You have organised a three-day training for your employees. It’s quite an investment, but necessary to change something (more sales, better communication, improve compliance). In the training your employees will gain knowledge, learn some new skills and it will maybe even change their behaviour.
But… the day after the training they are back at the office, where they still have a deadline to meet. And where they have heaps of other tasks to do. There is hardly any time to put what they’ve learned into practice and the effect of the training quickly wears off.
Not so great after all.
You invested time and money, your employees had a few great days of training, but there is hardly any effect or ROI.
How to solve this?
I wish I could offer you a product that would fix this problem in an instant. But I don’t have it and if anybody tells you they do have one, they are lying. There isn’t an easy, quick fix, one size fits all, solution. However I can assure you, this problem can be dealt with. You can offer your employees a training (in the broadest sense) and get that change you are looking for.
First of all make the training (be it online, offline, blended, etc) superb. Create a training that makes sure your employees will gain all the knowledge and skills that they need. And use different methods that will engage them and that will make them remember what they’ve learned. You could even end the training with a test, to see if your employees actually met the learning goals.
Logical right? Just make a superb training, let them take a test and change will happen.
Right? No, wrong!
Sorry to disappoint you, but making a superb training is just half the solution. The isolated use of a training rarely leads to the desired result. Several studies have shown that most of what you learn in a training will only be embedded if you use it in daily practice. And most of what people learn (up to 90%) they learn through practical experience and contact with others, not in a training.
Then what is the solution?
Most important of all is how your organisation facilitates the employees in putting what they have learned into practice; how you facilitate them in:
– gaining experience
– making mistakes, getting feedback and learn from it
– expanding and sharing their knowledge and skills
It’s all about your organisation.
It’s about culture, structure, management style, etc. Of course, those are not easy to change. But you can start small and step-by-step work towards an organisation where your employees are challenged to use their newly gained knowledge and skills and share it with others. An organisation that works hard to reach their goals, but also sees the importance of making mistakes, giving and getting feedback and improving knowledge and skills. An organisation that understands that the end of the training isn’t the end of learning, but that it is just the beginning.
So how to get there?
Contact me for a free consultation and we’ll have a chat about it. You can’t hire me to make the change, you’ll have to do that by yourself, but I’ll be there every step of the way to guide you. To give you the tools and to make sure you’ll get there step by step.
I can’t wait to start! How about you?
Learning is a process.
But what does this ‘learning process’ actually look like and what can you do to help your employees go through this process as smoothly as possible?
In this blogpost I will tell you more about the four stages of learning a new skill and give you examples of what you could do to help your employees get from one stage to the other.
Let’s start with the model.
The ‘Four Stage of Competence’ model describes the four stages a learner goes through. As shown in the image below the learner starts at the ‘Unconscious Incompetence’ stage and, if all goes well, ends up at the ‘Unconscious Competence’ stage.
Example: writing better proposals
Let’s say your employees could improve their proposal writing skills.
Your company has responded to quite some Request for Proposals (RFP’s), but has a hard time winning the bids. Of all the proposals your employees write about 15% of them actually lead to business. A win rate of 15% you would like to see turned into 40% or more. Something that should be possible if your employees had the right skills.
If only they could write winning proposals…
Maybe your employees are mind readers and think it’s a great idea to work on their proposal writing skills as well. These are the four stages they would go through:
- Stage A: Unconscious Incompetence: The employee doesn’t recognise their own incompetence and the value of the new skill.
“My win rate is 15% and I think I’m doing a great job. Why would I want to change anything?”
- Stage B: Conscious Incompetence: The employee finds out they are lacking a skill and sees the value of acquiring it
“At a seminar I’ve heard that 15% isn’t a high win rate at all, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I would love to learn how to get a higher win rate.”
- Stage C: Conscious Competence: The employee understands and knows how to use the new skill, but demonstrating the skill requires concentration and they still make quite some mistakes. They need to brake down the process into steps and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
“I’ve followed a workshop on writing better proposals. Now I understand and know how to write better proposals and get my win rate up. I don’t know the process by hard though and need to look up quite some things when I’m writing the proposal. What was it about the use of visuals again? And how can I convince my colleagues to use the tools we learned about?”
