There are a hundred theories about how to best design training. The question is how do we know that these trainings are going to stick long term? What truly makes training great?
While doing research for an upcoming book, I have been attending and monitoring a number of different types of training courses that are offered. What I have found, regardless of the topic of the instructor, is that the courses are created very similarly.
There is a particular rhythm in which all of us structural designers create courses. For the most part, training works fairly well. On the other hand, the long-term impact of the training is generally not seen within the organization.
This phenomenon is called transfer rate. It is and has been very poor for decades.
A couple of examples of this are:
- Very few learners, as low as 5%, applied what they had learned in the workplace. -Tannenbaum and Yukl (1992)
- There are low transfer rates from training ranging from 10% to 30%, with most on the low end. – Stolovich (2000)
One example that I remember clearly is an event that was recently conducted to help leaders explain a title change to their employees. This all-day training was chocked-full of reasons, rationale, exercises, and action plans. But, in the end these leaders felt like they didn’t have what they needed to be successful.
Why did the training fail?
There’s growing evidence that training for adults needs to follow some methodologies that may be counter to what many instructional designers, and learners, are accustomed to. Trainers need to start focusing on the four key elements listed below in order to truly give a good training.
1. MAKE IT SHORT:
Let’s face it; we have the attention span of a gnat. Our ability to concentrate on anything for an extended period of time is growing shorter and shorter.
There is a great deal of evidence that shows how were attention span and its longest is 5 to 7 minutes. What that tells us as instructional designers, is that we have to present our material in bite-size pieces changing topics, methods of delivery, exercises, and energy levels about every 10 minutes or so.
This is not an exact science, but the longer you go on training people on a single topic with no break, the sooner you will see people pull out their mobile devices and begin to check messages.
2. MAKE IT RELEVANT TO THE AUDIENCE:
This might sound too basic, but it is vital to keep all the information, examples, stories, exercises, tools, etc. relevant to the audience or participants.
If you don’t, it will not make sense.
A colleague of mine told me an example of what could happen when this strategy is not followed.
In a training conducted with the plants line supervisors, his trainer used an example about giving recognition in an office. He was referring to work that was done by someone after office hours, in an environment in which productivity and output were not measured as strangely as in the plant.
Immediately those supervisors lost interest in the class; they were turned off by the example and recognized that the person in front of them didn’t know who they were speaking to.
This is a reminder that it is vital to keep the audience engaged in order to conduct a good training.
3. GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TAKE AWAY:
Employees use their computers, tablets, and phones almost exclusively now. Providing a gigantic binder of materials or each slide that is presented during the class is a complete waste of time and paper.
No one will use it, except maybe for a door stop.
However, it is a good idea to have something that summarizes the learning and gives the participants a template to practice what they have heard. Using the information will be where the real learning takes place.
4. GIVE THEM A WAY TO FOLLOW UP:
Since using the lessons is where the real learning takes place, building in a follow up mechanism to gauge learning, elicit questions, and provide additional coaching is vital.
There are hundreds of ways to do this; LinkedIn, Facebook, a company’s intranet, etc. Building a time and method for someone to follow up after a training is absolutely critical.
The other part of follow up is to involve the manager/leader of the participant. If the manager/leader is not encouraging, as well as demanding, then the usage of the learning will fall by the wayside.
In the research for my upcoming book, SIMPLE, these are a few of the most important aspects of creating great training that actually works. Developing training that lasts days and leaves the participants with a huge binder does not work anymore, but neither does an e-learning course that just throws information at the participant with no action afterward.
There is a balance that leverages the latest brain research and the best of adult learning theory to develop training that makes an impact on performance.
That is what we all want, isn’t it?
What have you found that doesn’t work about the way training is developed or delivered? What are some best practices that you have seen work well? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image Sources: cardinalpath.com