It’s happened to most of us.
We attend a great presentation or training seminar, return to our workplace with the best of intentions to put our new-found skill set, tools or knowledge to immediate use.
We try out the new thing, we feel awkward and unsupported in our efforts and it fades away or we consciously give up.
Then sometime later we stumble across the materials and lament how great it would have been to put those new ideas into practice. We can understand why employers sometimes question the value of investing in employee development.
Here are five ways to ensure that workplace training and learning sticks:
1.The boss - Hold learners accountable.
Many organizations ensure the immediate supervisor is very involved in a number of ways. Some employers insist the boss attend the session or be briefed when their employees attend training so that the boss can hold employees accountable for a shift in their performance and behaviour. (I personally think this is often overlooked yet the most effective). I had a colleague who was known to be very generous with training dollars, but you were required to provide him a full briefing upon your return from the seminar. You also had to agree on how the new skill set would be reflected in your next performance management cycle and you were held accountable to apply the recent learnings at work.
2. The boss - Catch people applying what they’ve learned and provide feedback.
Ideally, positive feedback for trying out the new-found skill but it can mean coaching, correcting and encouraging as well when things aren’t yet as efficient or productive as desired. Remember, learners often don’t transfer what they have learned because their environment does not feel supportive, especially when they are changing a behaviour, a process or a way of doing things.
3. The employee -Teach what you have learned.
A manager in a consumer products organization loves sending her people for training. Upon their arrival at the next staff meeting they’re responsible for presenting a three to five slide PowerPoint presentation and a one pager that enables the sharing of take-aways. She has successfully turned the training of any one of her people into a way of strengthening her entire team.
4. The employee - Apply your learning beyond the workplace.
Wharton Business School professor Stew Friedman, in his research, his training work with the Ford Motor Company and his award-winning best-seller Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life showed when people systematically commit to applying what they learned beyond the job, it sticks. When people get specific about how their new-found skill, habit or tool will enrich their family life, volunteer commitments, community engagements and themselves personally, they are more apt to make the effort to apply the learning.
5. The trainer
Seasoned educator, trainer and my mentor Donald Arsenault of JARDA Consulting reminds us that back in the day workshop participants were happy to simply build their knowledge. Now, the requirement in the busy and distracted lives of many learners is to return to their workplace with useable tools, habits or knowledge they can use immediately to make the training payoff. As trainers and facilitators, we significantly impact knowledge transfer and it should be our focus, not simply putting on a great presentation or course. Useable content that respects adult learning principles delivered in a way to facilitate its application back on the job must be our priority. Simply enhancing people’s knowledge isn’t enough.
And about that awkward, uncomfortable feeling of trying to apply new tools, habits and skills on the job…embrace it! Unless we get cozy with feeling awkward and uncomfortable and develop the ability to laugh at ourselves as we stumble through changing how we do things, we don’t grow. Worse, your boss’ fears that sending you on training is a waste of time and money all come true.
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