Sheep dipping (verb); to waste time and money telling lots of employees the same thing in the same way and expecting it to have the same positive effect on each of them.
There are lots of ways to develop people, train people and communicate to people. ‘Sheep dipping’ has got to be the worst.
Every person in an organisation – of any kind – is different. They have different learning styles, different experience, come from different backgrounds and use different language and communication styles. They are all individuals, and one cannot effectively sheep dip a collection of human brains in knowledge and expect them to be ‘fixed’.
Leaders and HR professionals today should really know better. Yet it still happens.
Educating employees is a crucial outcome for any organisation, but here are three things that are missing in the sheep dipping process that means the outcome won’t be positive. Missing these things means the education probably won’t become action – which is the real ROI to any education programme.
1. Theory not reality: Sheep dipping tends to be theory only, or at best a general ‘activity’ might get thrown in that helps to make the point. People learn best when they can apply what they learn straight away to something real, their own workload / problem / team. What isn’t real dies on the way out of the classroom.
2. A compromised message: People at different levels, from different disciplines and with different deliverables can’t possibly all make sense of, or need at that moment, the same session in the same way. What will happen is that the whole organisation is compromised as the generic session tries to be all things to all people – yet is probably not much to anybody.
3. Lack of follow up: Even if the session hit the spot for one or a small number of individuals, and they could somehow relate it to their own real problems, nobody learns anything by doing it once – think riding a bike, talking to a stranger, delivering a presentation. Unless there is follow up and practice, and that practice is supported by some constructive coaching in a real environment, the learning won’t stick even for this small number of employees.
So, sheep dipping probably won’t hit the spot for most people, if it does it probably won’t be based on a real problem they are experiencing right now, and even if it does hit the spot and is relevant, without committed and focused follow up it won’t stick anyway.
ROI? Close to zero.
There is a different way.
Delivering education needs to be planned, focused, relevant and real world, and that means it needs to be individual. That doesn’t mean hugely expensive and totally impractical one-on-one training for everyone. It means planning in such a way that prevents the above points from spoiling what the organisation is trying to achieve. It means understanding your people and their motivations and personal vision. It also means following up with a structured support plan that makes the learning real and facilitates it being practiced, and therefore making it permanent.
Create different groups of like minded employees to learn together as it suits them, which will help get across a message that sticks, change behaviours and get results.
Infinite ROI vs the ‘classroom glow’ that lasts precisely as long as it takes the employee to get back to their inbox.
But if you want sheep……..
Simon Murphy is the Managing Director of ASENSYS, who practice leadership development with a difference.
Copyright Simon Murphy 2016