Have you ever attended a fantastic training course or a highly motivational conference and left feeling like you’re ready to conquer the world? You can’t wait to get back to the office or workplace and apply all of the new skills you have learned, but within 15 minutes, chances are you’re pulled back into old routines and have forgotten what all the enthusiasm was about in the first place. We’ve all been there, and if training and development managers don’t take the time to focus on successful re-entry strategies, all those courses and educational sessions will fly out the window once employees are back in the “real world.”
Effective employee training never ends; it is fluid and flexible. It reaches beyond the classroom to touch employees where they are and when they need it, with webinars, on-demand video, hands-on demonstrations and in-field programs. Particularly when working in a dynamic, fast-paced field, providing employees with updated systems and practices on an ongoing basis is vital to success.
Here are some top tips for “sticky” training – the kind that keeps employees fired up about what they have learned and encourages their long-term retention of that knowledge.
Create a learning culture.
This tip is one of the most important. A learning culture must be in place before, during and after training. As employees learn and grow, the knowledge base of the entire company grows. In our fast-paced and competitive world, businesses cannot afford to be stagnant. Communicate the importance of continuing education and support efforts to accomplish those goals. Provide the resources that will help employees polish their existing skills and learn new ones they need to make the next step in their field. Organized, ongoing training programs will maintain all employees’ skill levels and continually motivate them to grow and improve professionally.
Unpack when they get back.
You may put a lot of time and energy into an off-site training program but forget to meet with employees upon their return to touch base on next steps. Part of ensuring the newly learned skills make it back to the workplace is discussing a plan for incorporating what they’ve learned into their daily activities. This is an opportunity to really break it down, deciding where and how these new skills will be applied and how success will be measured. It’s important to provide a place to answer questions, review concepts and troubleshoot any problems. This step also applies to on-site training with a visiting trainer. Once that trainer leaves, make sure someone is there to answer follow-up questions.
Reinforce the new skills.
Old habits die hard, so be prepared to reinforce and support all newly learned behaviors and skills. An classic effective training approach is the “Tell, Show, Do, Apply” model. Excellent training programs cover the “Tell” and “Show” side of the equation and ensure employees “Do” and “Apply” what they learned, as those are critical steps in the process. If employees don’t use what they have learned as soon as they return, the content will fade in a very short period of time. Providing opportunities for practice is crucial, as is offering positive feedback. Simple verbal recognition can go a long way, but in some cases, bonuses or other compensation can help incentivize. Training will start to “stick” once employees are making decisions based on what they have learned. Look for ways to create these opportunities and reward them.
Mobilize and motivate.
Giving employees multiple ways to access their learning is key to increasing their motivation to use these tools. What do your employees want to learn? What channels can you use to help them do it? In most cases, a combination of in-person training and online resources is going to be the most successful. Again, it’s about continuing the educational experience and giving employees a reference to lean on when questions or issues arise.
The ability to review learning modules at your own pace or at a later date is just one benefit of online and mobile training applications. Digital learning helps keep workers current on all the latest information and introduces more options for learning environments. Many employees struggle to balance the demands of work and home life, and online courses can give them flexibility to learn on the job, from home or while traveling. In today’s connected society, this type of flexibility is becoming the norm.
Whatever tools you use for training and motivation, make sure they don’t end at the classroom or lecture hall door. Helping your employees “stick” the landing back at work will help ensure they stick around, continuing to learn and grow for and with your company.