19.12.2011 Talent Management and Development No Comments

Making Learning Stick: Part 1 of 4

I just kicked off a Train-the-Trainer program earlier this week for the local chapter of the ASTD. One thing that I love about doing a program such as this is that it really forces me to “sharpen my own axe” and go back to the fundamentals of good analysis to develop an appropriate solution to a real business problem. When the solution includes training, whether it’s of knowledge or skill, it’s vitally important to think through not just the training event’s design, but all the things that will support successful transfer from the workshop to the workplace.

The research confirms what we’ve known all along: a one-shot, lecture-based “knowledge infusion” isn’t effective in getting sustained performance improvement and business results. After about one month, knowledge retention is about 34% compared with immediately after a workshop; after three months, it falls to 16%; after six months, about 5%, or less.

Rather than an isolated event, learning needs to occur as part of an integrated process in order to produce business results. If you had limited time and budget, yet had a high need to take a vacation, it would be silly to just get in the car and start driving without any sense of what you want to do or where you’re heading. How could you possibly answer your young passengers’ plaintive wail, “Are we there yet?” if you don’t know where “there” is? So, also, is it folly to just jump into a performance development event without deciding on a desired outcome—related to an important business need, mapping out a route, anticipating and planning for roadblocks and hazards along the way, doing some preventative maintenance upfront and along the way, and making adjustments for the unexpected as you progress.

There are critical conversations an employee must have and actions they need to take before and after, as well as during any well-designed learning initiative.

Over the next several blog posts, I’ll delve specifically into what the training professional in partnership with the client can do to promote successful learning transfer that will lead to the client achieving their desired business performance.

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