Corporate Learning and the Stages of Grief

Ok, kids…pop quiz!  Hands up if you can name the 5 stages of grief, according to the Kubler-Ross model.  And….go:

Anyone…?  Anyone…? <crickets>

I know, you’re probably thinking of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off right about now (I know I am), but stay with me.  There really is a point.

As with most changes, it takes time for people to adjust to the impact on their life.  Learning, work, and the expectations that go along with them are no different.  As my team rolls out changes to the learning and development department over the coming months, I fully anticipate that some employees might find themselves on a journey through the stages of grief.  Well, maybe that’s a tad melodramatic, but there is a connection!  Here’s what I’m talkin’ bout, friends:
Stage #1:  Denial.   “Oh, these changes don’t affect me.  I don’t need training to do my job.”
Ok, maybe you have a point.  You might be the best gosh-darn accountant our company has ever seen.  But just think of how much more successful you could be in your role if you were given opportunities to be challenged, both professionally and personally.
Stage #2:  Anger.  “Seriously?  I do not have time to sit around the campfire, singing ‘Kum Bah Yah’ and talking about my feelings.  I have real work to do.”
Bad attitudes, begone.  These courses are not therapy in disguise.  Nor are they meant to torture you (“Death by PowerPoint”, anyone?).  Look for a variety of leadership development opportunities that are suited for various roles and learning styles.  I promise, the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?!) will be clear, and you might even…..wait for it…….enjoy yourself!  Basically, you will get as much out of it as you put into it.
Stage #3:  Bargaining.  “Maybe if I work extra hard, my manager will see that I’m busy and won’t make me attend training.”
I think you and I both know your manager/director would want you to take advantage of as many learning opportunities that are relevant for you, your role, and your goals.  If they don’t, you need to find a new job.  Just sayin’.

Stage #4:  Depression.  “I’ll never be promoted anyway, so why should I bother to participate?”

Come on, Eeyore.  A solid work portfolio that includes both departmental and leadership development accomplishments will speak volumes about your commitment to your career, aptitude, and loyalty to the company.  When a promotion or other growth opportunities are on the line, managers/directors are looking for people who will contribute to a high-performing team.  Do what you can to differentiate yourself from the pack.

Stage #5:  Acceptance.  “Maybe this will be okay, after all.”

Well, yeah!  Glad you finally made it through the stages of grief.   A solid learning and development program will be able to guide you from where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow.  And that’s what my team is in the process of rolling out.  Regardless of where employees are in their careers, they will be able to find real, relevant learning opportunities.  It’s a very exciting time!  (Shameless plug:  If you’re looking for a job, our company is hiring!  Check out our open positions here.)

So, my learning and development brethren, have you ever had to nudge learners along through the “stages of grief”?  How do you keep them engaged? I’d love to hear all about it…

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