December 9, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 20
"How-to" tips and advice on increasing
business prosperity, published every other
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-- Feature Article: Tips on Making Training Stick (Part 1)
-- Note from the Author: Management's Role in Setting the Conditions for Success
-- Special Message: How Management Support Affects Employee Health
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Management's Role in Setting the Conditions for Success
In my last newsletter issue, I discussed two types of organizational improvement techniques: training and "tune-ups." Each has important applications that should be weighed carefully before use.
Today's issue is devoted to exploring the roles that management can and should play in ensuring that training -- as well as other types of improvement interventions -- produces the best possible results. Rather than leaving success to chance, "the boss" can systematically engineer a positive outcome.
The better management can set the conditions for success by planning all aspects of the training experience, the more readily employees can apply what they have learned in a way that benefits the organization. This means that management must anticipate and orchestrate what occurs before, during, and after the instruction to make training "stick."
You may have experienced this phenomenon yourself -- embarking on an expensive and time-consuming program, only to lose steam somewhere along the way. The last thing you'd want to see happen is the whole effort being wasted because the follow-up fell through, or because some key aspect didn't receive enough attention.
For these reasons, I hope you enjoy today's issue, including "Tips on Making Training Stick (Part 1)" And please join the conversation by leaving your comments on my blog!
Here's to your business prosperity,
Adele Sommers, author of the "Straight
Talk on Boosting Business Performance" success
P.S. If you missed any previous issue, visit
the newsletter index!
How Management Support Affects Employee Health
According a recently published Swedish study, badly behaved and incompetent bosses make work stressful and also increase the risk of heart disease for their staff. The study, which was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, concluded that when an employee feels undervalued and unsupported, the related stress can trigger the unhealthy behaviors that lead to heart disease.
Per the abstract, "A Swedish team found a strong link between poor leadership and the risk of serious heart disease and heart attacks among more than 3,000 employed men. And the effect may be cumulative -- the risk went up the longer an employee worked for the same company.
"Researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University tracked the heart health of the male employees, aged between 19 and 70 years and working in the Stockholm area, over a period of nearly a decade. During this time, 74 cases of fatal and non-fatal heart attack or acute angina, or death from ischaemic heart disease, occurred. The staff who deemed their senior managers to be the least competent had a 25 per cent higher risk of a serious heart problem. And those working for what was classed as a long time -- four years or more -- had a 64 per cent higher risk."
Participants rated their senior managers, grading them on such things as how well they communicated clear expectations, work goals and objectives, relevant job information, and feedback; how often they provided empathy and encouragement; their ability to successfully push through and carry out changes; and whether they delegated sufficient authority for employees to carry out their job responsibilities.
What benefits do good managers impart? Per Anna Nyberg of the Karolinska Institute and the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, "One could speculate that a present and active manager, providing structure, information, and support, counteracts destructive processes in work groups, thereby promoting regenerative rather than stress-related physiological processes in employees."
Source: A. Nyberg and others. Managerial leadership and ischaemic heart disease among employees: the Swedish WOLF study, Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Tips on Making Training Stick (Part 1)
by Adele Sommers
Training is a powerful improvement technique that offers tremendous benefits when judiciously used. The downside is that it's an expensive and ephemeral way to close a "performance gap" in an organization. Expensive -- because it takes people away from their regular work and often involves development, logistics, and support costs. Ephemeral -- because of its fragile and short life span within people's brains, which is why learners need considerable follow-up support to make use of training.
In a previous newsletter, I explained that training is the how-to information people need to effectively perform in their jobs, presuming that their natural talents are a good fit for their responsibilities. You would use training only when indicated to bridge a true knowledge gap. (There are many situations in which training might not be appropriate, such as when people already have sufficient job knowledge but are being impeded by other circumstances.)
This article, the first in a series, discusses management's role in supporting the many factors that influence how well people can transfer to their jobs any training they receive.
Transferring Training to the Job Requires More than Luck
The term "transfer of training" refers to the ability of learners to apply their new knowledge and skills to real-world situations, particularly in the workplace.
If trainees cannot apply what they've learned to their jobs, their training time and investment will have been wasted!
Training transfer "success factors" include, but are not limited to:
- A compelling, mission-based training purpose
- Learners' attitudes toward the training process
- The design and relevance of instructional materials
- The presence or absence of obstacles to productivity
- Working conditions that support and encourage the desired outcomes
- Budget and schedule allocations that enable learners to practice skills
- The availability of necessary tools, resources, equipment, and job aids
- The level of management support for the immediate use of the training
- The amount of post-training motivation, practice, and guidance provided
Below are two of four critical steps managers can take to ensure that training transfer occurs!
