The Importance of Practice for Improving Skills at Work

Firefighters showing the Importance of Practice for Improving Skills at Work

The Importance of Practice for Improving Skills at Work
Imagine trying to fight a fire after reading a book about firefighting or watching a video about it – or even after going to a one-day training class about how to fight fires.  The truth is that the only way to become proficient at a new skill is to practice and get feedback.  Unfortunately, too many leaders and learners believe that intellectual understanding is enough and mistakenly discount the importance of practice for improving skills at work.

While Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at a new skill, we believe that it takes much less time to become proficient enough to improve on-the-job performance.

Why Practice Matters
To learn a new skill and to improve performance, people must practice, get feedback and make adjustments.  Progress occurs by trying, understanding what works and what does not work, course-correcting, and trying again.

By definition, learning requires people to step out of their comfort zone.  No matter what skill you want to improve or behavior you want to change—from perfecting your golf swing to honing your ability to present persuasively—practice is an essential ingredient.  Just ask any concert performer or professional athlete, it takes hard work, training and ongoing drills to get better.

No student ever attended Julliard and no football player ever walked on the field at the Super Bowl without many, many hours of practice and feedback.

The Importance of Practice for Improving Skills at Work
The same is true in the workplace.  New skills must be learned and, for most of us, learning requires effort and dedication. And the effort and dedication is worth it.

  • Our strategy, culture and talent alignment research, found that Talent accounts for 29% of the difference between high and low performing teams in terms of revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
  • Our training research, based upon measuring over 800 training projects, found that only 1-in-5 participants change their on-the-job performance from training that is not reinforced with consistent practice, coaching and measurement.

What It Takes to Improve Skills at Work
Once you understand the importance of practice for improving skills at work, take these steps to make improved performance a reality.

1. Ruthlessly Focus on What Matters Most to Both Business and People Performance
Not all skills have the same level of importance in terms of executing your business strategy. Spend the time required to identify the most relevant skills to your target audience, their bosses and the business.  Then focus on the one or two skills and the one or two scenarios that matter most.

2. Create an Environment for Learning, Practice and Feedback
People need the time, space and encouragement to learn, make mistakes and be open to feedback. Expect a learning curve, encourage practice and risk-taking, and reward those who model trying.

The most successful learners make time each and every week to practice and get feedback.  If you do not “have the time” to practice on a weekly basis, you can save a lot of training dollars and time by skipping the training all together.

3. Provide Relevant Job Aids and Tools
In order to accelerate practice sessions, provide relevant job aids and tools tied to the one or two most relevant skills. The best job aids help people to increase performance by providing access to the models, frameworks and information they need to perform the new skills. Put yourself in the learner’s shoes and keep them simple, relevant and accessible.

4. Provide Targeted and Consistent Performance Coaching
When it comes to the importance of practice for improving skills at work, practice does not make perfect. As most of us know, time spent on an activity does not automatically translate into performance improvement.  Practice with effective feedback makes perfect.

Assign coaches and develop an improvement plan with simple, relevant and actionable goals and success metrics to hold people accountable to improving both skills and performance.

5. Measure Progress and Hold People Accountable
Make sure you put a process in place to measure, track and answer the following questions:

  • Adoption – Are people using the new knowledge, skills and processes?
  • Reinforcement – Are managers involved, supportive, and reinforcing?
  • Impact – Are the new skills making the desired impact?

The Bottom Line
Practice and feedback, especially in the early stages of learning or when faced with performance plateaus, can have a measurable impact on skill development.  Are you creating the right environment for your people to learn and perform at their peak?

To learn more about the importance of practice for improving skills at work, download How to Connect the 2 Biggest Training Disconnects to Get A Return on Your Training Investments

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What a refreshing change from the half-baked psycho-babble you normally get from training and consulting organizations. LSA gives you the practical and results-oriented assistance you need to define and reach your goal.  They provide a results driven plan – not just a temporary fix. They are great to work with, and even more importantly, they “get it!”

David Fiano
Vice President Human Resources

I consistently look to LSA Global when I need custom programs put together for my client groups. I can always count on LSA to do a thorough needs analysis and to put together spectacular programs that are well received. Their management development and performance management expertise and professionalism make them one of my top-rated learning and development partners.