- Stage D: Unconscious Competence: The employee has had so much practice with the skill that it has become ‘second nature’ and can be performed easily. With minimum efforts they get maximum quality output with very low frequency of errors.
“Great, my win rate is way up! I’m following the processes I’ve learnt, so I don’t hear about an RFP when it hits my desk, but way before that. Besides that I write proposals that are easy to read and that address all the hot buttons my prospects have. I’m getting so good at it, my manager has asked me to train my new colleagues, so they will understand the process as well.”
Helping your employees get from Stage A to Stage D
Unfortunately, or luckily, not all your employees are mind readers.
Some might never leave Stage A, because they just have no idea they are lacking a skill.
Others might eventually follow a training and reach Stage C, but will hardly use their new skill, resulting in extra training costs but not much of a return on investment.
The main goal should be to get your employees to Stage D, because that’s where they will make a difference. That’s when you can expect results, such as seeing the win rate go up.
So how can you help your employees to go through all four stages and end up at Stage D?
In short you could help them by facilitating three different interventions, as shown in the figure below:
- Learning & Practice and
Discovery: How to get from A to B?
To get from Stage A to B your employees need to recognise their incompetence and the value of learning a new skill.
Ways they could get informed and discover their incompetence are, for example:
- Seminars: a speaker explains that a 15% win rate is very low and shows them what a winning proposal looks like.
- Media: an article in the newspaper explains how successful companies have a win rate of 40% or more.
- Informal learning: a colleague of another department tells them at the coffee machine how they have improved their win rate.
- Performance reviews: their manager asks them why their win rate has been 15% for the past year and gives them the task to improve it.
- Consultancy: the organisation hires a consultant to benchmark their performance and find out it’s low compared to their competitors.
- Teaser: a short video or animation, for example at the start of a training or e-learning module, explains why a 15% win rate is something they might want to improve.
Now ask yourself: what kind of intervention would fit within your organisation?
Although this might seem like an easy enough step, it could get tricky. People generally don’t like to hear they need to change something…
The best intervention depends on your organisation, your employees (what would resonate with them?), and of course your budget.
Learning & Practice: How to get from B to C?
To get from Stage B to C your employees need to learn the skill and practice it. Ways they could learn the skill are through, for example:
- Workshops: following a workshop on how to write winning proposals
- eLearning: following an eLearning module on writing proposals
- Tools and job aids: using templates to practice writing proposals
- Self-study: reading a guide on writing great proposals
- Informal learning: talking to colleagues and finding out how they write proposals and what they could learn from that
- Tests: taking a (formative) test and learn from the feedback they get
- Coaching on-the-job: having experts coach the learners as they attempt to execute the skill and “fade” or pull back as the learners are increasingly able to work independently. Over the course of this cycle, the learners learn to identify and correct mistakes, and to integrate their growing knowledge and skill into a smooth, coordinated performance.
Again, the best (combination of) intervention(s) would depend on your organisation, your employees and your budget. As you can see though, there are lots of ways to get to Stage C.
Whichever intervention you choose, you might want to check out this earlier blogpost on formulating Learning Objectives and make the intervention as effective as possible.
Experience: How to get from C to D?
Training can help your employees to get from Stage B to C. Still the most important, yet often overlooked step is getting from C to D.
Let’s imagine your employees have followed a brilliant workshop on writing better proposals. They now know what makes a great proposal, what the optimal writing process is and which aspects of the proposal they should pay extra attention to.
They have even practiced writing winning proposals.
In the workshop itself it seemed all very clear and logical, but back at their desk they probably won’t remember every step of that ‘perfect process’ and every important aspect (the ones that make a proposal a winning proposal). They simply cannot memorise everything.
“What was it about the use of visuals again?”
What you could do to help your employees is to provide tools like:
- Quick Reference Cards (QRC’s): Provide a checklist of the most important aspects or an overview of the steps in the ‘perfect process’.
- Templates: Provide a Word-template of an ideal structure for a proposal including comments with tips.
