Group discussion in work setting

The quantity of information delivered during a Leadership & Development (L&D) program can be overwhelming to learners. There is often so much to say and the time organizations can afford to spend on training tends to be limited.

So how can you avoid information overload when designing your L&D program? How can you ensure that your team will learn the crucial points of your training sessions and be able to apply them to their jobs post-session? Here are a few tips to keep in mind and keep your program on track.

Get to Know Their Skill Set

Start by being aware of how much information your team can retain during each L&D session. Sometimes, you may have little choice but to firehose your learners. Maybe your industry changed suddenly and dramatically and you need to adapt the skill set of your employees as fast as possible.

Still, it is better that they learn something rather than nothing. Look at the results of training sessions you’ve conducted in the past and ask yourself these questions:

  • Was your team able to apply the new knowledge to their daily tasks?
  • Did you check their knowledge base beforehand to remove topics that they already know well?

One reliable indicator of information overload is when only some of what was explained in a previous session has been applied to daily tasks.

Additionaly, if your workforce has considerable variation in their level of knowledge and experience, you should split them into multiple groups so you can tailor your training programs accordingly. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a program where half your audience already knows what you’re teaching and the other half is getting so much new information that they simply can’t keep up.

Customizing your training sessions to the needs of your audience might sound like a lot of work but you’ll get better results from your training if you put in this effort before you begin.

Learn from the Best

Do some research into how successful L&D programs are being designed and delivered. This may give you some clues about why people are experiencing information overload in your program. Learn from the best by following thought leaders on social media, listening to interviews with current and former CLOs (such as Tom Evans and Jennifer Alesia), and following niche blogs. Study best practices or go back to the basics. Sometimes all you need is a fresh perspective.

At the end of the day, you want your employees to be able to apply what they learn in their daily work. These are skills you can learn from any experienced CLO, even if they aren’t speaking about L&D programs.

Make It Practical

Woman pointing to papers

According to Nelson Cowan, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Missouri, our brains have endless capacity for storing information. And yet, your employees might look at you during your training sessions as if their minds have shut down for good.

Most of the time, those faces are a sign that your audience doesn’t understand the relevance of the topic at hand, not necessarily because you aren’t communicating clearly.

During a training session, people are taking notes, listening to your voice, looking at visual aids, and more. They might be concerned about what is expected from them or what they must do next. For many, it’s hard to draw conclusions or make deeper connections to the topics under discussion when they’re trying to do so many other things at the same time.

You can demonstrate the practical use of each subject to the learners using the following methods:

  1. Highlight the essential points of your presentation. Write beside them, “This is important to learn because you will apply it to X and Y tasks in this or that manner.”
  2. Let your team brainstorm in small groups about the practical applications of the topic or skill you’re discussing. Set the expectation that they will need to be prepared to share their ideas with the large group after the team brainstorm.

Adapt on the Move

Sometimes it can be hard to anticipate information overload. You may think the session is going well, but when you ask the learners to respond to the idea you’ve just presented or check for their understanding, you get nothing in return.

Take a deep breath. Tell your team you understand there is a lot to learn. Empathy will put them at ease. Give them a brief break to stretch and clear their minds if possible.

Next, quickly assess what needs to be revisited. Pose a few questions to the room. If most of what you covered previously has been lost, be ready to cover the highlights in a different way. Be flexible and slow down. Sometimes, having an open discussion is much more effective than using the latest audiovisual resource.

Keep Communication Open

An L&D program is a long-term journey. As such, you are bound to face some ups and downs. During your training sessions, remain flexible and open-minded. Read your audience for indicators of information overload such as parallel conversations, furrowed brows, or raised eyebrows.

Above all, your team must feel free to give you feedback. Hold one-to-one meetings to discuss the latest session. Check what they have learned and encourage them to share their likes and dislikes. Make adjustments to the training based on the feedback you receive both during and after the session.

Because learning is an individual experience, it will be hard to accommodate everything you hear. But no matter what, suggestions for improvement will strengthen your training skills and minimize information overload in the future.


Guest Author Bio: Chloe Sesta Jacobs  

Chloe’s why is people; she gets her kicks from intensifying the purpose and exploring the potential of those around her. She works as Head of People & Culture at Deputy, a robust scheduling software that can be used to manage your workforce in a wide variety of different industries. Chloe sees her work as an extension of her lifestyle and is constantly working on revolutionising the people and culture space.

CMOE guest authors are carefully selected industry experts, researchers, writers, and editors with extensive experience and a deep passion for leadership development, human capital performance, and other specialty areas. Each guest author is uniquely selected for the topic or skills areas they are focused on. All posts are peer-reviewed by CMOE. 

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This post was submitted by a CMOE Guest Author. CMOE guest authors are carefully selected industry experts, researchers, writers, and editors with an extensive experience and a deep passion for leadership development, human capital performance, and other specialty areas. Each guest author is uniquely selected for the topic or skills areas that they are focused on. All posts are peer reviewed by CMOE.

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