Learning that Lasts: The Three Secrets to High ROI Training

You believe in developing your employees.  You know that investment in annual training is the right thing to do. But you’re not seeing the change you want.  The vision of a healthy, high performing company still seems far off.

Jim Franks, Strategic Advisor/Coach for Alber Enterprise Center

Jim Franks, Strategic Advisor/Coach for Alber Enterprise Center

We’ve all experienced this.  “The workshop was great.”  “The speaker was engaging.”  You leave with a feeling of exhilaration that things are really going to change this time.  But after a few weeks you realize that things are back to the way they were before the workshop.

To address this very common problem, let’s discuss two things: 1) Why it happens and 2) What to do about it.  

Why training doesn’t stick

We are creatures of habit.  Our habits are engrained with years (sometimes decades) of repeated behaviors that have worked for us.  The conventional wisdom is that it takes three months to change a good habit and six months to change a bad one.  Change is not automatic.  Here’s the good news.  We all have the potential to change – even radical change.

Unless we constantly reinforce new skills over 3-6 months it is unlikely that the change will stick.  There needs to be a way to reinforce the desired change on a regular basis.

We are surrounded by others who are also creatures of habit.  When we come back from a workshop, ready to change, others around us are used to the old way of doing things.  They naturally resist change and impact you by virtue of their close proximity.  They will act in ways that reinforce the old habits.

These influences (your own habits and others), make up the culture of your organization.  Changing that culture begins with you.  You must intentionally persevere against this inertia until the change becomes permanent.

So how do you do this?  What follows are the three secrets to permanent change and finally getting a high ROI on your training investment.

How to drive permanent change

Start at the top.  The first key to getting a high ROI on your training is to get the buy-in and application by your senior executive team.  Otherwise the initiative will go into the category of the latest workshop of the month.  Here are some tips for executive involvement:

  • Have them kick it off with a strong statement of its importance.
  • Actions are more powerful than words. If it truly is important then they will take the time to attend.
  • There is nothing more powerful than a senior executive admitting how they are learning and growing based on the new approach learned from the workshop.

Follow-up coaching.  Visibility and examples from the top are key, but not the whole story of a successful implementation.  Each employee must have someone to remind him or her of the need to apply the new approach regularly.  This is where coaching comes in. This is the secret sauce that makes it really stick.

Over the past decade, professional coaching has quietly become the state-of-the-art method to develop professionals.  It works because it syncs up with how we are designed to change – with repetition and over time.

Here’s how it works.  A coach comes alongside the employee on a regular basis to remind them of the new skills and hold them accountable for putting them into practice.  Each attendee will inevitably face challenges applying the material and will need someone outside the organization to help them overcome these challenges.  The coach is not subject to the inertia of the old habits, but will remain steadfast and hold each employee accountable for change.

As a professional coach I’ve seen this work at organizations large and small and across many industries.  Training + Coaching works.

Peer Accountability.  Have each team member give account to their peers for their new behavior.  Do quarterly assessments that measure the new behavior to show progress – or lack of it.  Many think they are making progress only to find that others don’t agree.  Change doesn’t count unless others see it too.  The only way to know is to commit to it and measure progress.  Then act on the feedback until others agree.

There it is.  This works.  Guaranteed.  If you do these three things, the desired change will happen.  If it doesn’t, one of these three steps wasn’t done.

To learn more about this, watch for a White Paper on the OSU Alber site!

Jim Franks is a Strategic Advisor/Coach for the OSU Alber Enterprise Center (AEC).  He is passionate about helping leaders build healthy, high performing companies.  For more information about how the AEC can help your organization implement the solutions you want leading to the success you need, please call (740)725-6325 for a no-cost, no-obligation needs analysis.

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