Step 1: Determine Organizational Needs that Require Training
Training programs are most effective when they directly address organizational problems or opportunities.
Whenever it's clear that training can support a compelling organizational need, learners will take it more seriously, and it will be far easier to justify and calculate a return on investment.
So, identify the critical business issues related to proposed training in terms of:
- Problems: For example, a high rate of customer complaints; dwindling sales, the risk of losing certification; or poor product quality.
- Opportunities: For example, expanding into new markets; improvements to products or processes to increase profitability; anticipated regulatory changes; or achieving industry certifications.
Next, answer the following regarding the identified problems or opportunities:
- What outcomes should this training produce? Sample outcomes include increased product sales; decreased customer complaints; better designs of process experiments; more accurate defect analysis summaries; supervisors regularly coaching their employees.
- To which projects, products, and processes would the training pertain? Example: The assembly process for part 456 on the satellite project.
- What risks would be incurred if the identified outcomes were delayed? (For example, would there be an imminent loss involving a safety hazard, a product failure, or customer departure; or would a product rollout be delayed, a certification requirement missed, or a planned market repositioning stalled?)
- What alternatives to the instruction exist, if any? Can you satisfy the need for improvement using other approaches, instead of, or in addition to, training? You might discover through this analysis that training is not the answer, or is only part of the answer, to desired improvement as explained in this article.
Step 2: Carefully Plan the Instructional Experience
Describe the characteristics of the instruction that would result in the outcomes listed above:
- Identify a training objective for each outcome or desired achievement level. Training objectives involve three parts: a condition, an action, and a standard or criterion.
For example, "Given a new customer telephoning with questions [a condition], be able to provide fast and accurate product information [an action] to comply with standards on the customer support checklist [a criterion]."
- List any pre-course assignments that learners must complete. For example, list required readings, exercises, assessments, and surveys.
- Indicate the learner's commitments before, during, and after training. Example: Activities before instruction might require 10 hours to complete; the commitment during instruction might require 30 hours; and practice, support, and evaluation sessions afterward might require up to 40 hours.
- List reference aids and materials that learners will receive. For example, list manuals, tools, textbooks, procedures, and quick reference guides.
Next, have the employee and supervisor (or manager) complete a learning contract to spell out the commitments each is making to help ensure optimal learning. Use a separate contract for each employee.
I, __________________________, wish to receive the following instruction:
________________________________. If chosen to participate, I agree to:
- Complete and return all pre-course assignments on time.
- Attend and actively participate in all course sessions.
- Keep an "ideas and applications notebook" and/or write an action plan.
- Discuss the applications ideas and/or action plan with my supervision.
- Share highlights of the program with my work team (e.g., at staff meetings).
- Participate in all follow-up practice, support, and/or evaluation sessions.
Supervisor's (or Manager's) Commitment:
I, ____________________, supervisor of the above employee, agree to:
- Participate in all planning, needs analysis, and/or briefing sessions.
- Release the employee from work assignments to enable participation in all sessions and assignments before, during, and after instruction.
- Minimize interruptions to the instructional process.
- Discuss "ideas and applications notebooks" and/or action plans with the employee.
- Encourage the employee to share highlights of the program with the work team.
- Model skills, coach the employee, and/or provide specific occasions for practice and integration of the new skills into the employee's job.
Adapted from M. Broad & J. Newstrom (1992). Transfer of Training.
In conclusion, management's lead role in establishing a compelling training need and requesting a mutual commitment is essential to learner success. Part 2 will explore several other parameters that management must support to ensure the transfer of training to the workplace.
Copyright 2010 Adele Sommers
A Reminder on Management's Role in Workplace Hassles
"Poor managers create workplace hassles for everyone. Average managers neither create nor reduce workplace hassles, while excellent managers reduce hassles for themselves and their employees. Simply put, poor managers are always creating ways to shoot everyone's feet off, average ones just use the usual ways of shooting feet off, and excellent managers want to stop the amputations."
-- Robert Bacal, Bacal & Associates
Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of "Straight
Talk on Boosting Business Performance" -- an award-winning
Special Report and Workbook program.
If you liked today's issue, you'll love this down-to-earth
overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies
can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise,
tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers.
It's accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed
to help you easily create your own success action plan.
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