1. Be clear on required outcomes

Ok, so everything you read about any kind of personal or professional development seems to start with the message that you have to be clear what you want to achieve, or have clearly defined goals at the outset. The reason that we are all banging on about this step is that it is absolutely essential for the rest of your investment in training and development to be worthwhile. I have been involved in the design and delivery of training for 20 years and I can promise you that time spent clarifying the required outcomes for the training at the start of the process is time extremely well spent. My clients know that I won’t let them pass this stage without us being crystal clear what ‘success’ looks like in terms of, for example, behaviour change, staff performance, cost reduction, customer feedback etc etc.

2. Don’t skimp on consulting with your trainer

I can’t emphasise enough that in order to be able to do a good job for our clients, we need to get a detailed and full brief before designing and delivering a training and development solution. The more we know about:
– the current ‘pain’ that is being experienced by our client or their organisation that needs fixing,
– the problem that is emerging for the business as a result of this issue not being addressed,
– who is being impacted by the issue: staff, customers, managers etc, and
– the required outcome from the training,
then the better we can be at designing an intervention that delivers what is needed. A pre-consultation that is skimped leaves a lot to chance. Training can represent a considerable time and cost investment – so help us to help you!

3. Involve the line managers

A simple way of describing how to achieve a successful series of training outcomes is to think about the triangle of relationships that need to be robust and strong in all their connections. Each point of the triangle represents a key stakeholder in the training. Each of the three stakeholders is connected to the other two. Every connection needs to be strong and robust. Typically the three stakeholders are: the learner, the trainer, the line manager. Strong connections usually exist between the trainer and the learner. It is the connections that derive from the third corner of the triangle that can become more flimsy in the training context…that of the connection between line manager and trainer, and line manager and learner. Without the line manager’s interest, commitment and a small amount of involvement, the successful transfer of learning from training environment to workplace can fail. So a light touch way of keeping line managers involved has to be developed in order for the training budget to achieve the best returns.

4. Flip the classroom

I’m loving the results that ‘flipping the classroom’ approaches are bringing to learning. Instead of sticking to traditional training approaches that focus on using time in the training room to initiate a development process, the flipped approach requires the initiation to start before the learner attends a training session. There are different ways of doing this and here are some ideas which work both in isolation, or as a blended approach:
– Sending papers in advance for the learner to read and digest
– A pre-survey to get the learner thinking about the topic
– A structured e-learning session
– Links to relevant websites for pre-research
– Reading list
– Establishing a discussion via a forum.
The flipped approach optimised the investment you are making in training, by ensuring learners have started to learn before they even attend the session. Handled carefully, it can also increase the desire to learn and improves the ability of the learner to implement new skills.

5. Optimise e-learning and use of technology

The opportunities that using technology in learning bring are almost endless. E-learning has come a long way from its early roots, and without doubt, when used carefully and as part of a blended solution, it can offer huge benefits to the learning process. Using technology doesn’t mean that the learner has to be in isolation to undertake the learning..quite the opposite in fact! It can be a way of connecting remote learners (for example via forums, webinars, group Skype calls, learning platforms), and can bring dynamism and variety to the training room through using different media such as audio, video, interactive quizzes & polls etc. With what we know about different learning styles, it can only be a good thing to offer learning in different formats and to lengthen the learning ‘window of opportunity’ by engaging the learning before, during and after a session through use of technology. E-learning and technology widens the availability of learning beyond those who can attend a class taught session. It enables resources to be created, shared and used repeatedly – which sees the benefits of the initial investment reaped time and time again.

6. Use peer groups

Using peer groups within the learning process can help to move a learner from a passive state to an active state through their involvement in a peer group discussion or something like a post-training action learning group. Involvement in discussion, the preparedness of a learner to express a view or explain their thinking without doubt accelerates the learning process and moves the learner closer to a position where they can change and implement new skills. Incorporating peer group activity both during and after a training intervention is a core part of ensuring that training has been cost-effective. Not using peer activity may lead to a learner feeling alone in their training experience, and less likely to implement changed behaviours for fear of being different from the rest of the team. Which means that the investment in training can become wasted.

7. Develop accountability in the learner

No-one wants to change unless they can see the WIFT factor clearly (WIFT – What’s In It For Them). In other words…what is their motivation to change? Why should they change? With training, building the desire to change and achieve a new skill set is an important part of selling the idea of attending training to the learner. With some training its easier to spot the WIFT factor than others. Most trainers hate ‘sheep-dip’ training, where everyone has to attend because…well…just because everyone has to attend. These can be the most difficult courses to deliver because not everyone in the room will have the desire to learn. And how easy is it to force someone to learn?
An important part of building the WIFT in learners, is also building their personal accountability. This means that they are so keen to undertake the learning and are so focused on the benefits it will bring, that they give the right amount of time, effort and focus to fully participate in whatever way is required, before, during and after the training. Without this accountability learners will only partly participate, will not fully engage and will often not complete all learning activities, particularly those which rely on them using time outside the training room. This is not cost-effective training as half the investment is being under-used.

8. Follow up, evaluate and plan to improve

Cost-effective training can be achieved through continuous improvement. Knowing what you want to achieve through training before you start designing means that at the end you are in a strong place to measure and evaluate outcomes. Using the Kirkpatrick approach to evaluation forces us to track the impact of training at different levels (Reaction – Learning – Behaviour – Organisation). It enables us to pinpoint what works, and what doesn’t work. Involving the learner, line manager and even colleagues and customers in the evaluation means that we can assess the impact of training and check that our investment is achieving the required outcomes.
Finally, the best way to ensure that the learner knows how to implement their new knowledge and skills after a training course, is to ensure that the line manager is involved in something like a post-training review. This gives the perfect opportunity to reflect on learning, to discuss how the learning will be used and shared with others, and also enables any barriers to implementing new skills to be addressed.

I’d love to know what you thought about this article – and if you think there are any points to add. Do let me know!