Three Ways to Ensure You’re Getting the Most from Training

There is a reason no one has ever said:  “I learned how to do brain surgery last year, and I’m sure I’ll still be really good at it now…”; “Don’t worry! I watched a few videos online; I’m totally ready to raise a child”; or “I took a couple of swimming lessons when I was a kid. The English Channel should be no problem.”

At least, I hope not.

Here’s the point: without a plan for sustained follow-up after a training program, don’t bother. Many organization leaders do not understand that the real training begins in the days and weeks following the initial sessions. Otherwise, they risk sabotaging employee enrichment.

This means planning more than a day or two of workshops or instruction. It means a season of assistance in implementation, re-training, coaching, assessment and progress toward full competence in new skills or knowledge.

There’s a long-standing myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit — which originated from the work of Dr. Maxwell Maltz, who studied attempts to heighten his subjects’ sense of fulfillment by adjusting their beliefs about themselves. He actually noted that it took a minimum of 21 days for a new belief to take hold, and in most cases a much longer period of sustained effort to retrain thought patterns.

Whether you’re looking for soft skills to sharpen your team or direction in using your company software, the best results occur when a plan assesses, adjusts and reinforces the initial presentation of material.

So, what’s a quick takeaway to consider?

1) Evaluate

Right after a training session — no more than two to three days after your initial session — each trainee should have a conversation that covers these topics:

  • What specific topics were new to you?
  • Summarize what you learned.
  • What challenges did the training solve? Any new ones created?

2) Assess

Utilize methodology that forces a trainee to show what they learned. This could be a case to solve using their new skills or a meeting where they demonstrate some insights they gained in training. Debrief after the assessment to talk about what went well, and then identify areas where training may need to be supplemented.

3) Analyze

With the feedback from the evaluation step, check in after a couple of weeks to analyze how the training has made a difference in their work. Ask what and how they are implementing from the training, and what skills might come next. Affirm their commitment to grow in their abilities and demonstrate confidence in their roles.

Above all, the leader responsible for training must demonstrate a serious concern for employee growth and development. The bottom line: You can’t avoid these conversations, and it will be well worth it to have them in the long run.

According to the National Training Laboratories, the highest retention rates for learning new skills involve active participation, such as teaching someone else a skill you recently learned. According to their research, the best you can do with passive teaching methods is a retention rate of 30 percent. Group discussion, practice and teaching others garner retention rates of 50, 75 and 90 percent, respectively.

Stop sabotaging your training efforts.  To be successful, it’s important to plan for implementation post-training with as much effort and work as your initial training sessions!