: Learning and Organizational Development, Volunteer Engagement and Leadership

Terri Pearce, SPHR

Board Member ATD National and Executive Vice President, Human Resources, (with a seat at the table) at HSBC North America

Specialty: Learning, Talent, Resourcing and Organizational Development, and Succession Planning

Pamela Meyer, Ph.D.

Director, Center to Advance Education for Adults at DePaul University School for New Learning, Speaker, Consultant and Author of “From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing Through Dynamic Engagement.”

Specialty: Organizational Agility and Innovation

Deb Pastors, MS, MOB

President of Education Development Growth Enterprises and Past President of CCASTD

Specialty: Leadership and Organizational Development

The event, which will be at Fountain Blue in Des Plaines, promises to be full of interesting conversations and excellent networking opportunities.

To register for the event, visit: