Training Industry, Inc. research found that as the workforce continues to grow and change, the learning and development (L&D) function is challenged with providing learners with consistent and relevant training.
In this context, “consistency” does not refer to one consistent pattern of providing training, or providing the same training in the same way to learners over and over, never changing or improving the process. The challenge learning leaders face includes the task of providing consistent content and experiences across technologies, audiences, geographies, functions and roles:
- Instructor-led versus virtual instructor-led training: Many organizations turn in-person training into VILT so distributed team members can learn the same content. It’s important to make sure that the VILT provides the same level of quality and makes the same impact as the classroom training.
- Geography and culture: Keeping the message the same across different languages doesn’t just require a translator – it also means taking into account cultural differences and references as well as other localization considerations, such as examples and case studies, dates and number formats, and even time zones and work schedules.
- Functional differences: When delivering content such as compliance training across different functions, what needs to stay the same, and what is unique to different functions and roles? For example, training on hazardous materials might only be needed for certain manufacturing roles (depending on regulations), but training on harassment should be consistent across departments.
The Role of Consistency in Training
Why is providing consistent training for learners so important? “Where there is a breakdown in content, where that messaging is inconsistent or misaligned with the way you’re told to do the job or what’s supported or rewarded on the job,” says Stacie Comolli, director of instructional design at The Training Associates, “that’s where organizations really lose an opportunity to change the right behaviors in support of their organizational initiatives.” The opportunity to drive behavior change or reinforce behavior change on the job is one that organizations should not pass up.
It’s important to pay attention to whether there’s a difference between the desired training outcomes and the ones learners are actually reaching. There are many factors that can cause this inconsistency in outcomes, including training delivery, technology, content and administration. To determine which factor is hindering the success of your training initiative, you must first evaluate the training.
To illustrate this challenge, Kim Davis, CPTM, the manager of training excellence and curriculum optimization at Sysmex America, Inc., shares the example of two instructor-led courses with the same material but different instructors, where the biggest difference between the two is that one instructor tends to go off topic or share more experiences in class. Learners in the first class may have a different experience than learners in the second class because of this difference. “When content isn’t covered the same way – that inconsistency where the messaging is not the same – [learners] may not fully grasp the concept … and the perception is, ‘What did I miss?’” says Davis.
No matter the delivery method, content or learning technology, the consequences of inconsistencies in training can be vast. Inconsistent training can result in learner dissatisfaction, a decrease in motivation and skills gaps, among other effects. “I think it’s really important for our training to be consistent so that we are sharing the same messages, focusing on the same priorities and building the same skills that set that core foundation for success in our organizations,” says Comolli.
Consistency versus Relevancy
So, how can you provide learners with consistent training and deliver quality at scale across the board? Take a step back, Comolli says, and re-evaluate what training you are currently providing, how you are providing it and who is receiving it. Next, ask yourself if the content is relevant to what learners need, if it’s relevant to their job roles and if it aligns with the company’s goals.
Ask who your audience is, what they need and when they need it. Then, consider how to convey the right messages through readiness, training and reinforcement initiatives, says Comolli. In the readiness phase, ask how to build the right foundation for learners to be successful as they prepare for training. Comolli says to also consider the right sequence of moving from readiness to training: “How does that training experience need to be architected so that we get those right messages across now that we’ve got their attention?” In this stage, be careful to identify where you need to put in some extra work to keep training consistent, while making sure it’s relevant to individual learners. For example, if you’re providing some mandatory compliance training to all employees, you may push it in mobile modules for your deskless workers on the plant floor and in e-learning modules for your administrative staff. Even in different formats, make sure the content and the quality of the learning experience are consistent across audiences.
Finally, says Comolli, consider reinforcement strategies for continuous performance support and to sustain training’s impact. Take into consideration your learners and what modalities are right for the organization and for them when it comes to readiness and reinforcement strategies. Then, be sure to keep these initiatives consistent across modalities and learners.
To successfully implement a consistency strategy, start at the beginning. Do a thorough needs assessment, and evaluate at every stage of training. Take the time up front to “do the analysis: Figure out who your learners are, what messages and organizational priorities are most critical, and what questions you are trying to answer to drive success,” says Comolli. This approach will help you develop a training consistency strategy.
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