My employees come back from training energised but I usually don’t see a sustained improvement in their behaviour or performance. How do I change that?
It has been my experience that there are a number of very important factors missing in skills development frameworks and that, without these, your experience is the rule and not the exception. This is evidenced by a well-documented statistic that only about 15% of classroom-based learning translates into improved workplace performance.
Here are some ways that you can improve this statistic in your workplace:
- Start with employee accountability: there is much focus in our country on education and employment as things we are entitled to. However, I challenge you to shift this way of thinking, to foster an environment where your staff want to learn and where they take responsibility for their improved performance following training.
Before any of your staff members attends a skills development programme, ask them to document why they want to attend, what they hope to be able to do as a result of attending.
Once they have been on training, have them document the key lessons learnt and how they plan to apply these in the workplace.
Here comes the tough part: agree a course of action that will hold the employee accountable to improved performance. All of this can be captured in a “delegate charter”.
- Encourage employees to entrench the lessons learnt: they can do this by practicing new skills immediately e.g. following time-management training, an employee can:
- Document how he spends his time
- Delegate appropriate tasks to colleagues
- Discuss prioritising techniques with his manager.
He can also entrench learning by teaching others what he has learnt. Encourage your staff to debrief afterwards and to share key learning points with colleagues e.g. as an agenda item during your regular, team meetings. The more they do this, the more entrenched the lessons will become.
- Provide workplace coaching and mentoring: coaching allows employees to get guidance from more experienced colleagues regarding how to apply classroom lessons to the workplace. The delegate charter” mentioned above is key if workplace coaching is to be successful; employees need to know what lessons they want to entrench and how to go about this.
If they know what questions to ask of workplace coaches, they will lead these discussions and they should be more receptive to what their coaches say.
Mentoring can be defined as “off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking” (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 1995).
This is more strategic and high-level guidance than coaching, which relates to specific skills that need to be developed.
Mentoring provides a “30 000 feet view”; guiding principles that influence paradigm shifts through thinking and therefore behaviours.
It is important that all involved parties have received guidance on the processes and principles of coaching and mentoring.
These are skills that not everyone has but that can certainly be developed. Formal training courses can be invaluable here.
- Evaluate employee performance at regular intervals: e.g. every three months following training. As part of the delegate charter, key performance indicators should be identified and improvement across these should be charted over time.
It may be most effective for employees to evaluate their own performance and to discuss these views with their managers.
Regular introspection and self-analysis brings awareness to what we do every day; we are conscious about what we do and how well we do it.
This continued focus on personal performance is, I believe the key to sustained improvement and energy.