The next time you vacuum the carpet in your house, pay extra attention to how it looks once you are finished.

The entire span should look like a backgammon board — a series of interlocking triangles. This pattern is a result of methodically moving the vacuum cleaner back and forth, each time overlapping slightly with the area that was previously covered, until the other side of the room is reached. In other words, retracing what was covered previously while slowly mixing in some new territory with each pass.

Organizational training should be pursued in exactly the same fashion.

Indeed, effective training of any kind takes place when this methodology is implemented. Without that measured overlapping approach, it is easy to miss many important details, cut corners, or simply skip through basic concepts too quickly, thereby reducing the positive impact the training will have on its participants.

The ultimate objective of organizational training should not be to complete the course and check a box, but to ensure that the participants are leaving that class with a clear understanding of the objectives and topics covered during its tenure. Of course, this means that clear objectives need to be established and communicated, and then relayed multiple times, again mimicking the back and forth actions of cleaning a carpet.

It is commonly accepted that the average person needs to hear something seven times before fully retaining it. This requires repetition, but also creativity in delivering the same message different ways, thus appealing to different personalities and different learning preferences. There has been some debate recently about whether learning styles actually exist, but regardless of that discussion, people do have different learning preferences, however, and saying the same thing seven times (all in a lecture style) may still not be enough for those who prefer a different mode of learning. Sometimes it takes changing the angle of approach to effectively clean the carpet.

Every so often, the person vacuuming needs to pause and empty the bin that collects the dirt and debris. This is another good reminder. Every training class needs to have adequate breaks for the participants to disengage their minds for a few minutes and enjoy a change in scenery as they walk out of the room to grab a cup of coffee. This is as essential as it is courteous. If the debris bin isn’t emptied, at some point it would overflow and seriously diminish the effectiveness of the vacuum cleaner. The filters would become overloaded. Once participants have reached their saturation point (see the glazed looks on their faces), the absolute worst thing to do is buckle down and forge ahead. This only hinders learning.

Yes, the training has to take place in a finite amount of time, but if the instructor only cover four points the first day instead of five, that is okay. The participants are far more likely to remember those four points and implement what they learned at some appropriate future moment if they had some time to digest and relax along the way.  The instructor can always get creative the following day to make up for lost time and cover the rest of the material. It might also be a hint that the instructor needs to overhaul the training curriculum and reorganize or reduce the material.

The goal should be for participants to remember and implement what was trained, not an opportunity for instructors to show how much they know about the topic. Instructors need to be credible, but they also need to be intentional with their delivery.

Approaching each training endeavor like a thorough vacuuming job can make instructors more effective in relaying desired objectives, the participants will derive far more benefits from it, and organizations will be better suited to succeed as a result.

Remember this the next time you have to clean up your living room, and hopefully vacuuming won’t seem as menial as it may have in the past.

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