In my experience as a workforce author and consultant, I’ve observed that organizations tend to invest more in their employees during good economic times, and pull back development efforts when their businesses are feeling the pinch.
Let’s recall what we learned from our earliest years in school. Our teachers encouraged us to master material through repetition. We’d be introduced to a concept in class, practice it via homework, be quizzed on it by the teacher, and be tested on it again much later on a final exam. In other words, learning was an extended, ongoing process. If you want to sustain the benefits of your corporate training long after your employees have completed it, you might consider incorporating this advice into your regimen.
Communicate the Big Picture
While they are still in the main training event, explain why it’s in employees’ best interests to apply the skills they’ve learned. How will using these new concepts help them do their jobs more effectively? Why will they now be able to add greater value to the organization? How will further mastery of the skills drive their careers forward overall?
Emphasize Concrete Actions
As part of any training, crystallize exactly what employees should do as part of their everyday responsibilities so skills are continuously re-emphasized. Decide on a cadence of activities to ensure that self-study and on-the-job practice are occurring on at least a monthly basis, and clearly communicate your expectations. Ideally, these tasks are mandatory.
Gain On-the-Spot Commitment
Before they leave a workshop, employees might write down what they have learned that is most relevant to their current roles, and specific actions they will take to apply those ideas in the next 30-60 days. If they can add results they intend to achieve by way of implementing the course learnings, so much the better. Participants can either take these goal statements with them when they leave the training, or the trainer may collect them and return them to employees at a later date.
Two types of communications can help you assess how well the skills, behaviors, and concepts introduced in training have been applied in your employees' jobs. First, a follow-up evaluation sent a month or two after the initial course can ask: “Specifically, how have you incorporated your new knowledge into your job responsibilities? How has your performance improved since the training?” For a well-rounded picture, it may also be worthwhile to ask participants’ managers the same questions. Second, a single or series of short quizzes delivered to participants can help keep course content fresh in their minds and prompt them to think about new ways to use it.
Offer Ongoing Support
Show employees that you are a partner in their education. If application of a particular skill is particularly challenging, you might brainstorm together how they can overcome hurdles like conflicting priorities or an outdated toolset. If additional resources are required, such as further instruction via an outside source like a massive open online course or a local college offering, try to accommodate employees if possible.