Learn, Lead and Earn

The class ends, handshakes are exchanged and well-wishes are given as people set off to go back to their jobs. It’s at this point that many people think the training is over. However, the process of ensuring a successful training intervention has occurred has several steps that actually start when training ends. In other words, it’s not over when it’s over.

The Learning Objectives
First off, let’s start with those pesky learning objectives; you know the ones that state something like “By the end of this session, you should be able to….” Unfortunately, these are mostly treated as pseudo agenda items to highlight the flow of the class. What they should be used for is to measure if indeed the participants learned what you wanted them to learn. In the simplest of examples, if a learning objective states that by the end of this session, you should be able to ride a bike, then at some point, you need to get on a bike and prove you can ride it. So it’s not good enough to just create learning objectives; you need to actually find a way to measure if the objectives were met when the class ends. There is quite a lot to consider when designing a course and creating a set of learning objectives, but one simple thing to remember is this: make the learning objective an overt action that can be demonstrated, don’t use words such as “understand”, “know”, “appreciate” in a learning objective as those are essentially impossible to measure, and use action verbs that the individual can actually perform as a demonstrable act.
 
The Call to Action 

Secondly, provide some sort of a “call to action” that has the participant going back to the job and completing the tasks for which he or she 

 was trained. There are several reasons for this. The first is that you don’t want too long of a time between the learning and the initial use of the knowledge/skills just obtained.  Retention of information decreases as the amount of time increases between learning something and then using that knowledge. Also, aside from the knowledge being provided in the class, another goal of the training session is the motivational aspect of getting people excited about what they are being taught. But if they aren’t allowed quickly to show off what they just learned, their excitement will subside. The second reason for the call to action is to provide an opportunity for the trainee to show off to his or her manager that the learning objectives were met. This should be a common goal between the manager and the trainee. It is just as important for the manager to know that his employee is trained as it is for the employee to show the manager that the training was successful. This step becomes even more important if the initial training was delivered through an online asynchronous (computer-based training) or online synchronous (webinar) delivery medium. If done in either of these two ways, it is harder to judge during the training course if the knowledge/skill was obtained. The last goal of the call to action is to start the proficiency process. With few exceptions, people get more skilled, the more they do something. Starting that process earlier means the time between the initial training and being fully proficient will be shorter.
 
The Change Management Aspect
The third aspect of the post-training endeavor relates to the concept of “change management”. In the simplest of views, training is seen as a way to change behavior. The  individual did not know something before and thus behaved a certain way. Now that the individual has been exposed to whatever knowledge and/or skill is provided in the training session, what about his or her behavior changes? That is written as a precursor for this next thought. If training is a change in behavior, then the concept of “change management” and its underlying components need to be addressed. One of those key components is the one dealing with restraining forces or obstacles, depending upon which change management philosophy you subscribe to. If the training was of the “soft-skills” variety, do you have policies, procedures, an operating environment,or even a culture that is incongruent to what was just learned? This scenario occurs more than we would like to think, and if the environment is stronger than the concepts that were taught, then the skills that were trained will not take hold. If the training was system, process, or application training, are there other systems, processes, or applications that need to be changed before the individuals can demonstrate what they now know? In other words, if your team can’t use the knowledge they just obtained, then what good is it.
Nothing is more damaging to the training effort than not being able to capitalize on the education that was provided. More so, from an ROI perspective, the training becomes 
a waste of resources. Quite frankly, the notion of change management should be considered prior to the attendance of training. However, the problems associated with a lack of forethought may not show up until after the training has occurred.
 
The Performance Management Aspect
Lastly, from a “performance management” angle, there is a very simple question to ask, but not so simple to answer. That question is “does it matter”? Obviously, first inclination would be to say, “of course it matters”.  Great! But the answer shouldn’t be “why” it matters; the answer should be “how” it matters. What mechanism was put in a place to make it matter? For example, if a manager attends a leadership training course, what has been put in place as a way to measure if the desired use of those skills has occurred? If he or she doesn’t have it as part of a performance management goal, then how exactly was  it made to matter? What if it is application training? Is there a consequence for using or not using the application as trained? If not, then again, it doesn’t matter. But you can’t stop there. You also need to ask yourself this: if the person who is sent off to training comes back and performs exactly as expected, will there be a punishment? For example, the employee who knows the system the best gets sent on the 
toughest assignments. This could be related to time or travel or effort, whereas someone who wasn’t trained gets the easier assignments. In this case, the desired performance is seen as punishing. Conversely, what if someone decides that the desired performance was punished, so he or she decides not to show competency in the application? If that person is rewarded by not having to use the system (“oh that’s okay, we’ll find somebody else”), then the undesired performance was actually rewarded. Either way, punishing desired performance or rewarding undesired performance undermines the training effort.Making training successful after training ends
 
Recap
So while a great deal of attention needs to be given to the analysis, design, development and delivery of the training program, the success of the program HAS to consider the 
aforementioned post-training items. If all four of these items are considered, then you are well on your way to getting a return on your training investment.
 
  1. Ensure that the learning objectives aren’t just guideposts, but rather a means to an end
  2. Make sure that employees quickly get to use the skills for which they were trained.
  3. Consider that every training intervention is part of a change management initiative.Make sure that the 
  4. Training matters. 

So hopefully it is now clear. Just because training ended, the work to ensure that the training was successful is not over.  

Barry Kaplan.  Sr. Vice President, Organizational Development, UniFocus, L.P.

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