Last month, we talked about how too many organizations view training as an event instead of as a process. As you might recall (if you missed the article, click here to read it), the challenge with that is that while we can give people some book knowledge in the event, there’s no follow-up and there’s no solidifying of the information for folks.

In order for training to stick, there needs to be some type of feedback and reinforcement. In this post, I’ll be talking about how we build that into our training function.

How do we make sure that folks learn on the day of the event and then are able to continue learning and applying that knowledge in the coming weeks and months so that that knowledge turns into repeatable behavior?

Let’s take a look at how something like this might play out in your organization.

I had a client who was struggling with some cultural issues. In other words, they were trying to change their culture and there was a particular group of management that wasn’t getting on board. Most of these folks were a bit old school. They had been with the organization for a long time and were very set in their ways.

Too many training consultants would come in and say, “Sure, I can conduct a change management training session for you.” Or they might offer to do my personal favorite, a “team building” day together.

While good in theory, no day-long session or event was going to change an organization’s culture. You can talk to people about change management so that in their heads they have a concept of what it is, but that doesn’t help them actually manage change. A team building day invariably centers around playing games together and sure, that’s fun, but it doesn’t ensure that those folks can work as a team when they leave the room.

So, what did I recommend?

I like to first get the pulse of the group I’m working with. In this case, I used a competency assessment to assess things like their willingness to change, innovation, how well they collaborate as a team, and how they handle stress.

With that information, I was able to create an individualized development plan for each team member.

The plan, of course, was to get the team to work together. But we also had to address the needs of individuals in the team. So, I put together the individualized development plans so that each of these managers could develop the skills they needed at their own pace.

Our plan of action included a monthly team training on changing team dynamics. We focused on communication, teamwork, and change management all on site with the expectation that each month, we would also have a report back on how they were able to use the skills learned from the previous month. This was all to create some accountability.

In this case, I also added one-on-one mentoring. Between team sessions, I was able to have phone or in-person check-ins with these folks to make sure they weren’t struggling with falling back into their old habits. I was also available to them to make sure they could reach out if they were facing a difficult scenario.

All of these things created reinforcement and the sense of them being able to get the feedback they needed as they built their skills.

Of course, this is a large time investment on the part of the organization. But the reality is, if we don’t make this time investment, we can’t expect behavior to change. And in this client’s case, the lack of behavioral change was costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Given this, we decided to take it a step further and developed a short-term incentive package to further encourage participants to utilize the skills they were being taught. This isn’t always necessary, but it made sense to use here.

We tied the incentives back to the results on the production floor because we wanted to create that link for them. Learning and using their new skills led to something tangible: the incentive, obviously, as well as increases in production, decreases in downtime, and more.

These types of metrics were what they were being measured on with their performance reviews, which dictated the money they would make in bonuses. So, incorporating that short-term incentive gave them a taste of the pie so to speak, and helped them see that by increasing productivity and decreasing waste they could also benefit personally.

This type of scenario obviously doesn’t happen overnight, and in this case it was about a 10-month process. I’ve seen some programs take more and I’ve seen a few take less, but less than ten months is rarely effective.

We need to give folks time to really get through the learning curve. I mentioned in last month’s piece that this is where a lot of companies make the biggest mistake they can make with their training dollars investment – not ensuring that 3, 6, 9, 12 months out, their training dollar is still paying dividends and they’re still getting a return on that investment.

A solid process like the one I’ve outlined here will cost more than a one-off event. That’s a given. But it also ensures that the skills required are actually learned and ingrained in the person so that the organization reaps rewards well into future.

I’ve often heard this set up called mastermind training. I think it’s a pretty cool name for a structure where we come together as group, learn as a group, and help each other develop individual skills.

I think the real value of training over the course of time is as people learn together and grow together, they start to perform together. That power is so much stronger than doing the so-called team building training. Playing games together is fun and gives us laughs and good memories, but when we can grow and learn and develop together, we build the lasting bonds we need in business to truly get the results that our companies are striving for.

If you’re interested in bringing this mastermind concept to your organization, call me at 717-314-3680 or send a message to ed@edkrow.com and let’s chat.