As L&D professionals, we KNOW that everyone is different. Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, preferences, ability, priorities, energy, mental capacity and motivation.
We also have different expectations, targets, and standards.
All of this (and many other factors) mean that taking a one-size fits all approach is likely to have limited effect. We know from the American Airforce that when we try to create something that fits the ‘average’ person, it fits no-one perfectly (Read the case in point here).
But it does often fit well enough, and ‘sheep-dip’ training CAN work IF (and only if) it’s being done for the right reason.
Let me be clear – it’s never going to transform a business or an individual, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its place.
Sheep-dip training can be acceptable if:
- You need to everyone to know or do something differently at roughly the same time. For example, learning how to use a new system that’s being installed in all branches. Everyone needs to be instructed in the key functions and be basically competent in a short space of time. If there’s a new performance management process being introduced, everyone needs to know how to use it. If there’s a legal change and suddenly what everyone has been doing for years needs to be done differently.
- When change needs to happen quickly. We know from the sad tale of Del the Delegate that when people are trained in isolation it rarely yields results because the environment that they come back into conspires against them making a change. When everyone is trained together, it can kick-start the change. They will have had the same experience, they have a common language, and are more likely to support each other back in the workplace.
- Everyone needs to be ‘on message’. If you need to go a little deeper than just a town hall announcement, and switch to a new way of doing things e.g following a merger, or introducing new values. Training allows the messages to be explored and new behaviours trialled in a safe way.
- If improving knowledge and skills is a nice side effect rather than the main reason for the training. Sometimes we need to bring people together from different parts of the business to build relationships or open up communication. What people learn is almost secondary to them being in a room together, so running ‘light’ training on a topic that’s relevant to everyone can be a good way to make this happen.
- It's a refresher. Some things have to be done on a regular basis for legal purposes. Putting everyone through it at the same time means that no-one is missed and it’s easier to manage.
Like so many things in L&D, there's no black and white answer. No definite right and wrong. Sheep-dip training isn't best practice, BUT it isn't always unjustified.