By Claudine Trontin, Training Account Manager, Signature Worldwide
I am a “gadget girl.” I’ve evolved from pre-Wi-Fi PDAs and original iPods to smart phones. I particularly love smart phones with their overabundance of apps at my disposal. I have purchased some great apps that have made my life on the road as a trainer and account manager much easier. For example, my AT&T Voicemail Viewer app allows me to access my home office voicemail messages directly from my smart phone, similar to looking at my e-mail inbox. But I’ve also installed a few bombs such as the Flashlight App, one of the very first apps I tried on my first-edition iPod Touch. I travel a lot, and I thought it might be useful in hotel rooms during the middle of the night. However, I quickly realized there was only one place for it—on the last page of my apps. One of the few interesting functions on this app was a “dimmer” switch of sorts, which is a term I have used in training to describe a period during the learning process.
The Dimmer Switch is the post-training phase when participants take in their newfound knowledge, contemplate how to incorporate these new tools, and, for many, gain the courage to take that first step to applying them. The Dimmer Switch is a way to acknowledge that learning is not a light switch being flipped on or off but instead is a gauge. Sometimes the information learned is at the forefront of a trainee’s mind, and at that moment the light may be brighter. Other times, for a number of reasons, pre-training behaviors resurface, pushing aside newly acquired information, causing the dimmer switch to dim the light. The brightness of the light fluctuates as participants receive ongoing reinforcement, clarification, and positive feedback on their successful efforts.
How can we move the switch to the brightest light and keep it there? The Kirkpatrick Four Levels Evaluation Model is a valuable tool to use as a guiding light:
When training with this tool, start by determining a clear outcome defined in measurable terms so all involved can agree to the Return on Expectations (ROE). This outcome should provide an understanding of the responsibility and crucial commitment required by trainees during the session.
Prior to the training, once the program is developed and established, create a forum for communication between participants and trainers. This is often an overlooked but critical step in building a foundation for success. My “gadget girl” instincts kick in to find a simple and easily accessible way to openly share ideas and suggestions with group members. To get the greatest buy-in, find out their communication preferences. Are they one of the 700 million Facebook users? Do they prefer LinkedIn? What about Twitter?
Once you’ve gained consensus on the forum type, create a private environment for sharing information. For example, create a Facebook Group with restricted privacy settings or member-only LinkedIn Groups. Posts, discussions, or comments made within these groups are visible to group members only. Establishing open communication prior to the training will foster a safe sounding board and allow for continued dialogue when the post-training reinforcement is conducted and individuals experience bumps in the road.
Current trends in social media also provide opportunities to engage participants to demonstrate training effectiveness. For example, Level One (Reaction) traditionally includes an end-of-training evaluation form. At Signature Worldwide, we are converting this evaluation to an online tool accessible through a Quick Response (QR) code. You also might consider using video recorders to capture an end-of-training knowledge check through a fun game and/or testimonials from individuals sharing their reactions to the training.
An inexpensive or even free online survey service can facilitate pre- and post-training quizzes or polls as part of Level Two (Learning). PollDaddy allows you to createpre-training and post-training quizzes using multiple-choice questions. The site will generate and share easy-to-read reports that can demonstrate measurable success outcomes impacting Level Four (Results). And don’t forget to stay connected with individuals through Facebook and LinkedIn groups created prior to the training. Continued communication after training allows you to assess participant attitudes and hear about successes or frustrations. The relaxed feel of these sites also may provide a glimpse into their true feelings, plus it overcomes the challenges of finding time for a conference call as a post-training activity due to conflicting work schedules.
If you have a group that would engage daily on Twitter, then you have access to a great way to subtly reinforce training objectives without formality. Training questions and answers become a resource stream for tweets and help with the Dimmer Switch. All those tweets are quick references, helping remind participants of the new information they learned at training.
The Dimmer Switch seems to get brighter and brighter as individuals become more comfortable and confident. In fact, this is when the light switch may actually flip on with an “Aha Moment.” I want to hear about the moment when a participant realized what they learned worked as it shows they have reached Level Three (Behavior) when the transfer of knowledge happens. Thanks to social media I am much more likely to get this feedback because it is a quick share for the participant. It only takes a moment to post on Facebook or send a tweet. And let’s not forget the power of texting. One of my favorite text messages was from a participant who attended training about three months earlier. It simply said “I get it now (followed by a smiley face).”
As we all know, the success of training ultimately is seen through customer feedback. Comment cards, opinions given publicly on reviewing sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, and a post on a company’s Facebook page naming the employee who provided excellent service are impactful.
When you get to Level Four (Results), you will want to showcase your results. Try utilizing a tool such as Prezi to create incredible presentations. Tie in your pre- and post-training survey reports with some of the actual tweets, posts, or texts training participants shared (with permission, of course). Prezi’s adaptability can help you show the quick before and after results or the journey in reaching the ROE destination.
Social media platforms will continue to become more common in reinforcing and evaluating training impact because they add value for the learner, too:
I realize social media tools and their application are not without faults, and they go against the grain for some people. But step out and try a few of these different ideas in ways that make sense for your unique situation—you might be surprised. At a minimum, they might show something that correlates directly to Level One (Reaction). For example, a participant might not have been as engaged as you perceived during the training if they are not willing to post a message on Facebook or tweet about it afterward.
Claudine Trontin is a training account manager with Signature Worldwide, a provider of training solutions for a wide range of service-based industries. She can be reached at 616.987.4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.