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Whether it’s one key employee you’re supporting in their development, or a large-scale training program across a company, there are consistent strategies that drive the success of such endeavors.  These are applicable regardless of the development channel: formal learning (classroom or online), on-the-job training, stretch projects, etc.

Relevancy – The learning has to connect clearly with the employee’s success today and/or in the not-too-distant future.  This addresses the natural “What’s in this for me?” question.

Buy-in – The learner needs to understand the relevancy of the learning and be bought into doing it in a meaningful way.  This seems obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy for a leader to develop a learning experience that is truly relevant, but if the learner doesn’t see this, it’s frustrating for all.  An easy way to accomplish buy-in and relevancy is to engage the learner in planning the development approach, rather than rolling it out without their input.

Practicality – Learning takes time and energy. Remember what it was like trying to study or otherwise learn when you were exhausted or extraordinarily stressed?  It doesn’t work. The timing for learning, and the method for it need to be thoughtfully chosen.   There needs to be an honest examination of what may need to “take a backseat” while learning is being focused on, and connected parties must be aware of this.

Reinforcement – Here’s a question for you.  How long does it typically take us to forget 2/3 of what we learn?  A week?  A month?  It’s worse – a day. Think about that.  You attend a training today and we could expect you to only remember 1/3 of the information tomorrow.  There are ways to improve on this, including reinforcement. Recalling information helps it “stick.” This recall can be prompted by being prompted to use newly acquired skills/knowledge on the job, sharing it with others, reviewing the learning with a manager, etc.  Bottom line: reinforcement is critical for the value of the learning experience to be realized.

Integration – Beyond simple reinforcement is the need for what is taught to be integrated into the work setting.  Consider this example. The ABC Company can invest in a day of communications training for managers, but the models and standards introduced are never seen again.  The senior leadership team never learns the models and doesn’t demonstrate the behaviors or us the language of the models.  There is no accountability for using the taught approaches.  No one makes it a practice to bring up the taught approaches when coaching colleagues through problems. When a learning initiative is designed, it’s important to think about how the language/models/concepts will be woven into the company.

Let’s put these 5 keys into context. Keesha is an early career employee with great potential.  You want to send her to a training event, with an eye on a two-day program on “Advancing Your Career.” How do you make sure that the training investment will be worthwhile?

  • Make it relevant by talking with Keesha about her development interests and career trajectory.  Listen to her closely.  Share with her where you see her being successful, and what learning will help her. Find a common goal and discuss how to achieve that.
  • Get mutual buy-in by exploring the options and making a decision together about the learning experience.
  • Discuss whether what is being pursued is practical.  Does she need a reduction of a role on a special project in order to fully pursue this development?  Does the learning approach match her preferred learning style?
  • Agree on how you can reinforce her learning, potentially integrate it into how others are working, and connect it to her work.  Perhaps you schedule time for her to share with you highlights from her experience, and key ideas/models/tools she wants to hold onto.  At that time, be open to exploring a new responsibility or project she may pursue in order to put learning into action.

For larger-scale training program, work with your learning & development specialist, consultant or vendor on what the entire initiative should look like.  Have various stakeholders involved early-on as a way to ensure relevancy and buy-in.

Above all, remember that learning is a process, not an event.  Be thoughtful about establishing the process, and committed to following it.  Doing so will yield a much higher return on the learning investment.


This article was reposted with permission from Synergy Consulting Services

Dana Harrison
Dana Harrison
Dana Harrison, Owner & Principle of Synergy Consulting Services, helps companies increase growth and performance. She loves bringing “big company” solutions to small and medium-sized businesses, including creating great learning experiences that result in change and development.

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