The worst thing that can happen at the beginning of a long drive is for your car to start making a weird noise.
Is that whining sound the drive belt? Does that thumping mean the flux capacitor is shot?
You know something’s wrong, but you don’t know what.
So you take the car to a mechanic, who opens it up, looks through the innards, and then charges you an arm and a leg to tell you what’s wrong with it.
Unfortunately, there are few “corporate training mechanics” to look deep into your training program and diagnose exactly what’s wrong with it (though they’ll still charge you an arm and a leg).
But what if you could learn to listen for those telltale funny sounds—the whines and bumps of an off-kilter training course—and diagnose the issue yourself?
If you want to become your own training course mechanic, start by committing to memory these three signs that your course is failing its objectives:
1. You don’t have them!
Objectives, that is.
Do you even know what you’re trying to accomplish with your corporate training course? And I don’t mean something vague like, “onboard new hires” or, “improve employees’ customer service skills.”
Have you done a needs analysis to pin down problem areas and things that can be improved with training?
Do you have clear, well-defined, objective metrics you can use to gauge the effectiveness of your training?
Objectives should look something like, “improve an employee’s customer satisfaction scores as measured one week before training and one week after training” or, “ensure a new hire can pass the certification test for the machinery/software they’ll be operating.”
Ideally your training objectives should use the “SMART” criteria, and be decided well ahead of actually designing the course itself.
That “M” in SMART (“measurable”) brings us to the second sign that your course is failing its objectives.
2. You don’t actually evaluate what employees learned (or you do it only once)
Companies, says Dr. Eduardo Salas, Director of the Institute for Simulation and Training, don’t do nearly enough to evaluate how well employees have learned after a training course.
“Testing is an integral part of training. It is paramount for recognizing skills decay,” he says.
But most companies simply get reaction data from trainees, and don’t go any further. According to Dr. Salas, “the correlation is very weak between reaction to training and actual learning.”
Not only do you need to test actual skills learned during the training, but you need to do it on a continual basis.
According to a study in The Journal of Economic Education, annual rate of retention loss of learned material is anywhere from 13% to 23%, and Dr. Salas quotes even more dire statistics from the American Society for Training and Development claiming 90% of the skills learned in training are lost by the time trainees go back to the job.
This means it is imperative to not only test an employee immediately after training, but to do so multiple times over the course of a year or more to measure skills decay, and be able to apply remedial training as necessary.
You can’t manage what you’re not measuring.
3. Employees don’t have the opportunity to practice what they learned immediately after training
Measuring skills decay is one thing (and certainly important), but preventing it in the first place is something else entirely.
The forgetting curve posits that 79% of learned information is forgotten within a month, if nothing is done to reinforce it. This means certain activities can flatten the forgetting curve, and increase retention rates for learners.
Among these activities are repetition, practice, and application.
If your learners are not immediately putting the skills gained in training into practice, it’s unlikely they’ll retain them for long.
Does your training program extend past the classroom into activities aimed at reinforcing the learning while on the job? Does your skills testing include consistent opportunities for practice? Do you follow up with trainees to ensure they’re actually using and applying what they learned?
If not, it’s just another sign your training course is failing its objectives.
Have you noticed other similarities between unsuccessful training programs? Have you tried to implement continuous skills testing or learning application activities? How did it go?
Add your thoughts in the comments!
Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.