The Biggest Problem with Training and How You Can Prevent It

When facilitating a training event at Hytrol or at a customer’s facility, we always ask participants to share their main goal(s) or objectives for the training so that we can confirm we meet them. Almost without fail, at least one response is, “My boss sent me.”

It’s disappointing to hear because it means the employee does not have a clear understanding of why they are in training in the first place and what the desired business outcome for their attendance is. Without that understanding, the employee is almost guaranteed to fail in transferring this new knowledge to their job.

According to the Association for Talent Development, organizations in 2015 spent an average of $1,252 per employee on direct learning expenditures. For even the smallest of organizations, that cost adds up quickly. Failure to drive successful learning transfer, or ability to apply the behavior/skills/knowledge acquired to their job, to actual business results is a very costly mistake.

Research conducted by Mary Broad and John Newstrom in their book “Transfer of Training” outlined the impact of the trainer, trainee and supervisor before, during and after a training event. The data showed that it is the trainee’s direct supervisor that has the most impact on the learning transfer process, both before and after training occurs.

So how do you improve that process? With that in mind, here are a few ways that you can increase learning transfer for your team:

Before The Training Event

Review the learning objectives and ensure that you are familiar with the content of the training program. When possible, call or meet with the training facilitator to make certain that the training aligns with your business needs and that the skills or knowledge can be implemented in your team. Even the best training will be unsuccessful if it is not applicable to the job.

Meet with the employee to define the desired outcomes before a training event. Relating the training objectives directly to the employee’s job duties helps to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question and shows the employee how the new skills or knowledge will benefit them.

Identify the why the training is needed and set outcome goals in a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Based) format that may be used as a measurement of success after the training event. This helps the employee to clearly understand what is expected of them after the training and gives them focus during the training event.

During The Training Event

Prevent interruptions. Avoid calling, emailing or pulling the employee out of training for normal work-related activities. Those interruptions not only distract your employee but can be detrimental to other participants or the training facilitator. Avoiding distractions demonstrates to the employee that learning is the priority and helps to create a supportive environment.

Still, you should monitor attendance and attention to training, especially during multi-day training events. When possible, drop-in periodically to observe the training. If dropping in is not a possibility, call or text the employee during break times for updates on the training and to gauge his/her reaction. This demonstrates to the employee that the training is important and is supported by the supervisor.

After The Training Event

Meet with the employee immediately after the training to discuss key takeaways and develop an action plan to implement the new skills or knowledge into the participant’s job duties. A key component of this meeting should be to help the employee translate skills learned in a training environment to real-time applications on the job and mutually identify any obstacles and how to overcome them.

Provide opportunities to practice new skills. Sometimes this knowledge may be immediately applied to the job, such as operating a new machine or using new software. Other times it may be days, weeks or months before the new skills are needed in the real world. In those cases, it is crucial that the supervisor provides opportunities to utilize the new skills or knowledge. This may be through role-playing, drills or structured experience as long as it requires application of the new knowledge.

Reward your employee when they successfully apply their new skills by publicizing success, documenting appropriately on performance evaluations and giving promotional preference to those that successfully complete and transfer training. Employees need to see the fruits of their labor and will be more motivated to act when they are recognized and rewarded for their effort. Properly rewarding the success of one employee can drive the success of others.

Throughout the process, it is important to remember that training is just that: a process. Equal attention and effort must be given before, during, and after the training event. By creating clear objectives for employees and a supportive environment for learning transfer, you can significantly increase training effectiveness and see an increase in your training ROI.

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