Training Transfer Strategies
The best designed training course in the world is useless if participants do not apply the learnings from your program.
Training Transfer and Behavior Change
Many trainers are faced with the challenge of motivating their training program participants to use the new skills they learned during the program back in their workplace. Whether it is using the new software system to enter customer interactions, acting in a more collaborative manner with other team members or delegating more often to direct reports, this is what the training program is meant to be all about. If the training program does not in the end change workplace behaviors, the money and time spent on training is simply wasted.
All trainers have experienced at one time or another training program participants that are neither interested in the program nor motivated to apply the skills and knowledge in their jobs. Here are some tips that you as a trainer can use to help participants want to learn and to transfer that learning to their jobs. Working towards training transfer starts before the training course begins and continues on after the training completes. So, training transfer tasks have been separated into things you can do before, during and after the training is completed.
Get the participants' managers to conduct a pre-course briefing with each participant. If they do not know how, show them. This briefing is the place for each manager to introduce discussion about how the principles, techniques and skills learned will be applied practically once the participant returns from the training event. Their manager is also in the best position to ensure that participants have completed any pre-requisite reading or exercises. Most important of all, the pre-course briefing sends a powerful message that the organization cares about the employee's development and is serious about seeing the benefits of training.
For training to be effective, the fundamentals of training design will need to have been followed. These basics include selecting the right trainees, matching performance objectives to organizational outcomes, delivering at the right time and choosing the appropriate methods and delivery modes. In addition, the following four points need to be kept in mind during the conduct of the training sessions.
Participants actively engage the subject matter when they see a purpose in the learning. This could be reducing time to market for new products or minimizing the company's environmental impact. 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 trainees will latch onto that purpose – so long as there is a "hook" to make that connection. That "hook" may be personal. It may be the social acceptance that will come from passing the course, or it may be earning the eligibility to join a respected professional association, for example. So, ensure that the organizational objectives of the program are clearly described to trainees at the start of the program and state the WIIFM ("What's In It For Me").
Real Work Relevance
Showing how the program relates directly to people's day-to-day work significantly lifts the level of participant interest in the program. Firstly, demonstrate your expertise in the knowledge and skills being taught, or at least rely on subject matter experts at the appropriate times. Next, use a host of real-life examples and scenarios from the participants' own workplaces. Make role-plays, simulations and examples as true to life as you can.
In addition, demonstrate how models, theories and principles need to be contextualized for each workplace situation. Involve participants in making those connections by generating free and frank discussion about how the learning can be applied back on the job. Another fruitful strategy is getting the participants' supervisors and managers to introduce the program or each session. Doing this sends a strong message that the person to whom they report considers the program to be practical and relevant to their work. Even better, where possible, get the participants' supervisor or manager to deliver one or more components of the program.
Building in opportunities for practice during the training helps to spark participants' interest as they experience new aspects of the skill and builds their self-confidence as they gain success. Factoring in opportunities for practice also increases motivation to use the skills on the job by revealing to participants first hand how the new skills can improve their work on the job. Be sure to intersperse theory with practice sessions. The variety of physical movement and mental activity also helps to maintain participant interest.
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 participants will be paramount. Interactions that encourage participation and collaboration will foster motivation and transfer.
Things you can do here include asking plenty of questions that gain attention and generate discussion. Ask some questions of the whole group so that they can get to know something about their peers. Whole group questions start to dissolve the initial apprehension that people feel when faced with new people and surroundings. Next, plan for group work in your program design. Use groups consisting of two to six trainees to construct lists, discuss a scenario, role-play and solve problems.
Relationships can quickly become fractured and learning blocked through the actions of one or more attention-seeking, disruptive or abusive participants. So, be sure to establish ground rules at the start of the program. Lastly, give trainees rewards to mark their achievements. Success that is recognized helps to develop team spirit, especially if all of the participants are striving toward a common goal.
Transferring skills to the workplace at the conclusion of the training program begins with a post-course debriefing. Continuing on from the pre-course briefing, get participants' managers to review with the participants the content of the training and the participants' experiences. The post-course debriefing is an ideal juncture at which to identify, plan and agree with the employee where the skills will be applied and to set specific goals for their application.
This Expert View introduces some of the key activities to include in a successful training transfer strategy. Our comprehensive training transfer guide and toolkit explains how you can implement each one of these tasks and shares other high impact activities that you can do to improve the effectiveness of your training programs.