Paul Wherly

The cost of learning


This week’s guest blog is from Lesley Morrissey, Managing Director of Inside News.

Most people know me as a professional copywriter, but in another lifetime I was an HR manager and management trainer.  Many organisations don’t understand why the investment they make in training doesn’t work – and, when times are tough, the training budget is often the first to be cut.  However, training can make a dramatic difference to individual performance, departmental effectiveness and overall corporate objectives.

Whether training is to improve skills, to learn something new or to develop people to take on more responsibilities training – alone – doesn’t work.

A very, very long time ago I was trained to use a database – but only rarely needed to use it and the trainer had no conception of my role and, therefore, didn’t introduce me to how it might be of use in other ways than the couple of applications I had in mind.  The outcome was that I didn’t use my new skills for a couple of months and then only had a hazy memory of what I’d learned.  So lesson one for anyone sending their staff on training – find them opportunities to use their new skills or knowledge.  Use it or lose it!

As a consultant we delivered training in a range of management and service skills and always got rave reviews on the ‘happy sheet’ at the end of the programme.  Then our biggest client came up with a problem – they loved the training, everyone enjoyed it and went back to work full of enthusiasm, but, after a few weeks the energy had waned and most people had slipped back into their old habits.  They wanted to know what they could do about it.

Our solution – after some discussion – was that the learners needed better support when they got back to work.

  • Each trainee was asked to create an action plan outlining what they wanted to achieve when they applied their new skills.
  • The trainee’s manager was to carry out a debrief and discuss their action plan within a day or two of them returning to their workplace.
  • The manager was then to monitor progress, praise them for success and pick up on slippage and discuss how to get them back on track

Given that most activities that are carried out frequently become a habit – the support meant that the trainee kept up with the new ways of doing things until the habit was developed and it simply became ‘the way I do it’.  This usually takes around a month for daily activities, longer for things that are carried out less frequently.  It’s not a big job for any manager to carry this kind of support process out – it doesn’t involve lots of long meetings, just an occasional ‘How’s it going?’ and ‘I can see how much difference the training is making, keep it up!’

With a few minutes effort the investment in training really pays off in focus, productivity, job satisfaction and much more.  So how do your managers support training?

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