The cartoon above perfectly sums up how often the benefits from training are not realised. Despite the significant investment that is often made by organisations, not just in money, but time and administration too, we often see employees being “sent” to training courses, or attending without the necessary support to apply the learning to their work. This often results in failing to fully realise the benefits of training to your business, and missing out on the elusive return on investment. This is compounded by many organisations only making the minimal level of effort in terms of evaluation by using a post-course evaluation form, or ‘happy sheet’.
So how do you ensure that investing in training provides your team with more than some nicely designed workbooks and a buffet lunch? Read on to reflect on what you could be doing differently.
Timing is everything.
The efficacy of training is improved when delivered ‘just-in-time’, for immediate application to work. Ideally, plan formal training to be close to when your team member is starting to encounter situations where new/higher levels of skill are required. Hands up if you’ve been on an Excel course months before you encountered your first advanced pivot table and v look-up.
This isn’t just relevant to role specific training; think about the content of your onboarding/induction training - how much is delivered in week one that is actually used immediately? Could some content be delayed until the employee has been within the organisation for a few months and absorbed some of the culture?
Relevance of the course objectives to performance.
Prior to attending, manager and team member should discuss how the course objectives are relevant to the individual’s role. The employee needs to understand what development need the training will help to address. Be as specific as possible, e.g. ‘this training will help you to more effectively handle difficult conversations with customers, and give you the opportunity to practice these interactions’. Focus on the change in behaviour that you want to see.
Good training keeps it real.
The inclusion of realistic and relevant scenarios, or indeed real issues that learners bring with them increases the likelihood of application, and helps people with different learning styles (I haven’t met anyone who fully learns from a ‘chalk and talk’ approach). Look out for training that includes preparatory work where participants have to provide live examples of issues that will be worked on in a safe environment. This helps your team member jump across the knowing-doing gap, by taking the theory and immediately putting it into practice.
Not only does a debrief session provide opportunities to share what has been learnt but is also valuable for exploring what changes could be introduced to the team’s working practices to improve overall performance. This can spark conversations about what can be different and better, and empower employees to implement those changes. Taking the time to discuss how change can be made brings you closer to achieving business impact - level 4 on Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation - and beyond the happy sheet.
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