Learning is essential for growth in an organisation, but how can we make sure we are getting the most out of our investments in training and development? While training gives your workforce new skills and knowledge, building the habit of using these to improve performance requires creating the right support and context for your people. Here are a few suggestions on how to make sure you get the most from your training and development activities this year.
1. Remember, your staff may not be coming to this with the same experience and understanding as you. For example, a person who has never experienced good customer service himself may find it difficult to understand how to deliver an exceptional customer experience to others. Likewise, it can be hard to convince a manager of the benefits of coaching staff when she has never experienced that herself. As a leader, you may need to work to get people engaged in the concept of training before building on their skills and knowledge. For example, if you want to do customer service training, you could start with asking people to assess customer service in outlets they visit. Maybe take the team out to visit a coffee shop or location with great customer service. Then talk through the experience with them, particularly how it made them feel as a customer. Or, start by using coaching approaches with your managers before asking them to do this with their staff.
2. Build a habit of learning among your people and make the most of learning opportunities. Learning and development is not limited to training and formal activities. After an important event or meeting, take the time to run a debriefing with your staff or team. Or run an internal role play before the event to help them prepare. Use on the job coaching questions with staff daily. Make this part of your regular conversations with team members. These actions will help people to become more independent workers, and to build the habit of learning from experiences.
3. Reinforce what is learned. Over time, good behaviours and skills can slip if they are not reinforced. For front line service and other entry level roles, a short refresher session every three months can be helpful for keeping skills sharp and up to date. For all positions, attention needs to be given to helping people to use new behaviours in the workplace, and recognising and supporting people when they do make this effort. As a leader, be prepared to dedicate time and attention regularly to following up on new skills and behaviours from a training or learning session. This can take the form of direct conversations, refreshing key points in team meetings, posters and job ads around the workplace.
It is also important to consider the overall context of the work and culture of your organisation when you are planning your learning programmes. How can we expect someone to deliver great service to external customers, when help, communication, and support are in short supply inside the organisation?
If you want to build the spirit of teamwork among your people, look at how their varying duties and jobs are organised. Does a task require people to work together and create reliance on each other? Are team results rewarded more than individual results? If not, and rewards are structured around individual performance, then it might be hard for people to focus on working as a team. When deciding to engage in learning and development look at how the outcomes you are seeking are reflected in the work, structure, and culture of your organisation.
As leaders, we play a critical role in how our people approach learning and training, and how well new learning is integrated into our business. You will be the role model for how much energy your staff invest in learning events and in using new learning in the workplace. Be proactive in following up, talking about it, and getting involved in supporting the programme to get the most out of your investment in training this year.
Susanna joined AAA Cambodia Ltd. in 2006, and specialises in communications, people management and developing human resources functions to support organisational goals. She holds an MSc in Human Resource Management and Development from the University of Manchester. Susanna has authored numerous training programmes as well as two internationally published resource books for educators and information professionals.
Contribution by Susanna Coghlan