Welcome to the first edition of our Business Performance eNews for 2014. We trust you and your family had a joyous and safe festive season. We also welcome our many new subscribers.
To start the year off, we begin this issue with the first installment of a four-part series of articles on the principles and practices of engaging learners. Getting maximum benefit from the training programs we conduct in our organizations and with our clients has always been a significant challenge. In this series of articles, we share our insights and experience in getting our training participants on board with the learning so that they can hit the ground running when they return to their jobs.
Our second article this month explores a common dilemma experienced by trainers, project managers and change champions: How to use the right combination of hard and soft measures when initiating and evaluating a program. Plus, we introduce you to our change management and team building expert, Geoff Hopkins. Find out more about Geoff in Meet Our Expert of the Month. We trust you enjoy this month's edition of eNews.
Engaging Learners with Goal Orientation
by Leslie Allan AIMM MAITD
Setting the Scene for Effective Training
As trainers, we all want to deliver effective training programs for our organization and our employees. To do this, we need to satisfy some fundamental requirements for effective training program design and delivery.
For a start, we need to make sure that the right employees are invited to the training program. This means checking that each employee has satisfied the prerequisites of the program and that the training will be relevant to their role in the organization.
We must make sure that the training is delivered at the right time; not so early that employees will forget what they learned and not so late so that they will become demotivated through frustration. Of course, we also need to ensure that the learning outcomes are relevant to what the organization wants to achieve with the training program. And lastly, we must use training methods and delivery modes that match the program content and the program participant profile.
These essentials set the groundwork for encouraging enthusiasm and commitment from participants. Without the basics, getting employees on board with the learning will become much more difficult to accomplish. In this article, I want to go the next step to explore how trainers can use goal setting and feedback in particular to engage employees in the learning.
Getting program participants working towards goals is the first of four essential actions that trainers must do to engage learners. In essence, these four areas of training design and delivery that I consider need close attention are:
- Goal orientation
- Real work relevance
- Interpersonal interaction
I deal with the three latter activities in separate articles. However, you may already appreciate that there exist interdependencies between each of the four actions. It does help, though, to look at each of these areas in their own right as they inform your thinking about your training design and delivery. Let me now turn our attention to the first essential activity; goal orientation.
Think for a moment about the types of participants who undergo your training program and how they are motivated. One type of program participant has an intrinsic interest in the subject matter or skills being taught. These participants strive to learn for its own sake. Another type of participant exhibits no or little native interest in the learning. This type will need an extrinsic justification for their expenditure of time and effort to complete the program.
This need for an extrinsic rationale leads some experts to phrase the advice to trainers in the following way: trainers need to tell employees the WIIFM ("What's In It For Me") of the program. The concept of "What's In It For Me" and the attendant acronym probably have their origin within the United States. These days, the acronym has reached into many countries and is common parlance in a number of disciplines, such as change management and marketing.
The extrinsic justification referred to by the acronym may be distinctly personal for the program participant, locking into their prior values or objectives. For example, this could be the social acceptance that will come from passing the course, or it may be earning the eligibility to join a respected professional association.
On the other hand, the external rationale may simply be the stated objectives of the program, which the participant comes to adopt during the course of the learning. These objectives could be, for example, reducing time to market for new products or minimizing the company's environmental impact. Either way, the key message here is that people actively engage the subject matter when they see a purpose in the learning.
Contrast this with what happens in many training programs. In these programs, employees are treated as "empty vessels" in which to drop volumes of "information". These "brain dumps" easily lead to sensory and cognitive overload. Not only that, without a connection to the employee's sense of purpose and meaning, what little information is remembered in the short term is not transferred to the participant's long-term memory. The "learning" is quickly lost.
The external rationale does not necessarily need to align exactly with the employee's existing values and goals. If there is a sense that the program is "going somewhere", that there is a significant point to the training beyond the training room, many participants will latch onto that purpose – so long as there is a "hook" to make that connection.
