How to Help Training Programs “Stick”

Dr. Casey Mulqueen and Dr. Natalie Wolfson have authored an article on Training Industry which discusses the workplace biases that exist that may hinder the ability for the soft skills training that a workplace receives to actually stick.

Dr. Mulqueen and Dr. Wolfson say “Soft skills training courses, like ones meant to enhance resilience and emotional intelligence, sometimes fall short. It’s not that people actively resist the concepts, but many are passive about creating real change in their behavior. A reason for this is embedded in human nature and can be overcome with a simple and engaging strategy.”

According to the article, we all have two main brain functions which effect learning and behavior. The emotional brain is quickly reactive and less logical, while the rational brain is slower to respond, but is “conscious, deliberate and analytical.” Our emotional brain is where we develop cognitive biases that are typically subconscious, meaning we aren’t even aware we have such biases, yet these biases greatly affect our behavior. Luckily, we can manage these biases by demonstrating to people how they are affected by them, then provide strategies to overcome them.

Upon examining one’s own reaction to stress, most people will recognize certain patterns in their thinking. Some people catastrophize, always assuming the worst case scenario, while others may externalize and have difficulty taking responsibility when things don’t go as planned…”It’s Tom’s fault we didn’t get the sale. If he hadn’t put me on the spot on the topic that he knows I don’t know much about we wouldn’t have looked like bumbling fools.”

In the Training Industry article, Casey and Natalie describe a strategy that helps learners understand their biases, and focuses on one bias in particular that nearly everyone suffers from to some degree – the negativity bias. Read this blog to learn more about the negativity bias.

“A simple way to make it real for people is to ask them to write two lists: one with all the negative emotion words and the other with all the positive emotion words they can think of. Only allow thirty seconds for each list. Most people will generate a longer list of negative words compared to positive words” says Casey and Natalie.

Concluded from the Training Industry article titled “Bias in the Workplace: Using Neuroscience to Improve Training”, Dr. Wolfson and Mulqueen say, “The negativity bias inhibits people from making positive changes to their thinking and behavior. This, in turn, affects their performance and how they deal with stressors. The simple process of learning about the bias, recognizing how it affects oneself and challenging automatic thoughts can be accomplished within training programs. This is particularly helpful where the goal is to enhance resilience, emotional intelligence and even innovation. The technique is easy to remember and practice, and can powerfully affect people’s thinking and behavior.”

There are many other strategies which can help individuals understand their behaviors and reactions to stress. Once we understand why we react the way we do, it’s easier to identify when we are having reactions which are hindering our performance. We become better equipped to identify what is triggering us and this allows us to make necessary changes to enhance productivity. TRACOM’s Adaptive Mindset for Resilience and Behavioral EQ training programs help to identify these biases and provide numerous actionable strategies which enables us to create positive changes.