Learning and Development: Don’t Let ‘Em Sink

By Emerson Consulting Manager, Patti Hughes

Bussiness man on a sinking ship

$70.6 billion is a lot of money. That’s the total investment U.S. corporations made in training people during 2016.* What did your company spend? And was most of your spend (including time and energy) on the front end – in design, development and delivery of the training?

How much did you invest on the back end – to support people as they performed and applied their new skills, knowledge and behaviors on the job? Did you just let ‘em sink or did you help them to swim?

You see performance will happen, regardless of what you do. But if you want it to be the right performance – the results that you’ve invested serious training dollars to achieve - you must guide participants to that outcome.

The level of performance support and reinforcement you use should match the complexity and criticality of the tasks, and the size of the behavior change you’re asking for. On-the-job support is essential if you answer “Yes” to most of these questions:

  • Do you have a large audience (more than 250 people)?
  • Is your audience dispersed?
  • Is the content complex so that you couldn’t know it all by heart after completing the training?
  • Is the task performed infrequently?
  • Does management support new ways of learning?
  • Are there high consequences for errors?
  • Would performers benefit from advice while performing?

So what techniques, tools and aids should you use to support performance on the job? Here are some to consider:

  • If you’re implementing a new technology, process or system, build online help and easy access to answers.
  • Provide on-the-spot help through multiple channels. Find out where people naturally go when they don’t know what to do. Is it other teammates, help desks, trainers, reference materials, or websites? Use their preferred channel to provide answers and support.
  • Hold on-the-job learning reinforcement sessions. Break the new process, behavior, or technology into small bites and conduct short sessions. You might make it a topic of a regularly scheduled meeting. Target the most challenging tasks, where the consequences for errors is great or where people have the most questions.
  • Conduct ‘a-ha’ sessions to let people help each other out. Ask people to collect ideas, tips, tricks that have worked for them, then bring them together to share with others.

When you invest in training, you want the result to be accurate and repeatable performance. Don’t just train and then hold your breath and hope. Invest in reinforcing learning to guide people to the performance you expect. It is time and money well spent.

*Source: 2016 Industry Training Report. training. November/December 2016, p.29

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