How to Make Training “Stick”
As summer is ending and kids are going back to school, I was thinking about ways to get the most out of learning. While there are many reasons for attending a training class, most of us take training to meet a certification requirement, or because we need to improve/expand our skills.
Just like we tell our kids to do in school, we know that during training, it’s important to take good notes, interact positively with our instructor and classmates, and pay attention to the lessons that are covered. Doing these things will get you through the course just fine. But, to make sure you get the most out of your learning opportunity, there are three easy things you can do before, during, and after training to make sure it “sticks.”
- Before – Take time to prepare.
In addition to having your supervisor approve your training request, you should also spend a few minutes talking to your supervisor about why you need to attend the training. Specifically, review the course objectives with your supervisor and make plans for how you will apply the training once back on the job. If you have an Individual Development Plan (IDP), then the training you are planning to take should be linked directly to a topic or skill on your IDP.
If there are specific questions you or supervisor have about the topic or skill, or areas you are struggling with, make a list to share with the instructor. Good instructors will start the class by asking you what you hope to get out of the training. Then, they’ll know which areas to emphasize and which areas will have most meaning for the students. Your instructor and fellow classmates have a wealth of knowledge and varied experiences, and most instructors welcome the opportunity for questions and debate during class!
- During – Create an action plan.
We all know you either “use it or lose it.” Some training courses end with having students develop an action plan. The purpose of this, of course, is to document ways in which you will apply what you learned on the job. This is an important step in helping training “stick.”
Mastering the skills you learned in training will take time and practice. Be sure to complete the action plan with things you want to remember and/or apply back on the job. Set goals for yourself and identify a strategy for achieving those goals.
Even if you aren’t working on a current project that relates to the training, find a way to get involved with one. Maybe you can take on a small assignment or join a project team at work. Alternatively, maybe there’s a way to practice what you’ve learned in your personal life – plan a party to practice your project management skills, volunteer at your kids’ school, or get involved in a professional or community group to practice your leadership skills.
- After – Reinforce what you learned.
Once you have completed your action plan and left the training facility, it can be easy to get caught up in other priorities, deadlines, and fire drills at work. But, this is the time to put what you learned into action. Here are a few easy tips:
- Keep your action plan in a place that you can see everyday
- Create job aids and checklists for yourself
- Hold yourself accountable for using the tools and techniques covered in training
- Find a coach or mentor
- Put reminders on your calendar to brush up on your action plan
- Update your IDP regularly
One additional way to reinforce what you learned is to participate in a follow-up evaluation a few months after the class. The follow-up evaluation is meant to determine the degree to which the behaviors/skills learned in training are applied to the job. You are typically asked questions such as “How much has your job performance improved since you completed the training?” or “If you have not been able to apply the knowledge/skills, why not?”
Information from the follow-up evaluation is often used by the training provider to show that learning was applied on the job. Even if you don’t receive a follow-up evaluation, quiz yourself and see how well you are doing. If you are struggling to apply what you learned, try to understand the reasons why. Do you need additional tools/resources? Do you need more support? Did you have too many other things going on? Once you identify the obstacles, you can work on removing them and applying what you’ve learned.
Do you have ideas or tips for how to make sure training “sticks”? What has worked for you? We’d love to hear from you!