3 Ways to Insure Your Workplace Training is Relevant

Have you seen this famous Monty Python sketch? John Cleese is trying to argue that his class of self-defense students needs to be trained on how to defend themselves against an attack from a man armed with a banana?

The sketch is funny (amongst other reasons) because of its total lack of relevancy.

Well, a long, long time ago, in a police department far, far away, when I was an officer with the Metropolitan Police in London, I remember a time when there was a great deal of unrest throughout inner-city areas of the country.

One of those moments will be forever burned in my memory.

Notting Hill and Police Work

It was during a weekend of rioting in the Notting Hill area of the capital where I policed for several years.

It was very late into the evening and I recall that the atmosphere was filled with the smell of burning buildings and cars, the sounds of emergency sirens everywhere and calm but firm voices over the police radio.

I was part of a Public Order Unit that night.

We had just gotten out of our patrol vehicle which looked like something straight out of a movie.

My five colleagues and I then stood across Clydesdale Road with radio instructions to

Hold the road!” and “Don’t let them get past you!”

These were not requests. These were orders.

Our mission was to stand across the street and look invincible to the crowd that would soon appear in front of us. They would be pushed in our direction by the deployment of another Public Order Unit around the corner and out of sight from us at that moment.

That crowd, when we saw them, would be pumped up with adrenaline, angry, full of energy and disliking the sign of any uniform…particularly those worn by a police officer.

The stakes were huge.

Although having never having been in that position before, I had a great deal of confidence that not only would I live to tell my kids about it one day but that I and my Public Order Unit colleagues would actually fulfill that order which was given to us by our commanding officer.

We would “hold the road….”

My confidence was high due to the fact that for the past few years I (and everyone else who was a police officer back in London and elsewhere) had experienced Public Order training of the highest caliber.

It was not given to us once and then we “hope for the best.” We experienced two full days of training every 6 months.

The training was also delivered in a manner that made sense.

Volunteers would be bussed down to these police ‘riot towns’ (which resembled something like Hollywood streets made up of building facades). There would be a ‘pretend angry mob’ in place so that my fellow officers and I received hands-on training in tactics and strategies to move crowds away safely, as well as practicing how to effectively arrest those who required it.

It was all extremely RELEVANT.

Why am I sharing this with you?

That type of experience tends to stay with you and training then seems to be less and less attractive since the feedback from participants does not support continuing the efforts.

A recent report issued by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace stated that it failed to find any evidence that the past 30 years of corporate training has had any effect on preventing workplace harassment.

That sort of statement feeds right into the same philosophy supporting not conducting training in the first place.

However, read further into the report and one learns that the authors qualify their statement by stating that training on its own does not guarantee results.

3 tips for workplace training relevancy

Other aspects are needed in order to realize tangible benefits…with three things being highlighted as being non-negotiable:

  1. Make a proper business case for the training in the first place (answering the question: “Why do we need to do this?”)
  2. Implement customized training (aka: make it RELEVANT)
  3. Create a culture of kindness within the organization

So the point is, training on its own is not the answer.

It has to be much more holistic than that.

When I stood on Clydesdale Road, waiting for the ‘angry mob’ to roar round the corner at us, I knew that it was not just the training that would allow us to survive. It was everything else that went along with the training. An entire culture had been built around safety, teamwork, and professionalism.

It was not just as a knee-jerk reaction by the police towards the findings delivered in Lord Scarman’s Report on improving police response to public disorder.

Certainly, Lord Scarman’s report provided the business case, but the training that was developed was customized to the needs identified in the report. It was embedded in a changed organizational culture which was championed at the very highest level of the organization.

That is how you make it RELEVANT.