Training Industry, Inc. has spent a decade conducting research on what makes a great training organization, as well as the practices they employ to achieve high-level results. These findings have allowed us to produce a variety of models to help the training manager with developing organizations that offer applied learning experiences to improve behavior on the job – ultimately improving business performance.
We have found that the common denominator of all great training organizations are the exceptional leaders of the training function. Strong leadership is the single characteristic that transforms a good training organization into a great training organization. Training functions may have well-defined processes, access to technologies and learning tools, and experienced instructors – but high-performing training organizations have leaders who understand how to achieve true behavioral improvement that improves business outcomes.
The reality is that the training function is not to serve as a teaching organization; it is to serve as a performance improvement organization. Of course, teaching fosters performance improvement. However, our responsibility is not simply to deliver courses but to get learners to behave in a way that achieves business results.
I know that everyone in our profession ultimately understands this concept, but we still have a long way to go to develop the future leaders of our training organizations and to prove the impact of training. The good news is our industry has moved forward leaps and bounds. By better understanding the science behind how people learn, we can reduce the amount of time people spend in training and increase the time they spend practicing and improving behavior.
Here are a few easy-to-implement practices that, when done effectively, can dramatically change the performance of your learners.
- On-the-job practice: Formal training programs are effective in helping the learner understand the responsibilities and expectations of their role. But the best way for anyone to get better at their job is to gain experience. Doing the job without a deliberate plan for improvement may constitute doing the same, wrong thing repeatedly. Each job should have a clear on-the-job learning component defined with learning objectives and performance milestones. Improvement comes from deliberate practice.
- Feedback: Understanding when you are doing something wrong is critical for improvement, but it’s also important to know when you’re performing well. Feedback is not just about having someone telling you when something is right or wrong. It’s critical to have the knowledge to evaluate your own performance.
- Reinforcement: Research has found that the foundation of learning comes from skills, concepts or practices being reinforced over an extended period of time. We often think of reinforcement as what a facilitator or supervisor provides us in feedback. Reinforcement can also come in the form of reminders for deliverables or on the importance of practice.
- Spacing: Conducted over a century ago, the research of Dr. Herman Ebbinghaus concluded that information or skills practiced and reinforced over time minimized forgetting and ensured performance continuity. Spaced learning requires information to be reinforced over an extended period of time rather than delivered in in a large, single dose.
- Coaching: One of the most effective techniques for improving performance is coaching. Providing objective feedback is critical, but the most important aspect of coaching is providing learners with direction on how to move forward. The most effective coaches provide a plan on how to improve, as well as affirmation and recognition when they reach their goals.