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Should the development of training programs feel like work?


It was a Tuesday afternoon in December. We had been huddled around a conference room table for two hours. The end of our scheduled time to meet had arrived and I needed to leave the office to attend another meeting. I bid farewell to the other two people in the conference room.

When I came into the office the next day, my colleague told me that she stayed in that conference room for another hour and a half, generating ideas and building the framework to overhaul our new employee orientation program. “When I thought about it,” she reflected, “it struck me that I didn’t even feel like I was at work yesterday. It was so much fun!”

It was such a simple, and at the same time powerful, observation. Why can’t we feel like we’re “not even at work” more often?  

I understand that not every minute of every workday will be pure fun, at the same time I do think there are ways to find “flow” and get so involved in the development of training that it doesn’t have to feel like work at all. Here are two specific ways I’ve been able to do this over the past few months:

  1. Find people you like to work with. I’m in the fortunate position of being able to hire the team I want to work with. And I’m pretty uncompromising in who I select – both in terms of direct reports as well as project collaborators who don’t necessarily report to me. Even if you’re not in a position to identify and select the right people, you can still control who you have coffee with to bounce ideas around, who you connect with on social media and who you work with on outside projects that can help build your skill set. Find someone awesome and carve out time to share problems and generate ideas. A working relationship in which you can generate and build upon each other’s thoughts (“yes, and…” as opposed to “yeah, but…”) is essential.
  2. Find inspiration all around you. When we first started thinking about overhauling our new employee orientation, someone suggested we turn it into a game… like Jumanji. The next thing we knew, we took a morning to watch Jumanji and then we spent the rest of the day figuring out how we could turn our new employee orientation into an immersive game experience. The resulting program, while still under construction, will reduce our new hire orientation time by 50% and transform the experience into a cohesive, engaging welcome into our organization. On another project, as I was trying to figure out how to keep people engaged through two full days of practice presentations and peer feedback, a colleague suggested we jettison the traditional feedback form and adopt a BINGO-style game to provide feedback.

That’s it. For me, transforming my recent professional experiences to not feel like work at all has involved surrounding myself with awesome people and being open to inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.

What do you think it would take for you to think back on the day and say: “I didn’t even feel like I was at work today”?

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