Why “Sheep Dipping” is wrong as an approach to training management

22 February 2016

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Nationwide, many employees are still being subjected to the outdated training practice of ‘sheep dipping’. We’ve all been there, stuck in a room sitting through compulsory training, feeling like your time would be better spent on the job. But what is ‘sheep dipping’ and why is it wrong as an approach?

For those who don’t know, ‘sheep dipping’ is a process used by shepherds in which they dip their sheep into insecticide to protect them from infection. In business, it is a process by which employees are grouped together to be refreshed or re-invigorated by attending set training courses, more commonly known as “refresher” courses. In some companies, staff members may be “refreshed” once or twice a year, depending on the subject of the training.

Generally, it involves taking staff out of the workplace and into a classroom type environment for at least a day, if not several, and by doing so, employers expect their staff to return to work with a host of skills that are ready to be implemented, safe in the knowledge that each staff member has a piece of paper certifying they are now compliant.

Many organisations take this approach because it’s easy to create, straightforward to administer and cheap to implement. But there are inherent problems with this method.

The ‘sheep dipping’ approach is flawed for several reasons:

Part of the flock - The nature of ‘sheep dipping’ courses means that on an individual level, there is little support. Employees enter the room like a flock and are treated as such. By nature, people respond differently to learning and all have different requirements. And, of course, people have differing levels of ability, and what often happens is the trainer tailors the content for the median average ability of the room – leaving those at either extreme unengaged. There can be little or no adaptation to meet individual needs.

The content of the courses - In general, because these courses tend to remain static, their content often isn’t current. Every year, new skills and capabilities will likely be needed and it is important to keep these skills up-to-date to keep an advantage over competitors.

Little input from management - The Line Manager often has little input into the ‘sheep dip’; usually just ticking the box afterwards to confirm that training has taken place. This creates limited support on the job and can seriously hinder the success of any employee actually applying the training. This creates a dangerous cycle, where anything learnt is forgotten and there will be a need to be refreshed again in six months. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Measuring the results - These kind of training programmes are rarely reviewed or analysed, which poses the question of how these companies are measuring the effectiveness of their training? Sure, the relevant departments may have a tick next to every relevant employee’s name, but how are they ever going to find out their return on investment? And in between ‘sheep dips’, how can you be sure the employee remembers everything they were taught? If it’s health and safety training they’ve received, doesn’t that strike you as potentially dangerous?

Employees - ‘Sheep dipping’ can be highly demotivating for some people. Unlike sheep, your workforce are all individuals, they are resourceful, capable of soaking in knowledge relevant to them. A training programme should stem from a desire to improve knowledge in any given area and should increase each employee’s value to the company.

What we can do

DTL have recently introduced our new Code of Practice, Continuous Learning Loop and Online Learning & Assessment Portal. These have been created specifically to offer customised training programmes that are undoubtedly more effective that the ‘sheep dipping’ approach.

They ensure the focus remains solely on the learning that is relevant to your business, offering a unique method of delivery that is tailored on an individual level, to suit the needs of your staff.

Our Continuous Learning Loop concentrates on pre-course e-assessment, a blended approach to training (incorporating classroom-based teaching, e-learning and practical ‘hands on’ tuition), and post-course reinforcement.

This approach to training provides our clients with practical training courses that are matched to each learner, while post-course reinforcement identifies if the learner has committed the content to long-term memory or if further training is required. You can read more about it here.

More information on our Learning  and Assessment Portal is available here

For more information about our Learning & Assessment Portal, call our team on 0800 876 6708.