I’d be insulting your intelligence if I told you that for training to work most efficiently, you have to follow it up. It’s pretty obvious that once employees have finished a training course or other learning experience, you need to give them opportunities to reinforce what they learned.
But do you know just how much follow-up can improve training results? I’d like to direct your attention to a study done at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York.
In the study, two groups of employees from a major healthcare organization underwent three days of management training in a training and development workshop. One group stopped there, and its results weren’t bad: These employees’ productivity increased by an average of 22%.
But the other group kept going. These folks received a further eight weeks of coaching, and at the end of that time, their productivity improvement was measured at 88% — four times as good as the employees who only attended the workshop.
Impressed? I am.
Of course, there are some caveats. First of all, replicating these results in a real-life setting may prove iffy. There’s no guarantee that you’d achieve an 88% productivity gain in your organization if you held a workshop on some training topic and then did weeks of coaching for the attendees.
For another thing, the coaching that was given in the study was very extensive; it included goal setting, collaborative problem solving, practice, feedback, supervisory involvement, evaluation of end results and a public presentation. Doing all of this, and doing it for eight weeks, may be more than some organizations can handle.
With all of that said, however, the principle seems to have been firmly established — the more you follow up training, the more your employees will benefit from it in the concrete way you’re aiming for, i.e., improved performance.
Practice makes perfect
Given that you may not be able to organize the perfect coaching and follow-up sessions you could offer if you had unlimited budget and time, what are a couple of key follow-up techniques you can concentrate on?
Practice. The most effective way to reinforce what employees have learned is through practice. One study found that a single practice session can boost performance on a new skill 50% higher than just reviewing the content alone. Practice can take the form of actual application of the skill in the real world, or of any activity that gets people recalling and applying what they learned. The latter could include quizzes, asking open-ended questions, group discussions and role-plays.
Feedback. Constructive feedback from a coach helps employees celebrate what’s going well and identify areas for improvement. By providing guidance, you can coach them to apply their new skills and set goals for how to get where they want to go. Studies have also shown that feedback helps trainees stay motivated – when they know what to focus on and see a clear path forward, they’re more energized to improve.
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