Training professionals have long felt like parents dropping their children off on the first day of kindergarten, experiencing a sense they have done all they can in creating an engaging learning environment and then sending participants on to their next step. Like parents looking through the glass of the classroom door and wondering how their child is doing, training professionals often wonder about learners after they return to the workplace.

It would be nice to have training insurance or a guarantee that would provide feedback and confidence that participants are applying what they learned back on the job, ultimately protecting the training investment. This form of insurance does exist, but it has taken many learning and development (L&D) professionals some time to connect the dots. This form of insurance happens when training and coaching collide.

Coaching is a useful way to develop people’s skills and abilities and boost performance. It can also help individuals deal with issues and challenges before they become major problems. A coaching session is best defined as a conversation focused on helping coachees discover answers for themselves.

When organizations provide learners with an internal coach, the likelihood of training transfer is increased, particularly when it comes to navigating change. Some of the most compelling research for the business case for internal coaching comes from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI). In their 2018 survey, respondents listed classroom training as the most common activity used to manage change but coaching as one of the most helpful activities for achieving the goals of change management initiatives.

All forms of coaching (one-on-one, group or team, with a professional practitioner or with managers using coaching skills) were rated higher than classroom training and among the most helpful activities of all listed in achieving change management goals. Further, the research showed that companies with strong coaching cultures are two times more likely to be high-performing organizations than their counterparts.

While coaching and training are two of the many strategies available to learning and development professionals when navigating change, imagine the power of using both. Blending strategies creates the insurance trainers have been looking for, organizations need and learners deserve.

In some organizations, coaching is still seen as a corrective tool, used only when things have gone wrong. However, many companies have discovered that coaching can be a positive approach to help employees explore their goals and ambitions and then achieve them. These organizations often use coaching in coordination with or after training to help ensure application and transfer of learning.

Consider providing your learners with a coach after a training session to discuss the application of what they learned. In fact, you can teach instructors and managers coaching principles, and then they can provide that post-training coaching, tailoring their conversations to each coachee based on his or her learning objectives.

This commitment leads to a coaching culture, and it requires executive support, a budget and staffing. Make sure coaching is conducted by internal or external practitioners who have been trained on coaching principles, perhaps through certification by an accredited coaching organization.

Trainers have struggled to reach James Kirkpatrick’s highest level of training evaluation (level 4), where programs result in targeted learning outcomes and contribute to business results. Learning should not stop when the training session ends. Coaching is the answer!

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