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Who Holds the Key to Performance Change in Your Organization? Monica Postell

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.

With a back­ground in per­for­mance improve­ment and instruc­tional design, Mon­ica Postell works with Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems in design­ing and deploy­ing train­ing and devel­op­ment pro­grams that fos­ter real cus­tomer loyalty.
4 Who Holds the Key to Performance Change in Your Organization?
Mon­ica Postell
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