If there is one thing that we have learned about Millennials and Gen Xers, it is, ”If you don’t train them, they will leave.” Or worse: they will stay and our organizations will fall behind the competition. One of the strategic goals of training is to solve business problems by optimizing employee and leader talent. But what if your organization is one of those that already invests in their employees and leaders, and sets aside days for training only to have the attendees continue doing what they have always done? How can you ensure that the skills and behaviors needed to take the organization forward are being implemented and will solve a specific business problem?

Best practices used to be sending employees for one, two or three days of training and waiting for the transformation. Today, we know that classroom training alone doesn’t work. Not only is there no accountability built into the process, but business is moving so fast that leaders and employees taken out of their environments for one or more days are immediately so far behind that even practical learning is forgotten in the vortex of catching up.

What are high impact learning organizations doing to enable their employees and leaders to integrate new behaviors and skills, and to make the new learning part of the culture and expectations of everyone? It all starts with the business strategy and the goals the organization is charged with achieving. To align training with the strategy, we must first determine what skills or behaviors (competencies) are needed to meet the new goals. Once we know the needed competencies, we can proceed with five steps to develop high impact training.

Define the outcomes and success measures. Too often, this step is skipped. We need to know in advance how success will be measured. We need to know what “great performance” looks like so we need definitions for the competencies. Measurements might include a greater percentage of individual goals achieved, higher revenue per employee, fewer customer complaints, etc. Share the measurements with the participants. 

Conduct a needs analysis to understand whether the skills required actually exist. Are there skill gaps? Is there is a need for training or learning? Or is a different intervention more appropriate?  What is driving this need for training/learning? Has anything been done in the past? What are the possible learning solutions? Are there logistical considerations or constraints? In this process, you might use interviews, focus groups, questionnaires or follow up surveys from previous training participants. In some cases, observation of specific tasks will provide needed information.

Develop an outline of the learning objectives, program parameters, participant selection criteria and more. Also consider your options for development activities: assessments, case studies, action learning, coaching, mentoring, classroom, e-learning, etc. How will key components of the program be reinforced after the initial classroom training is completed? Will action learning, renewal sessions, virtual learning or group or individual coaching be used?  

Build the curriculum and program content and determine the most effective delivery method for each component. Today, effective learning is almost always “chunked” into manageable amounts, and the length of training might be six to nine months of monthly half-day sessions with assignments to practice skills between sessions. While the classroom might be the primary delivery method, some information might be “gamified.” Other information might be learned from the group solving a real business problem. When developing the initial learning methodologies, complete the process by building the reinforcement processes: webinars, group or individual coaching sessions or online quizzes. Many organizations re-assess the participants to determine progress.

Successful learning organizations involve their executives in critical training whether they kick off sessions or actually facilitate content. When participants understand that their implementation of new skills and behaviors is critical to the future success of the organization, it becomes more of a priority. When the measurements of success are known in advance by all, goals are more likely to be achieved.

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