Employee Training as a Long-Term Process

John R. Aberle wrote an interesting post over at Yahoo Finance  about some tips for more effective employee training.  Aberle writes using stories (“stories engage the imagination”), getting learners engaged in the training (get them to tell you what they are taking away from the lesson as a review of what you covered”) and repetition all play key roles in employees retaining what is taught during training sessions.

I agree with all these points. Yet as I wrote in a post earlier this summer, Forget Me Not – Critical Steps to Making Employee Training More Memorable, I still think two things must be considered critical to get new employees to take with what they learned in training and effectively apply it to their daily tasks.

The first thing is to remember that training is only a beginning to a larger goal, not an end in it of itself.  To use the baseball analogy, it’s not a “1st Inning” event.  Rather, managers should develop their employee learning strategy with a more continuous, long-term outlook, one in which post-training performance support and continued learning as the employee continues to work play key roles.

With that in mind, it’s important to keep training sessions short and not overwhelming to new hires.  Remember that today’s learners (perhaps to no fault of their own) have short attention spans.  Beyond that, humans in general tend to learn better in shorts and relevant bits of information, followed by repetition.  It’s impossible to maintain your employees’ interest for several hours, even if you are the best trainer in the world. 

For this purpose, it’s important to structure each training session in such way as to make it as short and concise as possible, providing workers with the most important skills they need to acquire. All the irrelevant stuff needs to be cut out of the presentation, as this will help them better retain the main points of the course.

The second things is that – with the accepted mindset that training should be seen as a long-term process rather than a single event following by work type of formula – the focus should be more on providing long-term performance support.  The main reason why we’ve seen such a shift in strategy in recent years, away from a “training event” toward a “training process”, is due to technological advances.  The internet, and particularly the cloud, have enabled both training managers and learners to facilitate and access learning through any device (not just in the office) and at any time.  Training courses – and wider access to formal learning materials – can be utilized when needed by the employee, long after the initial training event ends.  Beyond formal learning, employees can also enhance both their skills and knowledge through social media, online forums, webinars, YouTube videos, and more.

As I’ve mentioned before, performance support aids can provide an economically beneficial and performance-boosting alternative to a focus on traditional classroom training.  Software, such as WalkMe,  allow the employee to find immediate assistance, within the flow of work, so there is no need to request for helpdesk support, or have to leave his/her desk.  They also empower the learner to access answers to questions on performing complex software/website tasks as they work, ensuring relevance and specificity that is needed.

This of course helps to link training to performance, and helps to ensure that employees remember what they learn so they can apply that knowledge when needed.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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