How to 10x Your Post-Training Results

By diversifying post-training efforts and applying multiple sources of influence, training can be the source of organization-wide behavior change.

Former Prime Minister of France, Aristide Briand, once said, “Live to learn…forget…and learn again.” And today, this sentiment rings true more than ever in our corporate training classrooms. Studies show more than 80 percent of learning is either forgotten or never applied in the first place, resulting in billions of wasted training dollars each year.

Where this discussion usually goes next is a thorough step-by-step review of ways to improve the classroom experience. While changes to the classroom may yield some results, it’s likely not the main culprit in the failure of learning transference. Perhaps more important than the classroom itself is the follow-up program that occurs—or doesn’t occur—after training ends.

A few years ago, we surveyed more than 900 of our clients across various industries to ask if they had a reinforcement system in place after the training was over. Three out of four clients said there was no such follow-up system. And we’ve observed that those who do have a system in place usually rely on just one strategy to provide skill reinforcement.

Our research shows entrenched and resistant behaviors don’t yield to just one silver-bullet change strategy. The same goes for learning and adopting new skills and behaviors. To enact change, Training leaders need to implement a holistic plan that targets both motivation and ability along personal, social, and structural influences.

Our model of behavior change, known as the Six Sources of Influence, identifies all the forces that align to shape our behavior. Our research confirms that leaders who find a way to get all Six Sources of Influence working for, rather than against, change are 10 times more successful at securing results.

Here are tactics Training leaders can implement across the Six Sources of Influence to exponentially increase the results of their training programs.

Source 1: Make the Undesirable Desirable

Typically, changing behavior can be boring and uncomfortable. To make this change motivating, connect the new behaviors to your participants’ values and beliefs. For instance, if you conducted a training for a group of physicians, it could be impactful to share a personal account about how the new skills made a difference in patients’ lives—something most physicians care about deeply. Better yet, bring in a patient to share the account firsthand. By strategically creating and sharing experiences around the new behaviors, you can help connect them with training participants’ own intrinsic motivation and desire to adopt these new—sometimes uncomfortable—behaviors.

Source 2: Over-Invest in Skill Building

People can harness all sorts of motivation to change, but if they don’t know how to actually do the new behaviors, their efforts will be futile. In the classroom, skill building begins with role plays and practice of real-life scenarios. After the class, these practices can and should continue during “lunch and learns” or after-training “meet-ups” where participants continue to use the skills in relatable examples. But more than just practice, these sessions should break the skills down into small parts and provide timely feedback when needed.

Source 3: Harness Peer Pressure

The impact of social influence can never be understated. Managers and peers play a large part in encouraging or diminishing a training participant’s newly adopted skills. Because of this, successful post-training programs seek to gain buy-in early on from formal and informal leaders. These leaders can be advocates for the new skills and also support follow-up sessions to further reinforce support. On the flip side, if leaders undermine new behaviors or feel they are pointless, their peers and direct reports will follow suit.

Source 4: Find Strength in Numbers

Leaders also play an important role in enabling skill building and knowledge transfer. One company we worked with cascaded its training down the organization by having leaders teach all their direct reports a skill; these employees then did the same for their reports, and so on. This cascading implementation not only motivated the leaders to “walk the talk,” but also helped as an after-training resource by giving learners an accessible coach and mentor for adopting the new skill.

Source 5: Design Rewards and Demand Accountability

Reward systems should align with and recognize the new skills when observed. Some organizations we’ve worked with tie bonuses to these new changes and make promotions based on successful implementation of the behavior. But a word of caution: Do not depend solely on rewards as a motivation strategy, otherwise you may put the intrinsic motivation of your participants at risk.

Source 6: Change the Environment

The information we take in from our surroundings and the way in which we structure our work greatly impacts our behavior. After the training is over, it can be helpful to display reminders of the skills on walls, within e-mails, and at the beginning of meeting agendas. Additionally, organize workplaces so training graduates frequently interact with the right people and practice the skills. The right environment will fight against distraction and forgetfulness by making important data front and center rather than “out of sight, out of mind.”

All too often, post-training follow-up either doesn’t happen or is overly simplistic in nature—focusing on just one or two of the Six Sources of Influence. Conversely, when organizations thoughtfully plan out their strategy and utilize all six of these sources, they achieve 10 times the results. By diversifying post-training efforts and applying multiple sources of influence, training can become more than a forgotten classroom memory and, instead, be the source of organization-wide behavior change.

Kelly Andrews is a client coach and master trainer at VitalSmarts, home to New York Times bestsellers “Crucial Conversations,” “Crucial Accountability,” “Influencer,” and “Getting Things Done,” and award-winning training courses of the same titles. For more information, visit: www.vitalsmarts.com

 

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