For example, learning to work in teams may seem a "fuzzy, feel good" timewaster for many program attendees. If you are conducting such a program, then to allay this skepticism you could introduce the program to the participants as giving them the potential to improve their relationships. As participants come to see that the skills taught could increase their credibility and influence, many will become the program's staunchest advocates. The "hook" here is people's innate desire to be respected and be persuasive.
The second important aspect I want to emphasize here is that many people like to be stretched. Set people a goal, such as reducing the product defect rate to 2% or typing 50 words per minute with no errors, and employees will rise to the challenge. If you set the objective as a goal for the entire team, then the resulting feeling of "team spirit" can act as an added incentive. People are social beings. The act of pursuing a goal that requires social interactivity and collaboration can tap into and be driven forward by our basic social needs.
As a trainer, what are some practical steps that you can take to incorporate the power of goal setting in your training program? Here are my top four tips.
Continue reading Leslie Allan's
training goals tips.
Find out more about how to create and deliver goal-focused training. Check out Leslie Allan's practical resource kit packed with ideas, tools and templates for implementing effective learning. Visit the From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance information portal to find out how to download the free introductory chapter and start using Leslie's comprehensive training guide and toolkit today.
Hard Measures versus Soft Measures
by Leslie Allan AIMM MAITD
Evaluating the effectiveness of the training programs you deliver helps you and your program sponsor determine whether the program was worth the effort. Evaluation also helps you identify areas for future improvement. Worthwhile evaluation starts with the setting of organizational goals for your program. At the outset, agreeing goals with your program sponsor that are measurable sets the scene for a smooth evaluation exercise later on.
Being measurable, these goals then set the benchmark from which you can much more easily gauge the extent to which the goals were achieved. Using the SMART principle for setting goals is an excellent way to ensure that the goals you agree are relevant and measurable to an objective standard.
For your program evaluation report to earn credibility with your key stakeholders, the reported program results need to be verifiable by independent observers. So, whoever is doing the measurement, whether it is an external consultant, a representative front-line employee or a department manager, all need to agree on the measured value of the outcome.
For many training programs, this requirement for objective measures is not too difficult to achieve. A sales training program may set a sales target for each sales executive of $50,000 worth of new sales by end of year. A quality engineering training program may set a goal of 20% reduction in defects for the next quarter. Measures such as sales volume and defect rates are called "hard" measures because the measurement is so amenable to assigning definite numbers to the values. These numbers can easily be extracted from sales reports, inspection sheets, and so on.
For some training programs, though, there may appear to be no kinds of hard measure applicable. Many trainers ask in desperation, "What are the measurable outcomes from team building and leadership development programs?" Consider for a moment a mechanical repair shop implementing self-managed work teams. A Working in Teams training program is scheduled over a two week period, with the program forming an integral part of this comprehensive change initiative. Isn't the ability to work in teams a "soft" skill, not amenable to hard measures?
Continue reading Hard Measures versus Soft Measures.
If you or your managers are struggling with bringing about change in your organization, then check out our Managing Change in the Workplace. This acclaimed resource will guide you through every step of the change process with a wealth of worksheets, checklists and tools. Download the free introductory chapter and start using this valuable guide and workbook today today!
Meet Our Expert of the Month – Geoff Hopkins
This month we proudly feature Geoff Hopkins. Geoff has been a leadership coach, facilitator and change consultant to leaders in organizations for nearly three decades. Geoff explains his approach, "Only one in four change programs deliver what is intended. We've identified the essential elements required for successful change and for dramatically enhancing a team's performance. Working across the organization to understand what's happening and to map perceptions, we reinforce what's good and identify the gaps that, once addressed, will help to cement the organization solidly into the top 25%."
He adds, "The fresh and valuable insights that we uncover through probing questions and attentive listening are always extraordinary. Skills development through coaching and training gives focus to areas such as communication, team dynamics, creating an accountable environment and building staff engagement. We strongly advocate measuring the 'before' and 'after' to get a dynamic sense of what results we're achieving." Contact us today to find out more about how Geoff Hopkins can help you.
Meet the other members of our expert team of professional consultants, trainers, facilitators and coaches. Whether you need help with your current issues or a future project, our experts are ready to assist you in a variety of specialized fields.
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