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There is a lot of research (Why training doesn’t work – fifty years of research) that shows that training alone is insufficient to improve organisational performance. So how then should you go about improving the return that you get on training and learning activities? Here are my top 10 ways.
1. Provide organisational support for learners
Give your learners appropriate organisational support. Make sure that you allow them time off to complete pre-course study materials. Give them access to materials and resources that will support their learning. Encourage learners to view learning and development as a positive experience that will enhance their skills, and enable them to make a greater contribution. Communicate the expectation that learning must occur.
2. Demonstrate management commitment to learning
Management should model the appropriate behaviours and learning, and create a clear expectation that they expect to see different behaviour as a result of the training. One of the most powerful ways to do this is for management and supervisors to attend training courses, or to participate in other learning activities directly with their staff. This sends a strong message of the manager’s personal commitment to learning.
3. Make training content relevant to the job
Make sure that the training content is tailored to the learner’s requirements, so that the skills that they acquire are immediately transferable to the job. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job. Avoid off-the-shelf, shrink-wrapped packages that provide generic learning solutions that don’t transfer well to the job. Reinforce the credibility of the content, and it’s applicability in the workplace.
4. Ensure that the content is appropriate for the learners knowledge, skills and abilities
Take care when designing the learning content to tailor it to the learners existing knowledge, skills and abilities. Learners learn best when they are able to draw from their prior experience. Make sure that you evaluate their existing knowledge prior to the development of learning content, and tailor it accordingly.
5. Motivate learners to learn
Boring classroom sessions, and passive learning experiences make it difficult to inspire learners to learn. Bring learning directly into the workplace, and into workplace assignments. Make learning exciting by incorporating active learning experiences, such as case studies, simulations, and role-playing, and learners will be more motivated to learn.
6. Cultivate learning communities
Help create learning communities, where learners can share and exchange knowledge. Start by getting learners to learn together in their natural work-teams, and encourage them to share their ideas and experiences. Encourage group learning activities. “Team-up” - partner weaker learners with more experienced learners.
7. Involve all key stakeholders
There is a growing body of research that shows that stakeholder support is essential to ensure that desired performance follows a learning intervention. The most important stakeholders are executives, higher-level management, supervisors, and HR specialists. It is essential to get the support of all interested stakeholders, and to find ways in which these stakeholders are able to visibly demonstrate their support for the learning initiative.
8. Provide opportunities to practice new skills
Provide opportunities to practice the new skills directly in the workplace as soon as possible after the learning intervention. Monitor the learner’s application of the new skills, and help remove any possible barriers that may hamper their performance. Encourage supportive behaviour from team members.
9. Set goals for the application of new skills
Help your team set goals for the application of their new skills in the workplace. You can use action plans and other tools to set timelines for implementation, and dates for evaluation of performance against plan.
10. Provide support and feedback
Pay attention to the application of the new skills in the workplace. Make sure that your team are demonstrating the new behaviours and attitudes. Provide feedback on their progress, and give advice as to how they can improve. Arrange for personal coaching if necessary.