Putting Theory into Practice

parachute-brittany-gaiserIn all my years as a trainer the number 1 mistake I see businesses making with their staff training is not doing enough to make an easy transition from theory to the real world.

What takes place in the safety, and often false environment, of the training room can be very different from what happens in the big bad real world. Particularly so with any skills training which needs practice to perfect, and time to form new habits.

Of course this means not only does the business not get a good return on their investment, it can also have a negative and demotivating impact on the employee.

The link

Making the link to their role really starts before the training even begins, by discussing with the team member how the training is relevant to the job.

But this needs to be followed through during the training itself, asking for ideas on how team members are going to implement what they have learnt. Help them identify situations where they can put their learning into practice as quickly as possible, preferably within the next day or two, and get their commitment to one or two specific actions.

Flush out any questions or concerns, or anything they know of which will make it difficult or even impossible for them to implement what they’ve learnt. Check they have the necessary resources, time, authority, peer support and opportunity to put it into practice. If not, ensure you get these in place before that momentum is lost.

These might be things you don’t want to hear, but better to know about these now (and have an opportunity to put them right) than them going away confused or negative through questions unanswered and discover two weeks on that nothing has changed!

On an individual level this might include a lack of confidence or a concern they might make mistakes. They may be unclear on which actions are their job opposed to anyone else’s. They might not even see these actions as part of their role, but somebody else’s responsibility.

Be available for individuals to ask questions on a one to one basis after any training; not everyone will feel comfortable raising their queries in front of colleagues, and some may need a while to reflect on what’s been covered.

Set some specific medium-term goals to focus people’s attention in implementing the training. It might simply be based on customer feedback, or a specific target to sell x number of a certain product or service.

Finish training by giving recognition for their participation. Create a link to further training, or how you’ll be following up in the workplace.

Making the transition

Sometimes the only way to really hone new skills and develop true competence is once applied on the job. It simply can’t always happen in the confines of the training session or without the pressures of the real world.

We shouldn’t expect perfection straight away. People need time to practise and find their own way of doing things, and not be afraid to make the odd mistake so long as they learn from it.

Everything takes longer when it’s new and you’re still learning a little from trial and error. Confidence can be low as you get to grips with it all.

Unless followed though promptly, any potential barriers will simply provide an excuse for not putting things into practice. The longer problems are left unresolved, the less the likelihood of anyone getting to the point it becomes habit.

So when you plan training, schedule time for team members to practise and time for you or their line manager to check how they are doing. Or assign a mentor, coach or buddy to help overcome the initial barriers to perfecting their new skill.

Observe how team members handle the conversations with customers and give them feedback after the event on what they’re doing well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate coaching, support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

Maintaining Momentum

Provide back up resources such as prompt cards or checklists. Reinforce messages by building exercises into your daily and weekly calendar, etc., as part of team briefings or meetings, 1:1 reviews and ongoing feedback.

Recognise the role line managers have in the follow up to training. What’s working well, what fresh perspectives have they brought, what needs more practice?

If the training isn’t being implemented identify what’s getting in the way now, not wait until they’ve been struggling and given up hope. When something doesn’t work right first time around it’s all too easy for them to go back to their old and familiar ways.

It takes time to instil new habits.

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