Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Maximize your training investment—Ideas for increasing retention beyond the classroom.

A year ago, I posted an entry about how, without structured follow up, soft skills classroom training may not be the best investment. When I came across the entry today, I thought I’d offer a few ideas for how to increase retention and the value of your investment in classroom training for your employees.

As the manager, whether you are attending training or not, get familiar with what your employees are learning. The best way to support an employee’s learning experience is to model and reinforce learned skills during normal business interactions. The only way you can do this is to be sure you’re personally familiar with the skills/approaches that your employees are learning.

Set expectations for specific follow up. Inform participants (before the close of the training session) about your specific intentions for follow up to the training. (Examples of options follow).

Be sure to have people pinpoint and commit to some small step (Action Plan) before leaving the training session. The chosen action should reflect what they personally want to try or use within the next week relating to a particular tool or set of guidelines from the training. You can also partner colleagues to share their action plans with each other and set a date and time to check in with one another to briefly talk about their experiences in doing so.

Evaluate retention and use of skills/approaches within a few weeks. Create a brief on-line survey to be distributed to participants 4-6 weeks after training. Have the survey solicit feedback about what they are still—after several weeks—finding valuable or useful. Ask what benefits, if any, they are experiencing or observing, and where they are still struggling. This will give you a sense of improvements, as well as where people might appreciate additional coaching.

Stay in touch by providing trainees with additional resources. Choose a few brief articles or blog entries (not more than a page long) that support the learnings learned or discussed in the training session and share one article with training participants every couple of months. You might add a brief discussion to your staff meeting, if applicable, and let the team know that you’ve put aside 30 minutes in the meeting for a discussion among the team about the article.

Provide additional one-on-one coaching. Arrange for each participant to have 1.0 to 2.0 hours of one-on-one coaching following training, based on their individual needs and real-life situations, as they relate to the skills and approaches learned and/or discussed during the training.

Hope this—and whatever additional support you may offer your employees—will help to make the most of their learning experience and your training investment.


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