Welcome to the April edition of our Business Performance eNews. We especially welcome you if you are one of our many new subscribers. This month, we conclude our series of articles on how to truly engage employees in learning and applying that learning to their jobs. In this final installment, Leslie Allan investigates the importance of building relationships in and out of the training room.
Our second feature article this month deals with an issue most trainers have labored under at one time or another —a knee-jerk selection of a training solution or poorly defined objectives. Perhaps working with your program stakeholders to construct an Impact Map may be the answer. We also introduce you to our coaching and communications expert, Jennifer McCoy. Find out more about Jennifer in Meet Our Expert of the Month. We trust you enjoy this month's edition of eNews.
Engaging Learners with Interpersonal Interaction
by Leslie Allan AIMM MAITD
Interpersonal Interaction Is Key
Research on learning over the last few decades has reinforced three key factors that maximize the efficiency and impact of employee training. These three factors, when present in the course design and delivery, combine to engage the learner and facilitate the application of new skills in the workplace.
When the training is goal orientated, program participants have a reason to learn and are stretched to apply the learning to achieve concrete workplace outcomes. Making the training relevant to real work hooks into participants' existing knowledge and aspirations, leading to immediate practical application. Providing plenty of opportunity for practice strengthens neural pathways in the learner's brain, increasing learning efficiency and learner proficiency.
There is a fourth factor that permeates all three of these conditions for effective training, and that is interpersonal interaction. Relationship building mediates the other factors through engaging program participants to strive for goals, connect with existing knowledge and practice skills. The interactions I am referring to here are those between each program participant and the trainer as well as between the participants themselves.
Learning in the workplace is largely a social activity, in which goals and aspirations are shared, experiences are discussed, different approaches are debated and ways of doing things are demonstrated. In some programs, participants will learn more from each other than from the trainer. And when the participants return to their workplaces, shared learning between them will be paramount.
Conversely, the relationship between each participant and the trainer is equally important. Participants that dislike their trainer find it much more difficult to learn. These participants need to put in an extra effort to overcome their disinclinations; an effort that many participants cannot be bothered with. Most times, only the participant with a prior and strong natural interest in the subject matter at hand will persevere in the face such feelings.
Interactions that encourage participation and collaboration will foster engagement. On the other hand, interactions that serve to fracture relationships between the participants and with the trainer will seriously undermine learning. The trainer here has two important responsibilities in cultivating learning:
- to act in a way that engenders a positive relationship with each participant; and
- to facilitate an environment in which participants are able to develop a positive relationship with their peers
If this is to be achieved, the trainer will need to take an interest in people as people. To some trainers, this will come naturally. To others, this will present a real challenge. Some trainers are heavily focused on being perceived as the "expert", disseminating pearls of wisdom for which everyone should be grateful. These trainers spend little to no time in cultivating relationships with participants. The participants must become the focal point in the eyes of the trainer if they are to come on board the training program.
In addition, trainers will need to create an environment in which all participants feel at ease to question, offer opinions and develop friendships. Participants that feel stupid, ignored, disrespected, humiliated or discriminated against by their peers are not likely to engage with the subject matter. Here, trainers need to be skilled in monitoring the interpersonal dynamics of the group and in acting appropriately when relationships deteriorate to the extent that learning is affected.
Six Tips for Effective Interpersonal Interaction
Trainers must not only be content experts, they must also be experts at managing relationships if learners are to be engaged in the learning. How can a trainer achieve these two aims of developing a positive relationship with each participant and fostering collegial relationships between participants? Here are my top six suggestions for doing just that.
- Develop a rapport with each participant by showing a genuine interest in them. As attendees arrive for each session, greet them by asking how they are, whether they know other people on the program, or whatever seems appropriate at the time. Start a new program by asking participants about the jobs they perform, the departments to which they belong, their work experiences, and so on.
At lunch and rest breaks, mingle with the participants, getting to know them on a more personal level. Tell them about yourself, without bragging. Be a real person, disclosing your interests, hobbies, and so on. Leave participants your contact details, showing that you are approachable.
