If only it was that easy. You still have work ahead of you.
As much as it may pain me to say this, especially with all the years of experience my team has in creating and delivering training, instructors are not the biggest key to success. You are – the manager. You have the biggest impact on the success of a training session.
Agents of Success
That impact is evident when we examine the top three agents of training success:
- Manager (Pre-training)
- Trainer (Pre-training)
- Manager (Post-training)
As you can see, two out of the top three agents of success center on the manager. (Please note that neither the learners nor the training session itself factor into the top three. It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s just that the agents listed are the ones that have the biggest impact on the overall success of a training session.)
The trainer’s ability to teach and interact with attendees during the actual training session is extremely important and, frankly, can make or break the training experience. Even more important, though, is how the trainer lays the groundwork for that session. Their preparation – which begins weeks, if not months, in advance, and which ultimately sets the foundation for learning success – should include:
- Tailoring instructional content to the specific audience they’ll be training
- Designing the format and pacing of instruction to maximize retention
- Creating training materials that factor in the previous two steps
These are just a few of the overarching tasks, and they encompass many of the zillions of things the trainer must do prior to the session. With proper preparation, the delivery of the actual training becomes easier.
This brings us to the manager’s responsibilities and actions before and after training. There is nothing more disheartening for a trainer than to engage with learners, only to discover that all they were told was to show up, with no clear understanding of why they are in the class and what they are supposed to learn.
While a good trainer can adjust to this kind of situation, it does not make for an effective teaching or learning environment. From the organization’s standpoint, the training may have little or no impact on day-to-day work effort. Attendees may be enthusiastic about, and highly engaged in, the training. But without support from management, they may not be able to apply what they’ve learned to their jobs. So how do you ensure that the training is successful and that attendees properly apply their new skills and knowledge? It takes management’s intervention to make sure staff is trained to the fullest extent.
Before training begins, the manager must decide who should attend the session. This ties back to setting the goal of the training class. If the goal is to create departmental reports, make sure you choose learners who will be writing those reports. Do not fall into the trap of offering training as a perk or a reward. Training is designed to meet a goal, so it’s vital you choose people who require the skills and knowledge to support that goal. An easy way to figure this out is to ask the question, “Will this person use what they learn as part of their job responsibilities?”
Next, you need to talk to your selected participants. Yes, talk to them. (“Hey, show up!” is not enough.) Make sure each person knows why they are being trained and what your expectations are. Be crystal clear. Set an expectation that matches your goal. Tell them what you expect them to learn and how you expect them to apply it. For example, instead of saying, “We are conducting training so you guys can help out Robby Writer with reports,” say, “We are going to do most of our report writing in house and will not be using Robby Writer in IT anymore. Going forward, you will be responsible for writing all our departmental reports.”
Did you pick up on that last sentence? It’s worth stating again: “Going forward, you will be responsible for writing all our departmental reports.”
Even though the training session is complete, your work is not done. Now it’s time to back up your words with actions. Have reporting assignments ready to go, so when these learners return to their jobs they can immediately put their newfound skills and knowledge to work. Just make sure these new reporting requests match the goal of the training they received.
As they work on these reports, monitor their progress. Request feedback. Keep the lines of communication open so that you can better chart their progress and evaluate the effectiveness of the training they received.
As you prepare for training, don’t forget the rest of your department. Arrange for office work to be handled by those who are not attending the session. Since attendees need to focus on learning the new material, you must support them by having someone else handle their job responsibilities. A learner cannot focus on training if they are continually pulled away, either physically or via email.
Lastly, be sure to arrange the physical area where training will take place according to plans laid out by the trainer. Ensure these requirements are met as closely as possible. The environment should be conducive for optimal learning.
In summary, the manager plays a crucial role in determining the success of their staff’s training. From pre-session (choosing the right participants, clearly communicating goals, creating the right learning environment, and adjusting departmental workflow) to post-session (immediately assigning training-based work, maintaining open lines of communication, and monitoring their staff), there are steps the manager can and should take to have a positive impact on training.