Designing Employee-Enhancing Training Programs
A group of key employees from a
small company had returned to work after giving up their weekend to attend a
workshop on Enhancing Interpersonal Communication along with Jim Reynolds, the
owner of their small company. Jim asked
the management team sitting around the conference table in his office, “Now
what can we do to improve our own interpersonal communications as a team of
Mary the financial manager retorted with an air of deep frustration, “I don’t have a clue! We’ve heard some great and entertaining lectures about how to communicate with each other more effectively. Right now all I can do is list the things we should do, I don’t know how to actually do them! We had not practice doing them!”
It’s sad, but I’ve found this story to be typical of the results of too many “training” episodes that take place today. Research studies, conducted by Stanford University professors Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers, indicate that only 5% of the people reading a "how to" book, listening to a "how to" talk or video tape, or participating in a live “how to” seminar or workshop improve in performance. Only a small percentage will actually apply the new knowledge, skills and attitudes being addressed in the training effectively and regularly back in their work environments.
A really good thing in the above story is that Jim, the owner, engaged himself in the training by participating with his employees in trying to achieve a worthwhile goal of seeking to enhance their management team’s interpersonal communication skills. Being open to being vulnerable to his own communication short suits and being part of the solution when addressing perceived communication breakdowns was to Jim’s credit.
This research made it clear to me why the traditional workshops I’d been doing for years were virtually useless. What’s needed involves way more than just lecturing about the learning. In order to learn effectively, participants need to see the learning applied in the form of modeling, participate in skill practice, and receive “on course” and “off course feedback regarding the knowledge, skills or attitudes being learned. In addition, it involves opportunities for participants to apply and receive feedback on their use of the new learning back in the workplace.
Another critical insight for me was the need for top management to make clear, and frequently reinforce, the expectation that participants attending the training are to diligently begin applying what they have learned back in their work environment.
In this research I saw that the typical seminar like I had often attended, or conducted myself, offered little more than a “talking face” dispensing information in ways that were not cost nor learning effective. I thought to myself, “Why should company owners pay for their employees to miss work, attend a seminar and then come back to the work place with only a book, some handouts and a few notes?”
As a professional consultant, trainer and business coach, this research changed my life and the methods with which I provide performance enhancement training and coaching to my clients. The percentages in this research hit me between the eyes as I was forced to take stock that they matched what I had been observing for years, people were not effectively applying back in their work environments what I was teaching them!
For years, it was continually frustrating to me to see my hard work pay little dividends to companies who paid me or to those who attended the workshops and seminars that I had been providing. It became clear to me that the effort, time and dollars spent on traditional training activities was a bust when it came to delivering a significant, positive impact on people’s performance in their workplaces.
As a result, I began the process of redesigning all of my leadership, managerial, and organization development workshops and coaching materials to bring them into line with the outstanding research I had learned about. No small task, but what a difference it made in the performance results of the people I served from then on.
As a proactive business owner or manager, I urge you to commit to initiating and implementing the training effectiveness principles and practices outlined below. You will be making a giant contribution to the “care and feeding” of all of your staff members. If you do, you will be helping your people better and more easily achieve workplace concepts like “total quality” and “continuous measurable improvement”. Everyone will be rewarded with enhanced individual productivity and greater company profitability.
Your commitment will foster the enhancement of your people's Character, Competence, Commitment and Community or team player attributes by providing them with results-producing training and development programs. Do not tolerate the 95% money-wasting failure rate from any of your performance enhancement programs! Avoid the "cosmetic" type of training programs and insist on substantive performance enhancement program designs based on these three things:
- Individual Participant Data Gathering – Gather each participant’s performance data generated from a thorough an assessment process built on the key functions and tasks required of people’s positions as well as the performance standards desired for each of the identified functions and tasks.
- Conduct A Participant Assessment Before Training – Conduct an assessment of each participant's attitudes, skills and knowledge related to the goals and outcomes for the training being offered.
- Include Key Training Design Elements – Include these five critical adult learning design elements in the design of your training: (1) Provide clear presentation of concepts/theories and careful checking for understanding with each participant; (2) Model and demonstrate the application of the knowledge, skills or attitudes being taught; (3) Provide for applied practice for the participants in a safe workshop environment; (4) Provide “on course” and “off course” performance feedback during the practice of new learning at the workshop; and, (5) Provide participants with frequent follow through opportunities for workplace monitored application of new skills by a fellow employees or a manager who is qualified to observe and conduct a feedback and coaching conference related to the skills.
It is the work-environment supervision that includes monitored application, observation, feedback and coaching that is the “glue” for predictably moving 90% of your staff who participated in the training toward mastery and diligent application of what they have learned.
By following these steps in all of the training and development activities you provide your managers and employees, you will ensure that 90% of them will achieve 90% proficiency over a reasonable time span.
If you need help in mastering and implementing any of the skills and tactics mentioned above, I'm here for you! Please visit the Call-A-Coach section of my web site for more information, and contact me if you have any questions.