What separates good training from great training?

I have written several articles about the elements that make up an effective training session - from needs analysis, to course design, to delivery methods and through to evaluations. But even with all these elements in place, the training is often blamed when the expected improved business results aren’t achieved.

Why is this? Because what makes good training great training is often what happens after the training session is done.

In many company learning initiatives, there is still an implied sense that when the trainer leaves, the training is done. As I stated in the last issue, training is most effective if followed up by coaching, scheduled practice and other means of support.

This is the often overlooked “reinforcement” stage. Even with the most soundly designed training materials and delivery methods, trainees may lose 70 percent or more of what was trained within just one week if there is no reinforcement.

Follow-up may also include process changes among employees who were not even part of the training sessions.

Timing is Important

The timing of the training certainly plays a role. Training individuals today for skills and knowledge that they won’t use for another six months certainly doesn’t make sense.

Nor does training in new tools, systems or software when the location or the company is not yet technologically ready to support them.

In most cases, the capabilities and processes must be in place before the training phase begins, even if the company is not fully using such capabilities.

Expectation of Change

Often, it is understood that new knowledge and skills need to be acquired through training, but there is also an expectation of change. This can include behavioral changes in the individual trainees and/or process changes across the organization.

One of the more effective methods to ensure such changes is to use a scorecard. This has been used very effectively in my organization in a high-profile project that I have been involved in for more than two years.

Where our training has focused on the use of new tools and new technology, these do not exist in a vacuum. The tools and technology are part of a larger process, and behavioral changes are necessary for these to be used to maximum effectiveness.

The trainee must be coached in follow-up training as to how his or her use of these technologies affects other system users and other employees involved in the larger process.

Scorecard Use

We have used a scorecard with specific items that can be measured – such as stop idle time, turn time with the customer, turn time in the yard, etc. - and these are recorded daily and reported weekly.

The results for an individual, a location and company averages are all highly visible. The friendly “competition” between individuals and stores has driven the “measurable” to where the company wants them to be, and in many key areas, company goals have been exceeded.

In the case of my company’s project, the technology itself has provided a means to extract much of the key scorecard data. But measurables can also be recorded by means of regular surveys, checklists, work order analysis and observation reports.

Even something as simple as regularly scheduled conference calls or meetings to discuss opportunities employees have had to put the new skills and knowledge to work, and challenges and barriers they may have faced, can also be very effective follow-up.

Whatever post-training tools you can develop, you can never have a truly great training experience if training is allowed to go stale.

Stephen Howe is a field trainer and technical training consultant for United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company with approximately 900 branch locations in North America. www.unitedrentals.com. He is a past president of the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC), a global organization of training managers from automotive aftermarket, OEM, supplier, service tool and training companies.