The benefits of un-training before training

Employee training is one of the primary HR activities guaranteeing the smooth execution of tasks, adherence to policies and the overall good atmosphere in the organization.

Nowadays the training process has become more of an automated system of checklists and policy documents rather than strategic planning, analysis and directed action.

One of the many issues that arise with employee training is related to organizational change

When Organizations Change Employees Need To Change As Well

This doesn’t imply that when you get new CRM software you need to get a new marketing specialist to go with it. But an organization needs to un-train employees in the same way it uninstalls software before implementing new solutions for the business.

So what is un-training? We obviously cannot delete the information, know-how and behaviors of any employee to start. But what we can and should do is:

  1. Identify previous training and know how – how was it done before?
  2. Identify new ways – how is it going to be done from now on?
  3. Point out the main differences – show exactly which behaviors and practices will change and what exactly will they change into.
  4. Communicate this officially and unofficially to all concerned parties – memo to the whole team, and a detailed training for the executing employees

Another important aspect of un-training is un-training new employees. This simple act of understanding how they were taught to do things in their old job might help avoiding conflicts and mistakes.

In training and un-training employees, assumption is your worst enemy. The HR manager’s or supervisor’s first and most important task to un-train employees is to find out what they have been trained to do before.

First, to save your company and the new employee misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations; and second, to save yourself time for training them on things they already know how to do.

In this sense un-training new employees starts with the simple act of interviewing them on the way they have conducted their job previously.

There are several benefits of un-training employees:

  1. Make sure new habits stick
    For people, it is easier to stay under the influence of old habits. Even when change happens, employees tend to go back to their old ways. That’s why it is essential to identify the new ways and show how new habits replace old ones.
  2. Prevent unexpected conflicts
    When expectations are different, conflict arises easily. If you fail to identify the areas where changes will be happening, this will create an atmosphere of unclear responsibilities, and if keeping the old ways is still okay or not.
  3. Create strong company culture
    Un-training before training marks the starts of a new beginning and improves the feeling of belonging. Just saying and showing “This is how we do things here now, and you are a part of it” creates a feeling of community and makes employees part of the change.
  4. Understand and communicate with employees
    Asking new employees how they have been taught to do something before might turn into one of the strongest tools to communicate and understand their skills and competences. Un-training employees is a way of making them a part of the company and of the change going on in it.

As a final note on un-training employees, let’s look how it can be used to excite teams about changes. A good idea for a big company-wide change to be introduced in the organization is via an un-training campaign with slogans, emails, and brochures (The New XYZ Company Way). This can create enthusiasm and a community spirit around the change, which in turn makes it easier to implement.

Un-training before training is essential for both understanding employees and helping them understand how your business works. By simply addressing the specific points of difference managers can create an atmosphere of trust without conflict and inspire the community spirit and organizational culture.

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