There continues to be a lot written about the need to transform the training function. And for good reason. Many training leaders are looking for ways to improve the training function and to make it more economical and effective. Much of the discussion is focused on digital transformation and how to use technologies more effectively. I believe we are not talking enough about what we should be transforming our training function to. Are we managing the function correctly and what behaviors should we be displaying? These are the basics, or what I like to refer to as the fundamentals of managing the training function.

At Training Industry, we study the practices of high-performing training organizations to better understand what and why some organizations achieve better results than others. We’ve learned that great training organizations focus on the basics of training management: strategic alignment, content development, delivery, administration, technology integration, portfolio management, reporting, and diagnostics. From many of my conversations with leaders of training functions that are not performing well, most believe they are focused on the same capabilities.

So, what then makes some organizations perform better than others? It starts with leadership. Managers of great training organizations practice fundamentals and understand they don’t need to jump on all the new fads and trends in the industry. Trends tell us a lot about where the industry is headed but may not always be best for that organization. From where I sit, managing a high-performing training organization is more about sticking to the basics – the principles of learning and training management that stand the test of time.

Here are seven fundamentals to help learning leaders in achieving great results.

  1. Focus on performance. Training is a performance organization, not a classroom or events management activity. The focus of the training organization is to help the business and individuals within the business to perform better. Our responsibility to the learner does not end when the course is over. It ends when an individual achieves a targeted level of performance.
  2. Design learning solutions for jobs or tasks – not for topics. Training is about helping a learner perform a task or a role, not providing them with information. Yes, courses that communicate information help us understand what we should be doing, but our training must teach a learner how to do a job, not what doing a good job looks like.
  3. Be process excellent. Good processes beget good behaviors. High-performing training organizations are an integration of many processes. If your training processes are well-designed and managed, then those who perform the processes of training will deliver a better training experience.
  4. Performance improvement takes time. Training is not a single event. Ebbinghaus taught us that learning best occurs over an extended period of time (spacing effect), not when we consume large amounts of information in a single setting. An effective learning solution integrates all aspects of learning – from onboarding, formal training, reinforcement, and evaluation.
  5. Design practice into daily job routines. It is a well-understood truth that the best way to learn something is to do it. Practice is doing and should be deliberate. Design practice into the learning experience, and that includes on-the-job routines. Make practice an ongoing improvement routine.
  6. Reinforce good behavior. Ongoing performance improvement comes from the reinforcement of good behavior and best practices. Reinforcement should be an ongoing activity, whether it be from access to timely information or reminders of what is expected and needed on the job.
  7. Technology is an enabler. Tools and technologies for learning are not solutions chasing a problem. They are enablers that help us do the fundamentals effectively and more efficiently. Use technologies to help with the learning experience, but don’t expect them to be a solution when the basic process is not sound.
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