Learning & Development

Using Examples of the Worst-Case Scenario to Drive Home Training Takeaways

It’s no surprise to training professionals that participants in company training events are often less than fully engaged. Training can feel boring, obvious, and even pointless to some participants. This is particularly true for preventive training, or training that teaches participants how to avoid a bad outcome, as opposed to training designed to teach participants how to create something or perform a day-to-day task.

Training for Events That Rarely Occur

The reason these training sessions seem so irrelevant and unnecessary to participants is often because things are running so smoothly that what they’re being trained to avoid or prevent seemingly never happens.

A great example is fire drills in office buildings. Most people are fairly disengaged during these drills because they’ve never experienced a building fire that posed real danger to their safety and the safety of others. The same can be true for training aimed at preventing threats that aren’t necessarily life-threatening, such as a data security breach or an inadvertent regulatory violation.

Using Real Examples to Drive Points Home

One strategy to make these preventive training events more engaging is to provide some examples of when things went horribly wrong when the precautions being taught weren’t followed. Those who have taken a shop class in middle school or high school may have heard horror stories of accidents with power tools to drive home the importance of shop safety, for example.

In the corporate setting, examples need not be so gruesome, although physical harm certainly is a very real threat in many industries. The idea isn’t to scare people into submission but rather to use relatable examples of situations they can see themselves in to remind them of the uncommon situations effective training is meant to prevent. This is, of course, a task that’s often difficult when things run smoothly the majority of the time.

An example could include the consequences of racial and cultural sensitivity, such as the painful experience of a Philadelphia Starbucks, or the threat of social engineering hacks, like the one that cost Google and Facebook over $100 million combined. Even a funny YouTube video showing a videoconference attendee’s embarrassment upon realizing he or she was on camera can be a useful teaching tool.

The common theme in these examples is that they illustrate real-world instances when something seemingly simple caused major problems. Because they involve real people and real businesses, the stories are relatable and concrete and help drive home the message of “this could happen to us.” 

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.