Developing a learning culture is an integral part of maximizing team talents, streamlining processes, increasing innovation and growth, and creating a positive and successful organizational environment. This, along with the proliferation of ultracapable free LMS software solutions should be to the advantage of businesses and other institutions.
Evidence mounts, however, that some organizations luck out on pursuing a culture of learning while others seem to thrive on it. Statistics from Oxford reveal that:
- roughly half of the executives say their company is capable of retaining, updating and sharing institutional knowledge
- 47% say their company has a culture of continuous learning
- 41% of employees say their company offers them opportunities to expand their skill sets.
But these fly in the face of the following:
- Most employee training and development programs fall significantly short of their goals, yielding only 20–30% information retention and skill application.
- This results in nearly $113 billion training dollars wasted in the US alone every year, and almost 43 hours per employee per year wasted in the average organization.
What to make of this bad half of the equation—blame the lack of perception in the HR department? Is learning and training to be treated as an approach with such mixed bag of results?
Must we accept training as a “necessary evil” with weak and disappointing results? Or are there aspects of training we can pinpoint using educational psychology and neuroscience to maximize results?
In this article, we’ll introduce you to 8 ways to effectively improve your learning approach and see positive results.
8 Flaws of Employee Training and Development
Typical approaches to learning will usually be lacking in these areas:
- Employees shun participation
- Training preparation is simply lacking
- What’s being taught is remotely usable
- Storytelling element is absent
- Overload of information in such a short time
- Reinforcement: session is done, time to move on to another program
- Generic and generalized content
- Where’s the boss in all these?
Resolve the 8 Flaws and Watch Outcomes Skyrocket
Explore these flaws in the following pages to see how repairing these issues in your employee training and development can 3X your results.
Employees shun participation
With such dismal industry-wide retention rates, training easily conjures dread among organizations and employees alike. In many cases, participants have developed the almost instinctive aversion to training events as previous experiences with them only confirm how it takes them away from their busy schedules for little or no tangible value.
How to address this learning bad rap? The following will help:
- Training should complement rather than detract from employee schedules.
- Training should be directly connected and tailored to participants’ specific roles and situations.
- Training should be presently useful and implementable.
With employees and leaders excited about a program, they will more than appreciate rather than shun learning and executing truly useful information.
Training preparation is simply lacking
Research from WorkLearning has shown that up to 25% of training that truly makes a difference is traceable to work done before any training event takes place.
An abridged, condensed program will not cut it: work before the main event will be a critical time to engage the learner, establish the groundwork for more powerful and more meaningful connections, paving the way for more intimate and effective learning atmosphere later.
Quick Tip: Search for and engage a program that employs “flipped learning.” This promotes truly engaging self-learning, self-analysis, and a connection between self and subject matter before the training event takes place. It expands the participant’s informational base
and renders learning more efficient and effective.
What's being taught is remotely useful
No doubt the curriculum to be used in the training event should align with the organization’s long-term strategy and goals; however, glossing over sessions content should not overlook considering the importance of immediate relevance and usefulness to a curriculum.
When participants see key concepts have immediate application to what their current tasks and positions entail, you have a better chance of triggering eagerness and you get a more realistic shot at having them commit the new information to habit and long-term memory.
Select a program that brings individualized application targets for participants using project-based learning to relate content to actual leadership and business challenges.
Storytelling element is absent
While you might ask, “Storytelling, what’s that? This is no writing course,” several studies conducted by Cine Learning positively confirm the effects of storytelling on learning: they found it significantly increases a participant’s ability to learn and apply information. Our minds simply work around stories.
Thus, if your training does n’t include persuasive, realistic storytelling, then you’re taking out a substantial chance of reinforcing learning and making possible long-term retention.
“In [our] research, it’s been found that adults could recite a story with all the relevant facts and figures verbatim even weeks after the learning took place, while adults subjected to a lecture on the material retained less than fifty percent of the same facts,” Cine Learning says.
Overload of information in such short time
When it comes to learning and absorption of information, less is more; or more precisely, just enough is better. If you are in the habit of cramming as much information as possible to your training programs in order to maximize facilitator and participant time, financial investment and target results, it’s time to rethink your learning approach.
To put it bluntly, this “drinking from the firehose” approach drives your participants feeling overwhelmed and introduces a situation where less information is learned and absorbed instead of more.
Indeed there are techniques for maximizing retention in a short amount of time, but psychologists will tell you there is only a finite amount of new information someone can retain in a single sitting—and the number is not as large as you imagine. Take it from mature, successful programs instead: dish out lessons in mental-friendly chunks over a more supportable timeline. If you’re using an LMS and it is like most of the top 20 LMS for small business then it likely has its own knowledge repository that can be used for such a purpose: work on relevant subjects in the repository and have the learner take on a volume that they can digest conveniently.
Reinforcement: It's done, time to move on to another program
Behavioral changes and skill implementation does not happen overnight: for that, simply ask psychologists, social workers, corporate learning advocates or just about anyone who has ever tried to teach anyone to snap a habit or absorb a new skill.
Just as other learning professionals see to putting in place ways to guide their enrollees even after leaving formal sessions, finding ways to reinforce learning in a business setting is an essential part of long-term application and retention of the material.
To drive the point, we have studies showing that over 50% of training value (long-term retention and on-the-job application of new skills and mindsets) comes from post-training reinforcement.
To improve retention of learned materials, we suggest the following:
- Create and have in place multimedia reminders
- Initiate facilitated discussions of participants
- Set up regularly review of action plans with supervisors
- Have in place ongoing personalized coaching
- Schedule weekly team meetings to reinforce strategies
Generic and generalized content
More than anything else, a generalized and generic content is the surest sign that the learning facilitator has rushed the program to be done with it as quickly as possible, just “part of the job” that could be disposed and forgotten conveniently. Unfortunately, employees are quick to catch on what’s really going on, only helping reinforce their wariness about such “learning and training programs” pursued by companies with the employees’ and the company’s interest in mind.
The exact opposite is true: with content carefully tailored to the participant’s duties, goals, or challenges ahead, they will quickly take to the training event intimately, and retaining and applying the new information naturally follows.
If you think individualizing curriculum for a disparate number of participants reeks of chasing after an unproven, unrealistic approach, it’s actually not as impossible as it may seem.
To have a shot of that, you may consider the following:
- Set up training programs and supplement them with personal training application coaching.
- Work out curriculum tied up to a dominant theme tailored to the individual (consider, for example, a participant’s unique communication patterns).
- Implement regular stops for self-assessments and sorting out action plans to execute new strategies.
Where's the boss in all these?
We can get all 7 previous solutions humming along well but still end up with a somewhat impaired, handicapped learning program: without a supervisor or immediate boss involvement, such training is likely to lack internal support or reinforcement, potentially sending us back to number 1 all over again.
A supervisor involved in selecting participants, communicating about training, defining goals, and holding regular development discussions gives such boss more buy-in and encourages them to:
- Assign tasks that align with and reinforce the newly acquired skills.
- Coach the individual on negotiating challenges related to new skills or mindsets.
- Support ongoing efforts and recognize improvements.
- Become a decisive factor in creating or supporting an organizational atmosphere conducive to changes gained via training or development.