How to help front-line managers get better at training follow up

by on February 18, 2015 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Rapid Learning Insights

Training isn’t likely to succeed without the support and participation of front-line managers.

Even when they’re not delivering the content themselves, it’s up to bosses to coach their people on the new skills they’ve learned and follow up to make sure the training sticks. But these activities often go by the wayside.

Managers have a litany of reasons why: They’re too busy; they have production goals to meet; employees resent being coached; etc.; etc.

But research by Stanford professor B.J. Fogg suggests that in most cases, there’s one key reason why managers don’t follow up.

And whether you’re a front-line manager training your own people or responsible for training throughout your organization, you need to address that reason or follow-up won’t happen.

Three elements of change

The Fogg Behavior Model identifies three key elements that drive behavior change: motivation, ability and a trigger.

If you chart these elements on a graph, the curved line represents the threshold of change: Above the line, a catalyst will trigger change. Below the line, it won’t.

A simple example: You realize your high-school reunion is six months away. The calendar serves as the trigger for you to get in shape. You’re motivated by the desire to impress your old classmates. But nothing happens until you get a gym membership, which increases your ability to exercise.

Motivation isn’t enough

When it comes to getting managers to change their behavior – that is, to engage in more coaching and follow up – the problem usually isn’t motivation. Smart managers are plenty motivated to improve the skills of their teams.

The real problem, Fogg’s model suggests, is ability. If follow-up is too hard, managers won’t do it.

And for most managers, follow-up seems very hard indeed. They’re not trained for it. It’s out of their comfort zone. It takes a lot of prep work and time.

So to move coaching above the line on the Fogg Model, the key isn’t to make managers more motivated; it’s to make the follow-up less hard.

The solution? Smaller bites.

Don’t expect managers to take on everything at once. Just do a little: Deploy short, bite-size e-learning or training sessions that focus on a single, specific concept.

This approach makes follow-up more doable. And when ability meets motivation, managers take action.

Success is the catalyst

What’s more, these actions become catalysts for further action. Each successful follow-up experience increases the manager’s motivation and the next effort seems less hard.

Fogg’s research calls this process “success momentum”: Each small success builds momentum and reinforces the new behavior.

For more research findings on how to make workplace training more effective, check out the free e-book, “10 Truths About Workplace Training… That Just Ain’t So”

Implications of the Fogg Model

Here are some specific steps you can take to make coaching and follow-up more doable:

  1. Tackle a single concept at a time. In sales, for example, you might want to focus on just one aspect of prospecting – such as what to say when you reach voice mail. That’s easy to learn, easy to teach and easy to coach.
  2. Design “small-bite” follow-up activities. A coaching or review session may require only a few minutes. But don’t leave the follow-up to chance. Know what these activities will look like and when they will happen. For example, ask people to write a voice-mail script and review them with their managers a week after the training.
  3. Keep the momentum going. Once you’ve tackled one topic, don’t stop. Schedule a regular series of short, single-concept training sessions.
  4. Celebrate progress. Help build a “small wins” learning culture. Recognize progress informally and formally.

Fogg, B. J. (2009). A behavior model for persuasive design. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Persuasive Technology, Claremont, CA (40-46). New York: ACM.

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