Bridging the Performance Gap: Training is Just Part of the Solution

February 1, 2010

I have been designing and delivering learning interventions for nearly 20 years (dare I say), and I always tell my clients that the learning intervention is just the start of creating change in behavior. There are many other components and models but I boil it down to the most necessary:

1. Goal setting—people need to know what is expected of them. Sounds simple? Too simple? I agree and yet many people do not even consider it. I have seen this assumption so many times. We as learning professionals know better than to make assumptions. Help your clients check their assumptions! All you have to do is randomly ask a couple of learners. If goals are not clear then depending on the level of behavior change needed you can address it multiple ways:

  • The easiest and the simplest is a communication strategy and plan, however that is only for simple changes, like learning to use new software.
  • If, on the other hand, you are changing your sales model, a pretty important and difficult change, you need a change management strategy and plan.
  • Finally if you are totally reengineering the way people work because of, for example, a merger (not uncommon these days) then you need a new or adjusted performance management strategy and plan in addition to a change management strategy and plan.

2. Learning intervention—I think we all have this one down!

3. Reinforcement and feedback—As we all know, learning is a process, not an event. Therefore, there always has to be some reinforcement and feedback to truly affect performance. This could manifest in:

  • Providing short snippets of content to remind people what they learned, as well as,
  • Setting up informal learning opportunities such as a social media site,
  • However, what is MOST IMPORTANT is manager coaching and feedback. I have heard clients tell me that while the training program their employees went through was great, they ended up going back to their day-to-day and doing the same thing they did before. Why? Primarily because the managers did not reinforce the new behavior. In some cases the managers did not even know what their teams were taught so they couldn’t reinforce the behavior if they wanted to. Without including managers the learning intervention weakens over time and information learned is forgotten. (See Wikipedia’s explanation of the forgetting curve.) Finally, remember that managers are also responsible for setting goals—see #1 above. Therefore getting the managers onboard is key!

So, the lesson learned, to use L&D lingo, is: make sure every one of your training plans at lease considers these topics and ask your clients the tough questions. They may not understand and resist at first, but you will start them thinking, and that, is the first step to recovery.

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