“A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better” (Jim Rohn)
Disinterested managers, disempowered environments and a lack of opportunity to apply new learnings are some of the most common mitigating factors that prevent training from “sticking” in the workplace. All too often, employees undergo training exercises, many of them very helpful, only to be frustrated in their attempts to apply what they have learnt. Bearing in mind that most research shows that the sustainability of the net effects of training depends largely on what takes place in the workplace after the training is concluded, managers have an important role to play if effective results are to be achieved. Reginald Revans, action learning pioneer of the 1900’s, and many others suggest that:
- 10% of training’s success depends on what happens in the ‘classroom’
- 20% depends on the trainee (his or her willingness to integrate the learning into daily behaviour patterns)
- 70% depends on what takes place in the workplace following the training
In order for the company to achieve a great return on investment, it makes sense that managers need to be trained on how to lead employees during the immediate months after the intervention has concluded. It is, after all, a leader’s responsibility to ensure that the learnings are built into processes, expectations and subsequent measurement. Managers could adopt the following approach to optimise learning experiences for employees and the organisation as a whole:
- Walk the talk – leading by example inspires employees to follow suit and to identify with the new expected behaviours. Managers should demonstrate enthusiasm for the intervention and express trust in its value as a tool to assist the organisation in reaching its goals.
- Debrief the learning experience with employees – get staff to talk through their key learning insights. Some helpful questions in this regard include the following:
- What important principles emerged that are “must apply” issues for you?
- What challenges/obstacles do you anticipate and how are you going to deal with them?
- Is there any way that I can support you in this?
- What can I expect from you in the months to come?
- Coach where appropriate – coaching includes observing how people “play the game”, giving feedback on what you saw/experienced, soliciting suggestions for improvement, tweaking technical skills/behaviour towards improvement and offering encouragement, especially in difficult times.
- Reward good behaviour – acknowledge focus and effort and reward the employees or team appropriately. “Catching people doing things right” reinforces expected behaviour and encourages ongoing positive actions.
- Solicit involvement – create a strong sense of value and empowerment by involving employees with their ideas, creativity and suggestions. Share as much information as possible and extend trust.
Leaders should debrief learnings and reinforce desired behaviours to get optimal results following training interventions. Failure to do so detracts from your credibility as a leader and makes it more difficult for employees to implement new actions and adopt new behaviour patterns.