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August 16, 2012

Sheep Dip Training

This week we launched our new Optima Training video, featuring animation from Hannah Purdy (see her Blog) called Optima Not Sheep Dip. Sheep Dip

But what does it mean?

Sheep dipping refers to a common approach that businesses adopt to staff training. It basically involves taking staff out of the workplace, putting them into a classroom style training environment for a day or two and then expecting them to come back to the workplace to implement their new learnt skills. There is no assessment of progress, no follow up development and no reinforcement in the workplace – just a quick dip intended to fix all.

In some organisations, sheep dipping is scheduled so that employees are “refreshed” once or twice a year – every six months they spend one day attending a course that refreshes their existing abilities or introduces new job skills. Such programmes of staff development are normally intended to be cost effective and again fail to measure learner progress – they also become stagnant as the same options are offered year after year. Such programmes are also ineffective as they require little or no input from line management, which results in limited support on the job and few opportunities to transfer learning to the workplace. The result is the need for a further refresher in six months.

In short, the sheep dip approach offers no return on the investment and minimal impact on the job.

But the concept of sheep dip training is nothing new and its flaws are widely known, so surely it no longer happens – right? Well, we are regularly signposting potential clients onto other providers as they just want straight forward sheep dipping. For example, we were approached last year by a company that wanted to offer language training to its staff. This was done as part of their commitment to getting Investors in People. No problem – language training is something that Optima Training does very well.

We first wanted to know what the business was trying to achieve and how the training was intended to meet that objective. The training was to be part of a menu of options offered to staff that wanted it, delivered in sessions too short to be effective and with no measurable link to business performance. Realising that this would be of little value to the business Optima identified other providers that would be more suitable – Optima is about delivering a return on the training investment, not sheep dip. A year later we checked to see how the language training had worked out and we were not surprised to find that it never really got off the ground.

So we wanted to put out a video that would get the message across – we believe that effective training requires an investment of money and, more importantly, time. Effective training and staff development needs management commitment and, to generate a return on investment, it should be linked to business objectives with measurable performance improvements. Optima is not sheep dipping. This was the brief that we gave to Hannah – something that gets the message over and looks a bit different. We like the results, and we hope you do too.

If you do, why not pop over to out Facebook site and let us know?

Not seen it yet? Just visit the Optima Training homepage and check it out.