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When it comes to improving employee education, the conversation usually begins and ends with instructors and materials. We ask employees to critique programs (whether web, self-directed or live) and trainers — yet even when sessions are well supported and applauded, results often fall short.

So let's assume your training is relevant; delivered in a meaningful, wise and clever way; and gives employees time to practice with new skills and ask questions. But when employees return to work, little (if anything) changes. What gives?

Education is a team event. It takes talented instructors, but it also takes learners who commit to using the training to make a specific difference in performance. Using new skills or new information isn’t a habit for many people: They truly consider the learning to be an "event" — and when the event is over, things drift back to how they used to be.

What great learning — or the implementation of great learning — requires is a partnership between instructors and learners. Building the following four steps into a training program can help employees hold up their side of the bargain:

  1. Summarize: Have learners summarize the three most important and value-add skills or applications of the training — while still at the training. Using a commitment form, video or other tool, have the learner make a commitment to implement the specific items identified upon his/her return.
  2. Make a Plan: Guide learners in creating a learning implementation plan for his/her three committed items, behaviors or skills prior to the end of training. Make sure the plan includes specific steps and measurable outcomes.
  3. Establish Accountability Partners: Have learners partner with one another to become accountability partners. These duos should share their learning implementation plans and identify how they will hold each other accountable to achieving the goals identified. Accountability plans should include frequency of contact, performance expectations and any other forms of support each party will need to be successful.
  4. Celebrate: Create a performance achievement celebration location for employees to record their training successes. Consider creating an achievement board on a company intranet or education site that records employees’ performance successes resulting from implementation of action plans. This creates positive support of the education process and correlates education to performance successes.

Often, instructors are blamed for average or limited training outcomes. But all learning is a dance between learner and instructor, and both are required to be fully invested in the process. By correlating learning to performance, building a specific plan and adding an accountability partner, learners can be encouraged to own their education and use it to intentionally add value and make a difference.

Photo: Can Stock