Reinforce and Practice Training Again and Again

The key to training success is interval reinforcement—breaking up the original learning content into digestible bite-size pieces and redistributing them to learners over and over at predefined intervals.

Whatever your organization calls the process of driving changes or behaviors in the pursuit of a positive outcome or result must have one nonnegotiable ingredient to ensure success: a training reinforcement process that validates and measures.

The old clichés, “Time is money” and “Practice makes perfect,” ring true when you want to protect your training investment. The variety of choices for behavioral or process training available grows by the hour. Options that range from classroom to technology-based to simulators are all well and good, but without good, old-fashioned follow-up, the chances of having anything stick long term is a bet I wouldn’t stake my reputation on.

Here is the key to training success: interval reinforcement. Interval reinforcement is breaking up the original learning content into digestible bite-size pieces and redistributing them to learners over and over at predefined intervals. It’s important to find your cadence —what and how often will it take to protect your training investment. For most technical skills, the process can be fairly simple: The same content can be repeated in its original form. For soft skills such as customer service deliver skills, we have found more success if we bundle the traditional repetitive approach with additional creative reinforcement tools.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Develop a Spirit Board. This is a central location for team members to post success and for leaders to post tracking results. Everyone is motivated by seeing results from their efforts.
  • During daily team meetings or shift briefings, spend a couple minutes discussing one aspect of a skill that recently was introduced. For example: Talk about the importance of a smile or the power of saying, “Thank you,” to a customer. This might sound basic, but it’s often the basics that are overlooked.
  • There are many Web applications available that will introduce information to team members on set intervals via their smart phones or work computers. These can be in the form of electronic mini-training or knowledge nuggets that are pushed out to learners periodically—brief one- to two-minute review and practice sessions that are trackable and accountable. Who’s doing it, who’s not, and, more importantly, who still doesn’t understand it?
  • You can’t beat the power of “traditional classroom” training where there is face-to- face time to review and to role-play. Remember, the “why” is as important as the “how.” Another valuable byproduct of dedicated group reinforcement training sessions is encouraging your team to discuss the processes around the delivery of customer service. Often, lack of communication about processes between coworkers can cause as much of a breakdown in customer service delivery as poor customer service skills.
  • Combine coaching with mentoring. Coaching is task- and performance-driven, and often is “free range” so it doesn’t require a plan. (i.e., I need help with this today!). Mentoring, on the other hand, is a relationship-based reinforcement process. Mentoring has a never-ending plan that has a manager or supervisor directly involved. I like to think of mentoring as developing and designing a career/life plan.
  • Gamification. Any time you can create a game around reinforcement, give points or badges for success, set up friendly competition between departments or teams, it makes learning fun and reinforces critical skills painlessly.

Benefits

What are the benefits of interval reinforcement? It’s been estimated that less than half of the information learned will be exhibited on the job immediately after training unless there is a support process. Within one month, 90 percent of training will be lost. After one year, most will say when asked, “What training?”

Benefit #1: A return on investment on your training dollars spent. By reinforcing training, you are ensuring that the investment in training made wasn’t wasted. To spend thousands on a one-time event for any other reason is probably not a good investment.

Benefit #2: Employees who are better at their jobs. The intention behind training generally is to improve employee performance. By extending that learning through reinforcement, you are giving your employees the tools they need to be better over the long term—not just for the week.

Benefit #3: Employees who feel more comfortable in their jobs stay longer, so there is less turnover. If your employees feel more successful in their roles because they have been given the training and reinforcement necessary for them to know the right behaviors, they will have less stress. Less stress generally leads to happier employees who don’t need to look for another job. And less turnover brings about so many more benefits, most of which can be tied directly to the bottom line.

Ongoing repetition of training produces long-term knowledge retention. Protect your training investment—REINFORCE IT!

Dave Hamilton is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

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