I'm a little behind in my industry periodicals reading. (I don't suppose you can identify with that.) Anyway, I came across an interesting article in the May 2010 issue of ASTD Training & Development magazine by Barbara Carnes called "Manager: The Forgotten Training Partner." I had to laugh when she described a "typical scenario" about a manager approaching learning and development for help with some training. After the "usual discussions about outcomes" the L&D person suggested a training plan to which the manager replied, "Can you do it in less time?" Hey, that happened to me! I cringed in recognition when she suggested that the real message behind that question was something closer to "Can't we just get it over with?" I can't blame a manager for saying that. Time is precious and if I don't understand the value of something I'm unlikely to lend my support or give up my time (at least not without a lot of whining and excuses) to participate.
There's an assumption (a hope? a dream?) that participants will come out of sales, customer service or support training fully "transformed, fixed." Too often the stakeholder manager, the L&D developer, and the trainer, in short, everyone's attention focuses on the training —what we at Impact refer to as "the event." Bulletin: Training won't work in a vacuum. In order to get and sustain the performance you're looking for, things have to be done before and after the event.
You'll see better results and happier people if, before the training, you do a little preparation so they'll welcome the training. For example, you can:
- Conduct a pre-learning assessment to set a benchmark and identify areas of focus for the training. This benchmark can be used later to measure the results achieved. Sage Software's technical support group experienced a 15% increase in customer satisfaction scores compared to what it was before training and coaching.
- Work with HR to make sure the skills and behaviors being taught are integrated into the performance review process.
- Send out a letter or email from senior management that reinforces the importance of the participants' contributions to the company and sets expectations for training.
- Get everyone together for a quick kick-off session that sets the tone for the program. It doesn't have to be fancy. Balloons and laser lights aren't everyone's preference. Your presence, as their manager, your interest and demonstration of commitment is what your team will notice. Give participants a taste of what's to come in the training. Talk about your expectations and what's in it for them so they won't have unanswered questions like "Why are we doing this?" "Am I in trouble?" "What did I do wrong now?"
After training I've noticed there's always a happy, though sometimes fleeting, bump in performance. If you're truly looking for change, growth, or lasting skill development, this is when you, as a manager, hold the key to making it happen. The key? Your attention. You can demonstrate your attention after the training in many ways. Here are a few that I'd recommend:
- Observation and monitoring
- Feedback and coaching
- On-the-job reinforcement activities and exercises
- Short term, highly focused action plans
- Job aids
- Post training benchmarking and customer surveys to see what your team achieved
- Timely, frequent recognition of performance you want to see happen again
- Intervention when you see performance slipping
- Meaningful, appropriate rewards
What are your plans for pre-work, event implementation, coaching and intervention, recognition and reward? To get some fresh ideas, check out these success stories for companies like Motorola, BancTec, Chicago Public Schools Business Services Center, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Federal Employee Program, and Information Builders.