Employee training that sticks

It's happened to most of us. We attend a great presentation or training seminar, and return to our workplace with the best of intentions to put our new-found skill set, tools or knowledge to immediate use.

5 ways to ensure special training isn't forgotten soon after the seminar ends

Pierre Battah offers five ways to ensure that workplace training and learning sticks. (Submitted)

It's happened to most of us. We attend a great presentation or training seminar and return to our workplace with the best of intentions to put our new-found skill set, tools or knowledge to immediate use.  We try out the new thing, we feel awkward and unsupported in our efforts, and it fades away or we consciously give up.

Sometime later we stumble across the materials and lament how great it would have been to put those new ideas into practice.

We can understand why employers sometimes question the value of investing in employee development.

Here are five ways to ensure that workplace training and learning sticks:

1. The boss — hold learners accountable

Many organizations ensure the immediate supervisor is very involved in a number of ways. Some employers insist the boss attend the session or be briefed when their employees attend training so that the boss can hold employees accountable for a shift in their performance and behaviour. (I personally think this is often overlooked yet the most effective).

I had a colleague who was known to be very generous with training dollars, but you were required to provide him a full briefing upon your return from the seminar. You also had to agree on how the new skill set would be reflected in your next performance management cycle, and you were held accountable for applying the recent learning at work.

2. The boss — coach people applying what they've learned 

Ideally, give positive feedback for trying out the new-found skill, but it can mean coaching, correcting and encouraging as well when things aren't yet as efficient or productive as desired. Remember, learners often don't transfer what they have learned because their environment does not feel supportive, especially when they are changing a behaviour, a process or a way of doing things.

3. The employee — teach what you have learned

A manager in a consumer products organization loves sending her people for training. Upon their arrival at the next staff meeting they're responsible for presenting a three to five slide PowerPoint presentation and a one-pager that enables the sharing of take-aways.

She has successfully turned the training of any one of her people into a way of strengthening her entire team.

4. The employee — apply learning beyond the workplace

Wharton Business School professor Stew Friedman, in his research, his training work with the Ford Motor Company and his award-winning best-seller Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life showed when people systematically commit to applying what they learned beyond the job, the learning sticks.

When people get specific about how their new-found skill, habit or tool will enrich their family life, volunteer commitments, community engagements and themselves personally, they are more apt to make the effort to apply the learning.

5. The trainer — make training pay off

Seasoned educator, trainer and my mentor Donald Arsenault of Jarda Consulting reminds us that back in the day,  workshop participants were happy to simply build their knowledge. Now the requirement in the busy and distracted lives of many learners is to return to their workplace with useable tools, habits or knowledge they can use immediately to make the training payoff.

As trainers and facilitators, we significantly impact knowledge transfer. Useable content that respects adult learning principles delivered in a way to facilitate its application back on the job must be our priority. Simply enhancing people's knowledge isn't enough.

It is up to both employers and employees to make sure the things they learn on training courses are put to use back on the job. (Submitted)

And about that awkward, uncomfortable feeling of trying to apply new tools, habits and skills on the job: embrace it. Unless we get cozy with feeling awkward and uncomfortable and develop the ability to laugh at ourselves as we stumble through changing how we do things, we don't grow.

Worse, your boss's fears that sending you on training is a waste of time and money all come true.

About the Author

Pierre Battah

Human resource management consultant

Pierre Battah is Information Morning's Workplace Specialist. Battah & Associates is a management consulting firm specializing in Human Resource Management.