Ever notice a collective groan or eye-rolling when you announce a mandatory training session for the team? Those are signs that workers don’t feel the training’s a good use of their time. Fortunately, there are ways you can motivate the office to learn and, in turn, improve employee productivity -- by using adult learning principles and a less haphazard approach to training.
It’s about planning thoughtfully for what happens before, during, and after the actual training.
Improve Employee Productivity With Effective Training
The more the instructional methods appeal to individual learner styles, the greater the learning achievement. And true knowledge transfer -- not just successful performance during training -- is what results in improved performance on the job. To get knowledge transfer, individual participants need opportunities to learn in their own preferred style.
That’s why the actual training should include a mix of aural, visual and print (for those who learn by taking notes) materials. Interactive, tactile and kinesthetic activities help other learners to access and comprehend the content.
Additionally, team members are more motivated to learn and adapt when training is:
- Clearly relevant to the job
- Personally beneficial in an obvious way
- Spelled out so learners know what to expect
- Conducted in a “safe” environment
- Challenging, but not overwhelming
- Reinforced and measured after training
That last one is big. Adults don’t learn by classroom experience alone -- they also learn by reflecting on the experiences they have and through repeated practice. They need opportunities to try new methods, fail, calibrate, and try again. Managers and trainers should continually link feedback and coaching to the new skills the employee is learning.
The planning before training should include how to:
- Gain the attention and buy-in of learners (hint: give them a voice in shaping the training)
- Determine the desired learning outcomes for each section of the training
- Get learners reflecting on their relevant experience or previous knowledge
- Present the new material in a variety of ways to appeal to all learning styles
- Provide learning guidance through facilitation and coaching
- Elicit performance immediately after the training, even when the new skills are forming
- Provide feedback and coaching on performance and learning application
- Measure and assess the impact of training on business results
- Leverage training to engage employees and enhance retention
It’s important that each of these elements is addressed whether it’s you or an external source conducting the training. Part of your process in selecting a skilled facilitator should be an evaluation of whether there will be “stickiness” to the training -- and that doesn’t come from an off-the-shelf program alone.
Some other barriers to successful training outcomes:
- Participants feel they’re being judged during training
- Learners do not have resources or support to apply the new skills after training
- Training is just a massive “information dump”
- Participants don’t have adequate opportunities to participate
- Training, or the measure of it, is viewed as too competitive
The more of these obstacles you remove, the more likely it will be that true knowledge transfer is achieved and that learning outcomes and business results will follow.
Start at the End
To make your investments in training pay good dividends, start at the end. Ask these three questions before you design or select a training solution.
1. What Is the Desired Outcome of This Training?
Set a goal for the training program. Make that goal very specific and something you can measure. If it’s too big to tackle all at once, break that goal down into smaller bits.
2. How Will You Know If/When You Reach the Goal?
Develop ways to measure progress toward the outcome(s) you desire. Set benchmarks and milestones along the way, especially if the training is extensive. Stay involved and get ongoing feedback about progress.
3. Are There Other Ways to Achieve This Goal?
Is there something that needs done in addition to training? In alignment with training? Make sure all bases are covered to reap maximum benefits from training.
Don’t forget: employees often feel they can’t afford to be away from their day-to-day duties. Their feelings may be justified. Make sure the training is necessary and that there isn’t a better alternative out there to reaching this goal. And, when training is needed, help them plan ahead and step away from their work so they’ll be able to focus on training.
Further Steps to Great Leadership
Successfully nurturing the growth of team members is a sign of good leadership. Want to take the next steps into great leadership? Try some of the tools below:
- The Importance of Delegation in Management & Development (& Sanity)
- Like It or Not, Taking Feedback Must Be on Your Leadership Skills List
- Another Uncomfortable One for Your Leadership Skills List: Candor!