26.12.2011 Talent Management and Development 2 Comments

Making Learning Stick: Post 2 of 4

In my last post, I gave an overview and a timeline for making learning part of an integrated talent development process, rather than an activity or isolated event that gets a “check” next to it when completed. In this post, I’ll offer a few specific actions to be taken, before any training activity.

Ideally, participants should be invited to attend a training session by their direct supervisor or manager. This personalizes the training, builds a positive readiness for it, and sets the expectation of accountability to learn and use the skills or knowledge from the training.

Participants should be given an overview of the training program and how it fits with the larger business strategy and goals, as well as any required prework/preparation in sufficient time for them to complete it.

Customization of materials, especially including using language, examples, and even video, if possible, helps bring the content from “off-the-shelf” to relevant. This can be accomplished through interviews with employees from the target population to be trained, as well as with their leadership.

Who should be in the training room? It’s often advisable to schedule participants with no more than one “level” of supervision above and below, for a maximum of three levels in any given session. Personally, I like homogenous groups, but one level of supervision can work well, also, and sometimes is even preferred (for example, when a side goal of the training event includes team-building for an intact work group).

Along these lines, it’s almost always best for management and supervision to take the same training that they send their people to, even if it’s not with their people. This supports the training on several levels: everyone will learn the same skills so that there can be a common language and process in the workplace; it minimizes the common objection and resistance to training of “this is great, but the real people who should be here are our bosses;” managers and supervisors will be better able to reinforce and correct the targeted skills by learning them and participating in the training; and managers and supervisors will be better able to use and model the targeted skills on-the-job if they’ve participated in the training.

2 Responses to “Making Learning Stick: Post 2 of 4”

  1. Mark says:

    Nice post Ken. I agree that when training is the answer its relevance and buy-in are critical for the learning process. And I agree that since training is a gap filling approach (current skill level to desired level) having managers present is very desireable to ensure that the skills gained are understood at multiple levels and reinforced in the work flow. However often that is not possible (manager attendance) or there is resistance to the idea. How do you propose this vacancy should/could be rectified?

  2. ken says:

    Thanks for posting, Mark! Your question is a really good one (or two, actually): 1) the manager can’t attend, and 2) the manager won’t attend. How would I address each?

    I can give a simple response, but, alas, it’s not easy (as is often the case in our business, no?). To me, it really comes back to a fundamental question, that has to be asked at the highest strategic level in the organization: Why are we doing this? If the answer is to close a skill- or knowledge-gap to improve bottom-line performance, the original questions should be moot, because the priority has been made clear, from the highest level. (We can imagine having one-on-one’s to clarify the need and problem-identify and -solve with the individual manager, if there are specific issues, but the systemic issue should be addressed by the strategic clarification.)

    If there’s still resistance (at the C-level, the VP level, or the manager level), now we’re talking a different issue. Taking a holistic approach, using HPI (Human Performance Improvement) strategies, could be helpful. And that might make for a topic for a future blog post!

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