Stephanie Webb
HR Program Manager

Rambus

Thank you to LSA Global for their partnership and support in helping us to design and roll-out our valuable management development training program. I personally have partnered with LSA Global at four of my previous companies. It continues to be a delight working with LSA. We look forward to partnering with them at Blackhawk Networks for future training and consulting needs.

Suzanne Kinner
VP Human Resources

Blackhawk Network

We contacted LSA to help us with customized management development. LSA worked with me to identify a solution that would meet our exact needs. We decided to start at the top and ran the program for our executive team. It was such a great success that we hope to roll it out companywide. We look forward to a long-term partnership with LSA Global and their team of experts.

Barry L. Byrd, SPHR
Human Resources Manager

We partnered with LSA to pilot a customized behavioral interviewing program to help ensure that we continue to hire the best and brightest as we continue to rapidly scale. LSA’s ability to understand our business and our unique culture combined with their desire to ensure that the best practices framework truly fits our performance environment and is highly adopted by our people is a real blessing. Most other firms want to just ‘give you training.’ Not LSA, they are focused on helping me hit our hiring forecasts and attract A players.

Jennifer Remling
Director of Global Recruiting

AKQA

I am very impressed with the quality of work and talent. LSA did a great job of listening to my needs and providing the exact management training program expertise I needed to get the job done.

Don Pryor
Director, Business Planning & Analysis

LSA custom designed a Management Development program that is absolutely “on target” for our technical managers. Their facilitator has done a superb job delivering the material in a way that is fast paced, highly interactive, and fun. She presents practical solutions to the people situations that our managers face every day. I regard LSA as an excellent partner that understands our business needs and a virtual member of our HR department.

Judith Onton
Vice President Human Resources

Hyperion has a commitment to lifelong learning. LSA helps us provide the right business sales training, management training programs, and leadership development programs at the right time to meet the needs of both individuals and departments. I especially appreciate their ability to listen to my needs and recommend the appropriate facilitators, solutions and content.

Sarah Parks
Senior Project Manager

Hyperion

For our go to training outsourcing partner, LSA provides exactly what we want. As always, they deliver outstanding work!

Elizabeth Siebert
Director, Organizational Excellence & Development

Intuit

We partnered with LSA Global to help us invest in our people in the areas of performance coaching, diversity, and inclusion. They focused on helping us succeed and were very flexible in meeting our specific needs. LSA Global exceeded my expectations from a speed, quality, and value standpoint. I would recommend LSA Global to anyone looking for a true business partner.

Anita Luckinbill
Director, Human Resources

LSA helped to meet the needs of my teams within a very narrow timeframe. My team walked away with highly useful management tools and practices. LSA saved us time in delivering the right solution for our specific needs.

Sandeep Kumar
Director, Software Engineering, EPG

Here’s a token of my appreciation for ALL your efforts. I’m offering my most sincere appreciation, and it extends to all the folks who made our customized management development programs possible.

Susan Anderson
Workforce Planning Bureau

Working with LSA Global has proven to be extremely valuable and worthwhile. LSA understands our business, has deep expertise in content areas, and tailors the programs to deliver great results. The facilitator was extremely knowledgeable about Working Globally with India and her energy and passion made the session interesting, fun, and enjoyable for all that attended. The participants walked away extremely pleased along with highly useful practices and tools. I would highly recommend LSA Global to any company that has partners or offices in India.

Glenn McGillivray
Human Resources Business Partner

Intuit

Understanding and conforming to legal compliance was very important to our company. We turned to LSA Global to provide a quality and cost effective way to ensure that we were AB 1825 compliant. Their interactive eLearning program was top-notch. It allowed our managers to learn at their own pace, and on their own time. The program was tailored to include our logo and our internal harassment policies. It was interactive and met all federal and state legal requirements. I would highly recommend LSA Global to any company looking for an efficient and effective and top quality way to train their managers to be in compliance.

Kelly Warren, SPHR
Director, HR & Compliance

PalmSource has found our relationship with LSA extremely beneficial. We worked closely with LSA to customize the right Management Training Program solution to meet our unique business needs. LSA is a quality organization, one that I’d recommend to any company looking for a first class training and consulting partner.

Ken Boehm
Vice President of Human Resources

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