Sometimes we train something and it has a deep impact. Our learners are fully engaged; their eyes and ears are on the training, their heads are nodding, they’re reflecting and they’re taking notes.

But other times we train exactly the same thing and for some strange reason it just doesn’t have much of an impact. They just don’t get it. There’s no buy in. They lose interest and switch off.

What creates this difference? And how do we change it?

Well, both those questions can be answered with 4 simple words:

Consider the value, relevance and impact of the content you are training. Why do they need to learn this?

For some learners this is obvious. They’ve come to the training for an obvious reason. They’ve already brought in, they don’t need to know much more about the why.

But for some, they don’t yet appreciate the background to what they are learning. They maybe lack some fundamental concepts, or even reasons. For these learners, if they don’t discover the Why, they won’t care. They’ll check out and go focus on something that already has a Why for them.

To build the Why, start with context. Start with a problem they need to solve. Sometimes you can do this simply by describing a problem they face at work. Other times you can give them a challenge; a game, a case study, a ‘What-would-you-do?’ type challenge, and then link it back to their work.

Once they know the Why, they’re ready to embrace the…

This is, in essence, what you are training them in. It’s the concept, technique, model etc. that will help them solve their problem.

After What comes How. But the two are closely connected.

What is more like a summary, whereas How is the details. What’s purpose is to make the How easy to digest and remember. It tends to be a bit abstract. It might be just a phrase, a definition, a model or a technique.

It doesn’t matter that it’s abstract, because the What is not supposed to be understood. It’s just there to serve as a framework for which you stuff the How into.

It also works as an anchor. Once the learner recalls the What, they can actively recall the How.

The key to a good What is simplicity. It shouldn’t take much to remember. As a consequence it also shouldn’t take much to introduce it. It may just be presented as a picture on a slide, a phrase repeated over and over again or a technique demonstrated to the group.

Training doesn’t always need a What. Sometimes the How is easy to grasp and remember. But a good What can make the How more impacting, and even give your training a way to stand out from the rest.

How should they do this? This is the tricky part, and also by far the most important part.

Why and What will get you to the How. But Why and What are dependent on the group. If they know the Why and What already then you don’t need to spend much time on it. As for the How, this should always be included. If they already know the How, then they probably don’t need training.

How is when we get into the technical details. How exactly should our learners do this?

Sometimes this means more training, more sharing specific techniques, actions and steps in a way they can easily understand. As a trainer this puts a tremendous challenge on you as you must make conscious certain skills that might already be unconscious for you.

Sometimes this means more facilitation, which means helping the group discover these techniques by themselves.

There are many, many, many pitfalls to the How part that must be overcome.

If we take the training approach then we may train the wrong How. Maybe we literally cannot articulate the How because it is too unconscious to us, or we just articulate it incorrectly. Maybe we repeat the How from other sources parrot fashion without properly understanding it.

If we take the facilitation approach then maybe learner’s don’t discover the How. Or maybe they think they’ve discovered it, but won’t find out until much later after the training that they still haven’t discovered it. Maybe they simply don’t know how to discover it, or are held back by poorly designed activities.

The key to a successful How is to make sure learners can apply what they’ve learnt in a way that successfully solves their problems. How can take a lot of trial and error to get right, but it is absolutely essential for a successful training.

We could just finish our training on How. But we can take it a bit deeper with this final question.

With When, we talk about when we should and shouldn’t use the How. We isolate the key cues that are so essential to identifying when to apply things. We analyse the different situations in which we might or might not use it and identify the advantages and disadvantages in those. We even analyse when else we could use the How in different ways.

When is not essential, learners can discover it by themselves quite easily. But it’s biggest advantage is the extra clarity it brings. Knowing exactly why to do what and how brings purpose to our learner’s actions. And knowing exactly when to do what, and how brings greater clarity.

One of the biggest things that holds people back from change is clarity. When adds that extra bit of clarity. With When there is no more thinking required, only action.

4 Simple Words
So the next time you want to add depth to your training, have a look through the content and see if it all answers these 4 questions clearly enough:

  • Why
  • What
  • How
  • When