Learning That Sticks

Learning That Sticks
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Too Much Corporate Training Is Wasted
Done right when you provide learning that sticks, training can be a great investment in career development and performance improvement.  In fact, investments made by an organization to make their employees more successful consistently rate in the top ten in terms of employee engagement research.  Done wrong however, training can be a missed opportunity and a huge waste of both precious time and money for you and your employees.

Learning that Does Not Stick
Based upon the measurement of over 800 training programs, we know that training, by itself, changes the behavior and the on-the-job performance of only 1-in-5 participants on average.  Those are not great odds.  The biggest barrier to having learning that sticks?  Relevance!

Training that is not highly relevant to the participant, their boss and the company as a whole has the lowest probability of changing on-the-job behavior or performance.  While this seems like common sense, how many of your training initiatives have a direct thread to a top strategic priority and the individual, team and company levels?  Our clients tell us that less than 20% of their training fits the bill.

Learning that Sticks
We define learning that sticks as training that helps to visibly improve on-the-job behavior and performance in a way that moves a people or business priority forward.

  • First, each learning solution must be highly relevant to three key stakeholders (1) The Target Audience, (2) Their Bosses, and (3) The Business/Executive Team. We call this 3×3 Relevance – without it, learning leaders often struggle to get initiatives off the ground or fully implemented.
  • Second, the new skills, knowledge, and behaviors must be consistently adopted by at least 50% of your target population.
  • Third, the impact on the people and the business needs to be measured to create accountability for execution and to provide actionable feedback for coaching.

Take a Lesson from Animals
For newborn offspring to survive in the wild, they must learn new behaviors.  Certain birds teach a “password” to their chicks in order to call for food.  Some European ants practice a way to run together to find food quickly.  And lions kill prey for younger offspring and then bring live prey to older offspring to finish the kill.

How much do your leaders create the conditions for their teams to practice and learn how to “survive” and perform?

3 Tips to Create Learning that Sticks
To create corporate learning that sticks:

1. Focus on What Matters Most
Forget the fire hose approach. It may make logistics easier, but it will only overwhelm employees and there will be little on-the-job retention.  A little at a time with greater focus and intensity is far more effective.

First, identify the top few skills that matter most to the participants, their boss and the company as a whole.  Second, identify the top scenarios in which those skills would make the most difference.  And finally, design a learning solution that allows participants to learn what matters most at a pace that works for them.

2.  Allow for Practice of the New Skills
The more participants can test their new skills, the more proficient and confident they will become. To become adopted, new skills have to be put into practice on-the-job over a sustained period of time. Practice can be done on an individual basis or group basis, in real circumstances or in simulations.  The key takeaway is that changing behavior and performance is a process.While much has been written about the amount of practice required to master a new skill, we find that how you practice is as important as how often you practice.  Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that those who practice slightly modified versions of the new skills learn faster.  Similar to the muscle confusion concept for athletes, it is important to keep your brain on its toes.

3.  Reinforce the Right Behaviors
Much of learning is learning by doing, reflecting, feedback and failure. Be sure that your training programs have sufficient follow-through and are supported by performance management systems and ongoing coaching.  Without consistent exposure, feedback and accountability, new skills tend to become the fad of the month instead of the new muscles required to perform at your peak.

The Bottom Line
Ensure that your investment in training counts.  If you focus on what matters most, pace the learning, allow for practice and follow through, you will be part of the elite 20% that has delivered learning that sticks.

To learn more about learning that sticks, download 3 Steps to Building a Smarter Training Initiative – One that Gets Business Results

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