Every year, organizations spend millions of dollars on soft skills training. However, when learners try to put their new skills to use without the benefit of structure or reinforcement from their manager, actual behavior change and application of skills are typically only fractionally effective.
Leaders who take the time to carefully plan implementation strategies for before, during, and after training can not only ensure more effective on-the-job application of new behaviors but also maximize results.
Here are eight strategies to help you NAVIGATE an effective learning implementation.
- Needs and Opportunity: It’s critical that leaders understand the business needs and workings of individuals as well as the organization. Thorough learning needs analyses will link expressed needs to defined business objectives that come from employee or client surveys, focus groups, interviews, or performance management summaries. The ability to quickly upgrade people’s skills enables each team member to be a better contributor and has a huge impact on the bottom line.
- Alignment and Integration: Learning professionals need to know the latest organizational development models through which they can filter lessons to present a modern perspective. Take care to make supportive links between programs where possible, so the participant sees the learning curriculum as seamless and fully integrated.
- Vision of Journey and Line of Sight: As an initiative leader, it is critical to have a clear vision to enable more effective planning of the learning journey. In this way, you can properly set expectations and allocate resources relating to time and budget. Likewise, employees must understand the relevance of the training—what’s in it for them—to be able to really engage in the learning. They need a clear line of sight to see how they affect others and how they can contribute to their departmental and organizational goals to make a real difference.
- Innovation: Creating an innovative and empowering environment lays the groundwork for leveraging a learning culture. Organizations must adapt to the fast pace of change and evolving skill sets. Both workshop design and sustainment methodology are critical, especially today as we work with five generations in the workplace.
- Gaining Credibility and Support: All the planning in the world can be nullified by poor credibility of the training through inexperienced trainers, weak content, poor logistics, or other factors. Learning and development professionals need to keep their skills current so that they maintain an understanding of business operations. Management support is needed at all levels to sponsor and model any initiative. A sense of ownership—not just compliance—throughout the workforce is critical for overall success.
- Accountability:. Learning and development leaders must insist that learning initiatives bring results and that there is full accountability for the time, cost, and effort involved. Anchoring training to systems such as the performance management process or to feedback from team members is a great way to ensure necessary follow through on your most valuable asset.
- Transfer Reinforcement: Learners need clarity of expectations and roles to be able to embed and sustain their new skills. Managers must be available to work with direct reports, before and after training, to coach and model the skills. Behavioral change is not just about awareness—managers must constantly reinforce expectations of new behavior and skills until the knowledge transfer is fully embedded. This can include coaching in different forms and the use of refreshers in electronic and social media.
- Evaluation and Measurement: Measurement of outcomes to determine level of success is critical. Leaders need to be creative in determining success indicators for intangible skills. Anecdotal stories are often the most time and cost effective way to show concrete examples of success.
Consider these points when planning the rollout of your next learning initiative. Thought in each of these areas will yield large dividends in application of behaviors and skills back on the job.
About the Author
John Slater is a Senior Director, Client Solutions for The Ken Blanchard Companies working out of Blanchard’s Toronto, Ontario regional headquarters in Canada.
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