How many of us have attended work-based training?
I’d imagine, everyone who’s reading this blog right now. And if you haven’t, you should probably ask your manager what’s gone wrong because training is vital to every workplace. Not only does it increase our knowledge, enhance our skills and reduce our weaknesses – thereby improving our performance and making us more effective and confident in our roles – ongoing training also adds other significant value to the business. It enhances productivity, it encourages creativity and upskilling, and when the training is done properly it can even reduce staff turnover. When somebody realises their employer is investing in their development, they feel more valued and secure and their sense of loyalty to the company is increased. On the flipside, a long-term project commissioned by Middlesex University’s Work and Learning Research Centre1 discovered that – from a sample of 4,300 workers – 74% believed they weren’t achieving their full potential at work due to lack of training and development opportunities, and research has also shown that 40% of employees who don’t receive the necessary job training to become effective will leave their positions within the first year.
So, if we’re all agreed that training is important… what’s the problem? I’m glad you asked.
We’re all unique, and we all experience training differently. Some people react negatively to training because they feel as if they’re being forced back into the classroom, so if the training doesn’t engage them they’ll simply switch off. Some people respond better in a one-to-one environment than a group learning situation, so they need more time to feel comfortable before they can relax and take the training onboard. Some people, especially those who have been doing their job for a while, may find it harder to accept new ways of doing things. Others may need some extra time to consolidate their learning after the training is over. It’s called human nature and it’s the reason why training, on its own, doesn’t work for the majority even when it’s well presented and informative and the attendees can see why you or your company have invested in it.
Think about your training experiences
How many of us can say – hand on heart – that our training really sunk in the first time around? How many of us can remember all the great ideas, systems and processes we were shown? If we’re honest, probably very few (if any.) And that’s the reason why, for an employer, training alone does not represent value for money.
Think about it like this… when you invest in a trainer, you’ll want them to train on a specific set of items. That’s what you’re paying them for. So, if your employees are being trained in ten different elements then you’ll expect them to leave the training room with ten new elements they can work with. But how often does that ever really happen?
I haven’t written this blog to rip into training providers. Actually, quite the opposite. I want to explain the simple things you can do to make sure the training sticks… which sounds like a good headline for the next paragraph.
How to make sure the training sticks
Review, review and review again: Effective learning occurs through repetition so, after the training, set aside a minimum of twenty minutes each day to deliberately review and work on what you’ve learned (and if you can fit in two or more separate twenty-minute slots throughout the day then that’s even better.) Don’t be tempted to extend this window into an hour or more – brief, frequent learning sessions are much better than longer, infrequent ones and, according to experts at the Louisiana State University Centre for Academic Success2, “anything more than fifty minutes is too much information for your brain to take in at one time.”
Repetition is the key. It won’t only consolidate what you or your employees have learned, it will give you time to connect new knowledge with established knowledge to achieve much better understanding.
Find an accountability buddy: The chances are that you’ll be on the course with at least one other person (probably quite a few) so find yourself an accountability buddy. If they work in your organisation that’s great but, if not, don’t let that put you off. What’s most important is that you find someone who is willing to have weekly catch-ups to see how you are both progressing in terms of actioning what you’ve learned, even if that’s just over a telephone or Skype call at 9.30 on a Monday morning (try not to swap notes over email because it’s easier to bend the truth that way.) Knowing you’ve got to speak to David or Barbara and confess you didn’t achieve your goals this week will make it much more likely you’ll get those goals nailed. Equally, the boost you’ll give the other person will a) encourage them to succeed, and b) help to nurture a potentially long-term trusting relationship between you. Who knows what could happen next? Purely in the business sense of course!
How will the trainer cement the learning? If you are the employer who has paid for this training, ask the provider what comes next after the training’s over? Will they produce action plans or follow-up training sessions? What opportunities will your employees have to practice their skills and demonstrate that the learning has been transferred effectively? Whatever happens, it’s imperative that your staff can use their new learning in the workplace. You cannot afford to pay a training provider and then dust off your hands thinking “There, I’ve invested in my staff so now the good will and hard work should come flooding in.” Training is an ongoing process, and you have to be committed to supporting your employees for far longer than the few hours it took the training session to happen. For example, even if you don’t bring the trainer back to follow-up, you can probably still bring the attendees together a few weeks later to practice their new skills and discuss their experiences as they’ve tried to apply their new knowledge to their job. Even informal social learning like this can be extremely powerful.
Training is just the beginning…
…and that’s another reason why post-training follow-up is so important. The most successful employers, the ones who achieve the best long-term employee growth and sustained results, know that the training session is just the place where everything starts. Training creates a more supportive workplace because employees who feel appreciated and challenged through training opportunities will most likely feel much more satisfaction toward their jobs.
If you’d like to know more about how to make training work within your business and ensure that the training investment you’re making in your staff continues to pay dividends for months and years to come, contact me on 01603 567794 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s a lot more we can talk about.