This is a guestpost by David Zahn is the President of ZAHN Consulting, LLC, the third and final article in a 3-part series which looks at the connection between training and employee engagement. For the previous articles, please read The Importance of “Pre-Training Event” Activities in Gaining Employee Engagement and How to Engage Employees Within the Training Event.
Post-Training Activities to Help Retain Employee Engagement
We have all been present at the conclusion of a training event. People collect their binders, handouts, and workbooks as they wave their goodbyes and wish each other well, or they all rush to sign off of the remote classroom site in order to make it on time for their next meeting. And, even with the best of intentions to use the newly trained materials – actual application and implementation falls far short of expectation. If we were to do a post-mortem on the training event, we would find that many opportunities for engagement were lost or sub-optimized.
If employees are not evaluated once BACK ON THE JOB (not just in the confines of the training itself, even if it is done then), then there will be no strong motivation for many employees to remain engaged with the training nor the content/new skills. When it comes to remaining engaged from an employee’s perspective, it can be summed up in the phrase:
“Expect what you respect based on what you inspect”
If the employee knows that they will be held accountable for the performance of the newly trained skills, they will ensure that they learn and use those skills and maintain their level of competence.
In all too many organizations, training is seen as something that HR or the Training Department does TO employees, and is their responsibility solely and uniquely. Of course, if immediate supervisors and managers do not participate in the training from a monitoring and managing of implementation perspective, than the training will cease to be referred to or incorporated, and the engagement level of employees will wane. Management has to demonstrate, model, hold people accountable, and ensure compliance with newly trained skills rather than diminish or minimize the training’s importance. Far too commonly, managers who are not properly trained themselves, will exclaim, “We are in crisis-mode now, forget the approach you learned in the training session; just fix it like you know how!” Or, “We are too busy to work on the training stuff, put it aside and we will return to it when we have time (and of course, there is never a good time, and it is not returned to or used).”
Once people are back on the job, it is not uncommon for them to forget specific steps or procedures to follow in the new skill-set trained. Especially for skills that are used infrequently, the process may not become learned as quickly. Therefore, it is recommended that to prevent frustration, that job-aids be provided that list the steps to a process, include screen captures of field entries, offer examples of properly completed tasks, etc. Employees that can refer back to a document, website, or even a wall chart to explain how to properly perform the task will be far more likely to do so successfully and will remain engaged with the training and the company to a greater degree.
Another way to encourage engagement is to share success stories or testimonials of how others have used the skills and achieved a positive outcome. Peers who have succeeded and share their story or journey with others will often serve to raise the overall commitment to the training and increase the level of engagement, discussion, and acceptance of the training. While it is meaningful for the trainer to share anecdotes, it is far more impactful when a peer or a contemporary of the trainee/employee shares how they achieved success through the training’s contribution.
Many companies have achieved success through appealing to the competitive nature of employees. So, pitting one department or office against another to see which can have full mastery of the content ahead of the others, which employee is the first/best/most effective/creative/etc. to employ the training on the job often leads to a much quicker and deeper affiliation or connection/engagement with the training and the organization as a whole. It is for this reason that wall charts that track compliance, results, or other measures (like the thermometers that often appear in Town Squares during blood drives) galvanize people to get involved and take action.
It is important not to forget that training’s acceptance will often be encouraged or handicapped by the current reward and incentive plan in place. If the employee is not rewarded (or worse yet, perceives that there is a punishment or dis-incentive) for using the new skills trained, the chances of the skill appearing on the job are diminished. Training people to provide exemplary customer service, but then paying them based on other factors, like transactions per hour, reduction of discounts provided, or speed of each transaction will be in conflict with the training’s content. Most of the time, employees will opt to provide the behaviors that lead to rewards, and not necessarily what they “should” do based on the training.
Training and employee engagement does not end when the course is completed. Rather, it is only a step in the journey toward a better trained, performing, and achieving individual and company.
David Zahn is the President of ZAHN Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm focused on training, employee engagement, competency enhancement, and performance improvement. His background includes working for over 150 companies as diverse as; Shell, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Red Bull, Dr Pepper, E.J. Gallo, Sun Products Corporation, etc. In addition to his consulting work with clients, David also teaches two courses in the University of New Haven Graduate School of Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has authored two books on consulting, “How to Succeed as an Independent Consultant, 4th Ed.” and “The Quintessential Guide to Using Consultants.”).