Too often, organisational training programs fail to deliver on their promises to create lasting, meaningful change.

A common process companies deploy is the enterprise-wide training program.  This type of training brings different groups of managers and employees together to learn about transforming the corporate culture. They are effective at putting everyone “on the same page” with the understanding of what the corporate direction is.

It is certainly a great way to bring staff together in a learning environment that doesn’t exist in the day to day work environment.  Such programs create peer connections and understandings at the time, however they rarely create lasting change.

So what does create lasting change?

Change only happens at the individual level. A blanket training program, whilst certainly standard, and probably costs less per head, doesn’t hit individuals powerfully enough to create a compelling reason for change.

The best training is where each individual takes a personal journey based on their own particulars; personality, behavior, thinking, values. The individual needs to be challenged in a safe, non-judgmental way to look at how they interact, reason, manage – does it work for them? Does it work for those around them? How do they know?

Some months back, Horse Sense was asked to create an event for a large corporation’s high potentials. The brief was that the participants enjoy a unique, wow-factor experience while learning about authentic leadership, self-awareness and non-verbal communication.

Along with the usual adult training processes, the key learning strategies Horse Sense utilised:

Safe learning environment: horses have no agenda, so there’s no sense of being judged, there’s just honest instant feedback on congruence, engagement and behavior.

  • Individual-specific discovery: individuals had to step up and ‘be’; horses don’t understand rationale, logic, explanations, excuses. Each individual learned exactly and only what they themselves needed to learn, as opposed to being fed universal concepts.
  • Individual reflection – learning happens easily and effectively when it is supported and guided; not mandated. People make their own meaning and create a more compelling need for change when they are not told to.
  • All levels of the organisation participated – it is imperative that senior executives not only take part, but also show their own development. By acknowledging their areas for growth, they are making it ok for others to be in development and to change.
  • Celebrate success – too often we go on to the next thing on the to-do list, and never take time to reflect and digest what has been learned or accomplished.

As a consequence, the organisation left with useful group and individual strategies for continuing the momentum for change:

“What would Marty (the horse) say?” became one of their fun ways of challenging each other

They recognized that success had bred complacency, and every individual needed to accept they need to learn.

By taking even a few moments to celebrate successes, they could dramatically improve focus, energy and attitudes.

The next step is to engage in follow up sessions and coaching – when there is an ongoing anchor to return to, it creates learning that sticks.