A common objection to HR-led employee training programs is that they “don’t produce the desired results.” Following a large round of training programs, many organizations notice that very little changes about overall employee performance.
There are many reasons why certain programs might not produce positive outcomes following the conclusion of an internal employee learning initiative—including lack of interest from employees, low attendance, poorly optimized lessons, and the phenomenon known as “learning loss” — when employees forget lesson content and concepts over time because the lessons are not used.
The question for HR managers is: “How can my organization boost employee learning outcomes so employees actually improve after completing training programs?” Although the process of training and teaching employees can be complicated, the steps to improving learning outcomes can be surprisingly simple:
1: Make Lessons Applicable to Real-World Work Environments
When training content isn’t specifically applicable to the learner’s work environment, it can end up going to waste. This was the case for a manufacturing company which was highlighted in a Harvard Business Review article on why leadership training programs fail.
As stated in the HBR article, the manufacturer “suffered multiple fatalities at its operating plants despite a $20 million investment in a state-of-the-art center for safety training.” The reason that the training didn’t reduce fatalities was suggested to be “that the context in which they work makes it difficult for them to put what they’re taught into practice” based on responses cited by HBR.
So, one important step in maximizing the return on investment for any employee learning program is to make the lessons applicable to the employee’s real-world work environment. This may mean having to separate training sessions/groups by job role or conducting training in a hands-on, practical setting using situations and tools that employees will actually encounter in their regular duties.
2: Provide a Variety of Training Resources
Not every person learns in the same way. One employee might be fine with learning concepts from a book and applying them to their work; another might prefer a more “hands-on” approach. Rasmussen College, and many other educational institutions, have published articles defining many different kinds of learners.
In the case of Rasmussen College, learners are divided into four primary types: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Reading & Writing Learners.
- Visual learners “best comprehend information by visualizing relationships and ideas. Maps, charts, diagrams, and even essays work well” for these kinds of learners.
- Auditory learners “tend to prefer listening to information rather than reading it or seeing it visually displayed” and will benefit more from a live lecture than a book or written note.
- Kinesthetic learners “do best when they can participate in activities or solve problems in a hands-on manner.” For these learners, having practical activities is of enormous benefit.
- Reading & writing learners “prefer to consume information by reading texts and can further absorb information by condensing and rephrasing it.” For these learners, live lectures aren’t very effective unless they can rephrase lecture content in a written note.
Providing a variety of training resources and activity types is crucial for addressing the needs of each type of learner.
For example, having a live seminar with printed notes and visual aids followed by hands-on training sessions addressing training content can help each of the above learner types get more out of training. The visual aids and notes will help visual and reading learners, the lecture will be valuable for auditory learners, and the hands-on session will meet the needs of kinesthetic learners.
By meeting the needs of the different types of learners in an organization, trainers can maximize information retention—and the ROI of the training program.
3: Reinforce Lessons Post-Training to Prevent Learning Loss
In employee learning initiatives for professional organizations, learning loss can have a massive impact on the ROI for training. One way to effectively offset learning loss is to reintroduce learners to the content and concepts introduced in training on a periodic, ongoing basis. This can take many forms—from follow-up assessments of the skills and knowledge taught, to randomized quizzes on lesson content, to holding refresher courses on specific topics.
An additional benefit of making training content applicable to work environments is that it can help to passively (and constantly) reinforce lessons after the training is finished.
4: Boost Attendance
Training sessions that have a low attendance rate will, consequently, have a low ROI for producing positive change in the organization. Getting employees to attend training sessions can be difficult, but some basic strategies for boosting training program attendance include:
- Analyzing your training and development needs
- Adding virtual instructor-led program options and e-learning courses
- Telling participants what’s in it for them
- Sending reminders
- Communicating the consequences of failure to attend
By making training valuable to employees, increasing the accessibility of training by using e-learning resources, showing them how they’ll benefit from the training, reminding them when training is set to take place, and establishing firm (but fair) consequences for failing to attend training, it is possible to improve attendance rates for training programs.
5: Involve Team Leaders/Supervisors
Employees are less likely to prioritize the content of their training sessions if their team leaders treat those sessions as unimportant. Rather than focusing on training, these learners may be trying to just keep up with their daily job responsibilities—pushing the skill development need out of mind.
Getting team leaders and supervisors involved in the training session and having them relay the importance of the training to the people who report to them can make a significant difference for attendance, engagement and the overall ROI of a training initiative.
Having supervisors and team leaders weigh in on training objectives, lead training sessions, or guide employees through the training process helps make these leaders more invested in the training. It also shows employees that the training is important to their manager—making it a higher priority in their eyes.
OnPoint Consulting has helped many organizations improve the long-term benefits of their employee development programs over the years—helping them identify and develop future leaders and create stronger, more productive teams that generate better results.
Learn how OnPoint’s leadership development programs can help you improve training ROI while reducing time and resource expenses.
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