One of the most frequent school-related jokes is that we learn complicated things that prove to be inconsequential later in life. I’m not here to debate the usefulness of various subjects as they certainly all have their place.
However, I think we can all agree that I can write this article and you can read it thanks to someone who taught us these skills. They have a tremendous impact on all of our lives.
Reciting the complete conjugation of the Latin verb “habere” may be a fun party trick (for the right crowd) but otherwise entirely useless for most people.
And corporate training can be equally inconsequential if not done properly.
Obviously, nobody teaches corporate employees how to read or count. So, what exactly separates relevant training from less relevant learning interventions?
The answer is behavioral change.
4 Ways to make sure your training programs make an impact
The impact that corporate L&D should aim for is a positive modification of how trainees feel and act after the completion of a course.
The catch is that information and knowledge are only part of what it takes to ensure behavioral change. It’s essential for managers, employees and the entire organizational culture to support this. The learning intervention is often spot on, but the results are immediately lost due to a lack of follow-up.
So let’s explore a few ways to make sure that your training programs make an impact:
Focus on the participants
Quite often, instructional designers and facilitators focus to meet training objectives established by senior leadership. They don’t give proper consideration to the trainees.
It’s wrong to assume that just because C-suite executives have decided something, employees will automatically be on board with it. Sometimes, it’s quite the opposite, especially if you don’t communicate the desired changes very well.
As a result, it’s paramount to get people on board and engaged with the learning content by convincingly demonstrating what they have to gain. This should happen at the start of any learning intervention.
It’s best to build an action plan together with the trainees at the end of the intervention to ensure that they’ll follow through.
Leave lots of room for practice
Instructional designers should pay more attention to setting up scenarios in which trainees get to test new skills. If the whole course is purely theoretical, there’s a good chance that they’ll apply little of it in their daily tasks.
There has to be lots of room for practice in a safe (and even fun) environment.Immersive technology such as AR and VR are particularly engaging and allow learners to try out new things and experience how the changes could benefit them.
Ensure that the practice sections are realistic and highly applicable in real life or work situations. Stay away from sterile role-playing exercises, as participants usually dislike them.
Involve direct managers
Team leaders and managers usually want their direct reports to show an improvement of some kind after a learning intervention. However, some of them expect this to happen without a glitch and certainly with no disruption to business as usual.
Now think back to when you first started doing something — driving, for example. Were you as proficient as you are now? Of course not.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, regardless of how good the learning modules are. It’s essential to talk to both team leaders and managers and help them understand what’s needed for a permanent change to happen. Ideally, they should be part of the whole process and help their team members follow the action plans.
They also need to be understanding and openly show their support for the learning process, which we’ve already established doesn’t end when the training does.
Get senior leadership buy-in
Earlier I said that just because something comes from the top doesn’t mean that employees will be automatically on board. That’s true. However, just because senior leadership defined some goals doesn’t mean they will automatically be on board with what L&D decides needs to support those goals.
You’ll need to sell them on it. While everyone understands the importance of learning, it’s the leadership’s job to focus on results. It’s no secret that training can be disruptive to business as usual.
It’s therefore essential to demonstrate how the learning programs will optimize efficiency and bring better results. Basically, it’s the eternal need to demonstrate the ROI of training. Luckily, the latest technology with its analytics and comprehensive reports makes that a lot easier to achieve.
Learning interventions need to have an impact. It’s essential to focus on the learners, design with multiple practice opportunities in mind, and build a learning ecosystem involving direct managers and company executives.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.