As a trainer you are uniquely qualified and positioned to teach your organization how to use training. Here’s a brief outline of what you can do to make training work, followed by a set of actionable tips & tools.
- Convince the organization that training based on needs analysis is actually useful because it adds to the bottom line.
- Create successful training by tapping into existing knowledge (engage role models and resident domain experts).
- Prove that your training has changed behavior by establishing a pre-training baseline and doing a post-training evaluation.
- Provide the means to put the training into practice, for instance with reminders and micro-interventions.
- Organize follow-up training which can be triggered by expiring certificates or even yearly tests.
The greatest success you can achieve for your organization, as a trainer, is to create a learning organization. A learning organization does all of the above, and more: it is continually improving itself with the goal of remaining competitive (or relevant and effective, if you’re not a commercial enterprise). It does so by acknowledging that learning for the most part takes place informally, on the job. Your role is to teach the organization how to kickstart a transformation into a learning organization.
Let’s dive into the tips & tools you can use for kickstarting that transformation.
Needs Analysis Tools
A need analysis starts by identifying which competencies are required to meet the business goals. Use software to store the required competencies for each role in the organization. A learning management system (or lms for short) is ideal for this because it will also help you identify the employees’ current shortcomings or deficiencies in skill and knowledge levels with regard to each competency. You do that by creating tests for one or more competencies. The lms allows you to view the scores on the tests in terms of the competencies. This means you’ll end up with a test results which should show you exactly what training is actually needed, in terms of the business goals.
For instance, if one of the business goals is to generate more leads for the sales department, then a required competency for the marketing department may be “conduct a direct marketing email campaign”. You can measure their ability to conduct such a campaign by asking a few simple questions, in a test, about the tools they’d typically use for such a job (e.g. Infusionsoft). If the test shows that they’re currently not up to the job, then you know more training is required to meet the goal of generating more leads.
Create Successful Training
A successful training convinces the participants to change their behavior. One way to that is to use role models. A professional with an impressive track record may be such a role model for the participants. Ideally, you’d like to have the professional conduct the actual training sessions. But usually the most successful individuals don’t have time for that. Instead, try to have them show up at least once – with a success story of course – or, failing even that, get them to participate in an online Q & A, using a discussion forum. In much the same way, try to engage domain experts while designing the training. Get them involved in setting up a wiki or a knowledge base.
Prove That Your Training Has Changed Behavior
As I said before, you can establish a base line of knowledge and skills by using online tests. Using an lms (learning management system) you can conduct the online tests in non-intrusive manner, without causing too many empty seats on the workfloor. Once your participants are used to the idea of online tests, you can follow up each training session with an online test. This creates data to improve your training, increasing the chances of success. After the training has run its course, do some more comprehensive testing, linked in to the competencies you defined earlier. If all went well, you should see a noticeable improvement.
A few months after the training, you could also invite co-workers and managers for a 360 degrees feedback assessment of the participants. This gives you data on how much of the training has stuck and to what extent the newly acquired skills and knowledge are applied on the job: the transfer-of-training issue. It would also be great if you could keep the role models and domain experts involved.
Provide The Means to Put The Training into Practice
You can’t just sit on your hands when it comes to the transfer-of-training issue. The traditional means to increase transfer-of-training are distributing mugs, mouse pads and leaflets which summarize the most important take-aways. Those are all great, but you can do better than that, nowadays. Use your lms to send out nuggets of advice to your participants’ smartphones. Keep testing participants and automatically suggest remedial training through your lms if necessary. Record a video interview with role models. Often times, they’ll provide the inspiration needed to stick with the new way of doing things. The implicit message here is: “If you want to be as successful as I am, you need to apply your training on the job.” If your test data show that most participants have adapted the new way of doing things, you can share that data with everyone to convince the laggards to better their ways.
And by the way, even if training really didn’t work on a practical level – i.e. participants do not actually learn anything they can apply on the job – it would still improve their sense of self worth. “I am important enough to invest in”, that’s the message the company sends out to you if they allow you to train. Improved self worth leads to higher employee satisfaction which in turn leads to increased productivity.
Organize Follow-up Training
Keep a good thing going: organize follow-up training. You could use yearly tests to filter out people who need this. Or you could use certificates of limited validity to trigger refreshers. Both can be automated using, again, your lms. This means employees automatically receive an email once they’re up for a refresher course. You can even send an text message (sms, for Europeans) to alert them that the training is due next Monday.
Hopefully you’ve come away with a few good ideas from reading this post. Please share your own thoughts in the comments!
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