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It is often a mystery in organizations as to how to make training work

Congratulations! Students have walked out of an impactful and engaging training class, having given top marks to the instructor on smile sheets. Now you have arrived at one of the most crucial points in performance , the point at which you can make a terrific impact on the success of a training effort.  Now the focus is on not letting all that learning get lost in the daily grind and distractions out of the classroom. The secret is to imagining the students are still in the classroom, even though they have returned to the job.

Skills Erosion: Up to 90% Without Intervention

Experts agree that training retention is notoriously dismal in much of organizational training, and that, for the typical adult, recalling more than 10%-20% of the content within a few weeks of the training is all that can be expected. Certainly the context, the instructional design and the ability to apply the learning is a tremendous factor, so lets start with a quick explanation of how humans learn.

People build knowledge in predictable ways, though the movement and processing of information in the brain. The introduction of information is processed briefly by the senses, then it moves on to short-term memory (STM), where it remains for only a brief amount of time. To keep information in the STM, it needs to be repeated, or else it will be lost. Now the trick is to support retention, by moving the information over to the long-term memory.

Repetition is still a factor here, and the pairing of information in the STM (also called the working memory) with similar information retrieved from long-term memory (previously learned information) is also critical. Picture a person learning to ride a unicycle. Fortunately she already knows how to ride a bicycle. So as she learns, she can apply balance, pedaling and forward movement skills she already has. Now she has to get used to and apply backwards motion, the lack of handlebars and no brakes. She will continually apply what she knows, but have to blend it with new techniques to succeed.

So now, after a class in which topics and new skills are introduced, that new information must be added to what experience students already have.  Performance of those new skills and behaviors must occur in the job before it all erodes away.

How about planning ahead for a more effective learning experience with the employee? Here are a few ideas: Sending a student off to an expensive seminar? Give them assignments to do. It makes a sense. If you are sending students to courses, that should be linked to a need for the organization. Clarify with the student as to what that need is, and be sure they are clear on what the organization expects to get out of it. In addition, plan to hold them accountable to execute the agreed plan.

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Adapted from Building Giants: The Secrets to Transforming Your Workforce through Effective Training

Also, Schunk, D.H. (2012) Learning Theories, an Educational Perspective. Pearson. Boston, MA

Baldwin,T., Ford,K. (First published online, 2006, Dec) Transfer of training: A review and directions for future research. Personnel Psychology. (41:1. p63-105) March 1988.  also Shaw, E. (1995, April) The training-waste conspiracy. Training, v32 n4 p59-60,62,64-65.

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