<em>Ensuring that learning and development initiatives facilitate real change in a workforce requires deliberate follow-up and follow-through.</em><p>The foremost challenge in designing learning and development initiatives is effecting real change in a workforce. This is difficult but absolutely necessary for training to achieve solid ROI. After all, any training program likely not only cost money, but it also took time to design and attend, and therefore spent productivity. If a learning and development program didn’t change employees’ behavior, then it was a waste — even if they liked the course. </p> <p>But the ability to transfer knowledge and skills learned in training back to the office is never easy. The training finishes, participants return to work, and they’re immediately pulled in a dozen different directions — none of which are designed to help them transfer what they’ve just learned into part of their daily routine.</p> <p>Without skill transference, training is merely an expensive vacation that employees take from their daily responsibilities. So what can learning and development professionals do to ensure learning translates into action? Better still, how can they manipulate the forces that draw people away from adopting new skills to both motivate and enable a genuine change in behavior? </p> <p>Successful learning officers know that learning is not enough and find ways to ensure their training graduates implement new ideas and skills soon after the training ends. They supplement their learning experience with a host of strategies that both motivate and enable graduates to adopt the skills taught in training. Skill transference is acquired by combining multiple sources of influence into a cohesive change strategy. The following tactics can be used to create a well-rounded change strategy.</p> <p><strong>Co-Opt the Performance System</strong></p> <p>It’s surprising how many training programs aren’t supported by an organization’s formal performance review system. While few, if any, performance review systems directly contradict what’s being covered in training, rare is the program where the skills and ideas taught in training are purposefully reinforced in the formal review process.</p> <p>For instance, when training people how to hold others accountable, the specific skills taught in the course need to be contained in the formal review paperwork. If they’re not, it’s unlikely that supervisors will include training graduates’ recently acquired skills in their review. Supervisors may not even know about the new skills, let alone think to include them. So, learning and development professionals should always seek to hardwire into the review process skills that came about as a result of new training.</p> <p><strong>Enlist Informal Support</strong></p> <p>While it’s essential to build the skills from new learning and development initiatives into a formal review system, it’s equally important to take steps to ensure that informal rewards are also aimed at the target behaviors. This is best done by gathering supervisors and ensuring they play a role in getting their direct report’s training to stick.</p> <p>Supervisors will need to talk about the new behaviors, discuss them in meetings, watch to see that the training graduates do what they’ve been taught and then praise graduates for their progress. For example, they might say, “I couldn’t help but notice that you’re using the new project software you studied last month. It’s good to see you using the new processes. Thanks!”</p> <p>People often underestimate how important delivering praise is to encouraging new behavior. For those receiving praise, it’s clear that a good word from a colleague or authority figure goes a long way to ensure the appreciated behavior continues. A simple thank you is often viewed as more meaningful and sincere than more formal means of approbation.</p> <p>In working with supervisors and managers to bring informal praise into a culture, remember that givers of praise tend to forget the power of informal encouragement. Make sure to talk with supervisors about the importance of providing the occasional “Way to go!” and discuss with them what it will take to remember to do so. What cues can be placed around them? How can managers remind supervisors? A best practice is to hold a meeting one week after participants return from an education experience and discuss the role of leadership in coaching, measuring and encouraging the new behaviors. Take five minutes and brainstorm different informal ways to say thank you.</p> <p><strong>Connect to Core Values</strong></p> <p>Much of what is taught in today’s leadership and other soft-skill courses is value-based. In addition to informing people what they should do under certain conditions, the courses explain the “why” behind the targeted behaviors. These almost always connect to the company’s core values — or at least they should.</p> <p>For instance, organizations don’t ask people to be involved in decision making simply because it’s the new training trend. Rather, they ask people for their ideas because they value creative and innovative thinking or constructive feedback and criticism. They also believe that it helps people feel like they are part of the decision and aligns teams. Involving others may also lie at the heart of diversity. Organizations seek to rely on the varying views of diverse specialists and realize that doing so leads to the best choices. These may be just some of the values underpinning a training course on teamwork or decision making.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the idea of talking about values is often far from the minds of leaders, whose jobs require them to focus on numbers and charts. As a result, these leaders miss an important opportunity to connect with what their people really care about. People don’t connect strongly to charts, facts, figures and logic. Rather, they connect to direct and vicarious experiences, personal stories and deeply held values. In explaining how the skills and concepts that participants have learned in corporate training link to the company’s core values, learning professionals breathe excitement and life into vanilla behaviors. Leaders should never be afraid to talk about theories, skills and values.</p> <p><strong>Link Coaching to Training</strong></p> <p>When it comes to interpersonal skills, training participants need more than knowledge. They need to turn knowledge into action. This requires them to take ideas, shape them in their own words and behaviors and then try them out. This calls for deliberate practice. As the old adage says, practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. </p> <p>How does one experience perfect practice? Not alone. In determining how well they are enacting new skills, individuals need feedback from others. They need someone else to watch them, stop them when they go awry and then give them specific behavioral advice on how to improve. In short, they need a coach. A coach doesn’t simply look at the scoreboard and tell the team to hunker down. A good coach watches the team members in action and then advises them on what they need to change to affect the result.</p> <p><strong>Build in Reminders</strong></p> <p>To help people remember what to do at the right place and time, make use of cues. Put up charts that summarize training skills in meeting rooms. Ask people to carry summary cards with them at work. Put electronic devices to work. Build in reminders that pop up every morning. Send participants video clips that remind them of what they’ve learned or even teach a subtle variation on the theme. Ask your IT folks and video specialists to build tools and reminders that are tailored specifically to the skills covered in training.</p> <p>Training courses work best when combined with a variety of other sources of influence that both motivate and enable training participants to practice what they have learned at work. This calls for a multifaceted rollout plan that supplements classroom training with both formal and informal rewards, coaching, value links and the use of cuing and reminders. These strategies are the sources of influence that inspire employees to change their behavior for good. </p>
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