- Expert feedback opportunities: Give your employees the possibility to send their draft proposals to an expert to receive feedback.
Tools like these help your employees to remember what they’ve learnt, making it easier to implement their new knowledge and improve their proposal writing skills.
In the ideal world a workshop in combination with these tools are more than enough to get results. Your employees have all the knowledge they need to go and improve their skills and become experts on the subject.
In the ideal world that is…
In the real world most training fails because people don’t implement what they have learnt.
Often work has piled up while at the workshop, and your employees have heaps of e-mails to answer and deadlines to meet.
“First I’m going to answer these e-mails and finish the proposal I started last week. As quickly as possible, because the client is waiting for it. No time to improve the important aspects though. I’ll only be able to change the headings. If only I would have time to use what I’ve learnt!”
Or they do have the time needed to implement what they’ve learnt and just aren’t motivated or don’t dare to go and use their new knowledge, make mistakes and receive feedback. Or maybe they just have a hard time convincing colleagues to approach proposal writing differently from now on and end up writing proposals like they were used to before the training.
“The workshop was full of great ideas, but where do I start? And how do I convince Peter of a new way of working? Instead of waiting for that RFP to hit our desk and writing everything last minute, like we always do. I’m also sure he won’t appreciate it when I tell ‘Hey, I won’t be using your template anymore, but instead will use my own’. Hmm… maybe I could use his template and just make minor changes…”
Lack of time or motivation can prevent your employees from applying the skills (correctly) and getting that much needed experience. Because only experience leads to ‘unconsciously competent’ employees and that desired higher win rate.
Personally I find this the most interesting and challenging step: How to adjust your organisation in such a way that your employees are not only able to use what they’ve learnt, but are actually motivated to do so?
As mentioned in a previous blogpost most important of all is how your organisation facilitates your employees in:
- Gaining experience
- Making mistakes, getting feedback and learning from it
- Expanding and sharing their knowledge and skills
Maybe your organisation has a work environment that nurtures learning. An environment where your employees:
- Are able to use, improve and share new knowledge and skills
- Have time for deliberate practice
- Are allowed to make mistakes
- Receive useful feedback
- Dare to share their knowledge with colleagues
If you however find that that ‘win rate’ (or an equivalent expected output) didn’t improve the reason could be that your organisation isn’t optimally nurturing learning.
Would you like some help?
Could you use some help with any of the above interventions (Discovery, Learning & Practice or Experience) to get your employees from Stage A to Stage D?
I would love to (help you) design the whole learning process or evaluate the current interventions. Finding out where the bumps in the road are and implement a solution (or two) to fix them.
A design or solution that will get you those ‘unconsciously competent’ employees, that improved ‘win rate’ and also that ROI on your training (or other interventions).
Want to know more on how I could help you? Contact me for a free consult and we’ll have a chat about it.
Are you thinking of sending your employees on a training? Or maybe ask them to follow an e-learning course?
Often training is quite an investment. So what can you do to make sure the effect of the training doesn’t wear off and you get the change you are looking for?
As I’ve explained here a training itself often doesn’t lead to change. For a training to have an effect, your employees need to use what they’ve learnt at their jobs. Using the new knowledge and skills at their jobs isn’t something the training can teach them. It is something that you need to facilitate within your organisation.
What can you do? 3 Tips to get more effect out of your training
There is no ‘silver bullet’ to make a work environment ‘learn friendly’, but there are some things you could do to improve the effect of the training. Here are three facts and tips to help you along.
Fact 1: Most of what your employees learn in a (formal) training, they will forget within 3 weeks or less if they don’t use it.
-> What you can do: Make sure your employees use their knowledge and skills immediately after the training, instead of after two weeks or more. Plan the training right before your employees are going to use the new knowledge and skills. Preferably have them use their new knowledge and skills the day after the training.
Fact 2: The best way to improve a skill is a combination of deliberate practice and receiving feedback, where ideally that feedback comes from someone with an expert eye. And where the feedback is perceived as directed toward the task and not as personal criticism.
