Reinforcement Programs Should Use Technology and Balance to Engage Participants

We’ve reached the point where reinforcement isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have, especially leveraging technology to engage participants long after the learning event! While we have all experienced great events or programs, we also know the all-too-familiar frustration of failing to apply and practice new skills once we are back in our day-to-day environments. 

To combat this challenge, FlashPoint’s clients have been working to add various reinforcement components to the leadership development efforts. We are encouraging thinking about “experiences” or “journeys” versus “events” and working to adapt existing programs to align with this mindset. 

A GREAT REINFORCEMENT PROGRAM HAS:

Clarity of purpose

Balance of methods

Proper technology

Appropriate length

Appropriate interval/frequency

We’ll dig into each of these next.

CLARITY OF PURPOSE

The crux of the issue with many reinforcement programs is the clarity of purpose: Reinforcement is not the same as reminding. When we design reinforcement programs, we work to balance the goals so it is more than just reminding leaders about the content and skills covered. Great programs also include 1) ideas on how the leader can apply the content or skills gained during sessions, 2) deeper content that will show the leader other aspects they could consider to continue to evolve their mindset, and 3) strategies that drive retention of information or knowledge gained.

Too many companies strive to reinforce training but end up retraining. When you reinforce learning, you should not simply cut up your existing training course into bite-sized pieces. Think about your purpose—how can you use a reinforcement program that can drive practice, application, and behavior change within the leader?

BALANCE OF METHODS

Some of the basic reinforcement programs we have seen might include sending out a toolkit after a classroom session or providing e-learning courses that relate to the content covered within a workshop. These are certainly a step in the right direction, but the best programs include multiple touchpoints over time—most importantly these methods and approaches should be versatile to reach a variety of learners: worksheet downloads, links to resources, questions or application challenges, reference materials, quizzes, inspiring quotes, and videos.

PROPER TECHNOLOGY

There are a number of technology applications that can help you with reinforcement programs, including mobile reinforcement apps, text-based systems, learning management system (LMS), meeting software like GoToMeeting/ Adobe Connect/ Skype, and more!

These programs can be used for simple reinforcement webinars, virtual group coaching, on-demand resources, or bitesize learning tools and tips sent post-training. They often help with measurement as well since in many of these applications there is tracking software to help you keep track of participation and gather analytics on questions about how leaders are applying the learning.

APPROPRIATE LENGTH AND INTERVAL/FREQUENCY

Effective reinforcement requires sending the right amount of information at the right time, across the right timeframe after the learning initiative. Determining the length and interval for your reinforcement program will depend based on your program goals, leader levels, what content you’re reinforcing, and more. But overall, reinforcement is meant to supplement the base understanding that leaders have gained from training by giving them ways to use the skills and knowledge to boost performance well after an in-person event.

These five components of a great reinforcement program can serve as a guide when developing your own programs. As a place to get started, just pick one of your workshop or classroom sessions and think more about how you can sustain the learning over time with key touchpoints. Since reinforcement programs are the bridge between your participants gaining knowledge in a session and applying it during their day-to-day roles, don’t forget to start with a clear purpose. This will set the tone for what and why so you can make all other decisions around the how and the when.

Krista F. Skidmore, ESQ., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Partner and Co-founder, Indianapolis, Indiana