- Be aware of the non-verbal messages you convey in the way you dress and groom yourself. Where appropriate, either match the dress standard of your participants or dress at the next notch up from them. For example, if the participants are manual workers wearing overalls, do not arrive in a suit. Wearing neat casual dress may be the most appropriate here.
Be aware of your body postures and gestures. Folded arms, for example, may signal that you are feeling defensive. Avoid sharp and jerky movements that can convey anxiety or unpredictability. Similarly, watch carefully how you say things. Language experts call this aspect of communication "paralanguage". How you say something can indicate boredom, sarcasm, contempt, and so on. On the other hand, your voice can convey excitement, interest and respect. Express warmth in your voice, avoiding shrill tones, and speak at a moderate pace.
Read all six tips for
fostering interpersonal interaction.
Find out more about all four factors for engaging learners. 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 download the free introductory chapter and start using Leslie's comprehensive training guide and toolkit today.
Constructing an Impact Map for Organizational Behaviors
by Leslie Allan AIMM MAITD
Impact Maps: Who, Why and When
Training programs that successfully deliver real benefits to the organization are programs that are embedded within a current change initiative or improvement project. Success starts at the needs analysis stage with a clear statement of the organization's objectives for the program. Once these are agreed by the program sponsor and key stakeholders, these are then converted into the desired employee behaviors on the job. It is only by people doing things differently on the job that the organization can achieve its objectives.
As you work through this process of converting objectives into behaviors, it may not proceed as easily as you had expected. You may be faced with one or more of the following challenges as you work with your client managers. The prospective training participants' managers may be:
- intent on a particular program, but are not clear on the organizational objectives underpinning it
- clear on what they want the program to achieve, but have rushed to a predetermined solution
- unclear about both the objectives and the solution
In these circumstances, conducting a facilitated meeting with the management team and other key stakeholders to explore openly and map out the issues will save time in the long run and result in a plan that, at the very least, all major stakeholders will be able to live with. We recommend using an experienced facilitator to work with the stakeholders with the aim of constructing an Impact Map. An Impact Map draws the relationships between the organizational objectives, intermediate objectives and the skills and behaviors to be taught in the program.
Who needs to be involved in the drawing of the Impact Map? We recommend getting all of the key stakeholders together in one room at the same time. Key stakeholders typically include the project sponsor, training participant managers, the project leader, the principle program designer and some representative training participants. The objective of the facilitated meeting is to develop a high-level view only. Further meetings will be required with instructional designers and subject matter experts to develop the details.
Impact Map Process
Figure 1 below is an example of an Impact Map resulting from such a high-level meeting. The green boxes on the right display organizational objectives while the yellow boxes on the left depict the employee behaviors thought to lead to the achievement of the objectives. The blue boxes in the center represent intermediate objectives. These intermediate objectives may not need defining for all programs.
Continue reading about constructing an Impact Map.
If you or your managers are struggling with bringing about change in your organization, then check out Leslie Allan's practical guide and workbook. This acclaimed resource will steer you through every step of the change process with a wealth of worksheets, checklists and tools. Download the free introductory chapter and start using Managing Change in the Workplace today!
Meet Our Expert of the Month – Jennifer McCoy
This month we proudly feature Jennifer McCoy. Jennifer specializes in leadership coaching and offers helpful strategies to enhance the overall productivity of relationships and results for managers and team leaders. She can help you with improving communication, giving feedback, holding difficult conversations, challenging staff to higher performance and motivating teams.
Jennifer explains her approach, "One of the most overlooked communication skills is that of building collegiate relationships. All too often, people struggle with problems, afraid to voice their concerns because they fear ridicule from their colleagues. If all team members understand how to support each other, using collegiate coaching strategies, trust is built, communication is opened and the potential for both staff and business is unlimited."
Jennifer's programs, Coaching Skills for Workplace Leaders and Collegiate Coaching at Work, lay the foundations for effective communication for team leaders, managers and their staff. Contact us today to find out more about Jennifer McCoy's coaching skills program or how she can help you with your business.
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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