-> What you can do: Let the learning continue at the workplace, instead of having your employees follow a training and not getting any support after that. For example arrange for an expert to give feedback to your employees while they’re using their new skills. Having an expert available will also give your employees the chance to ask questions and learn even more. They will need feedback or else there’s the risk they’ll make mistakes and will keep making them, because nobody points them out.
Fact 3: Research has found that one of the most important factors in translating formal learning into improved performance is the expectation set by managers before the training takes place.
-> What you can do: Before the training; set and communicate a goal or multiple goals, so your employees know what it is they are working towards. This will also help you evaluate the effect of the training.
My advice? Implement these three tips and you will increase the effect of any training.
Still didn’t get the change you are looking for?
Did you implement the above tips and still have the feeling, or the hard numbers to prove it, that you aren’t reaching the goals you set before the training? Then, there might be roadblocks or hurdles that prevent, or demotivate your employees from implementing what they’ve learnt.
The lack of results is often a good indication the new knowledge and skills aren’t used (in the right way).
Reasons your employees aren’t using what they’ve learnt could be:
- Overwhelmed, don’t know where to start
- Hard time convincing colleagues to use a new methodology
- No time
- Not a priority
- They’re using it in the wrong way, because they don’t get feedback
- Not motivated to use it
I’d love to help you find out what is blocking the flow of learning and how to smoothen the ride. Not only to get more effect out of one particular training, but to get more effect out of any training your employees follow.
Contact me to book a consultation and have a chat about the possibilities.
Learning Objectives, why bother?
It is so important, yet people tend to forget them; the basics of creating training and learning materials: Learning Objectives.
This blogpost by Kasper Spiro reminded me again of how often people ‘forget’ to formulate the Learning Objectives before they start developing a training. Why do they forget, while everybody knows they are important, even crucial when it comes to creating training and learning materials that work?
My guess? Because it is just to tempting to start with developing/writing as soon as possible. Especially when you are an expert on the topic. You just write down everything you know and think the learners should know as well.
It’s kind of logical right? Just start developing/writing the training and make sure everything you know is in there. Then the training will be great, because EVERYTHING (!) is in there.
Hmmm… not a good idea.
Formulating Learning Objectives are important for, among others, the following reasons:
- To be able to select and organise course content, and determine appropriate instructional strategies and assessments.
- To be able to assess if the learners gained the new knowledge and skills you wanted them to learn; did they reach the learning objectives?
- To be able to assess if the training worked; did the learners reach (all) the learning objectives/goals? (Or do you evaluate a training like this?)
- To be able to connect learning objectives/goals to company goals; is this training aligned with the company goals?
- To have learners be able to direct their learning efforts and monitor their own progress; which learning goals did I reach and which should I be working on to complete the training successfully?
Besides that: Learning Objectives make it possible to reduce the content of the training, making it more efficient and effective. Making people learn things they aren’t going to use or just don’t need to know is useless. It is even counterproductive, because it is rather demotivating to spend time on something you are not going to use anyway. And that way there will be less time to spend on knowledge and skills that are important. So teaching people only the stuff they actually need to know to reach the learning objectives (and company goals) is a good idea.
How to create Learning Objectives?
There are several models on creating Learning Objectives, like Bloom’s Taxonomy or Romiszowski Taxonomy. But let’s start simple and just use the following three types of Learning Objectives:
- Knowledge: what does the learner ‘know’ after following the training?
- Skills: what is the learner able to ‘do’ after following the training?
- Attitude: what kind of behaviour will the learner ‘show’ after following the training?
I have attached a template which I often used myself for creating different types of training. Although very basic, it has proven it’s effectiveness and it might be able to help you as well.
Download the Global Design template below (click on the image) and use it as an instrument to structure your training. Just fill in the subjects of the training, the different learning objectives and how you plan to teach about them and eventually assess them.
Feel free to share your experiences with Learning Objectives and the Global Design template by leaving a comment below.
Having trouble formulating learning objectives? Check out this tool created by Arizona State University: the Objectives Builder. The tool helps you to create better learning objectives based on Blooms Taxonomy.