Human behavior is complex, including our behavior on the job. It’s not just about learning. As L&D practitioners—and organizations as a whole—have learned, it takes more than a half-day training course to change how things are done in the office or other work environment.
Behavior does include knowledge, but it also comprises how much an employee is supported and aided by managers, peers, and senior leaders, as well as the organizational culture. In “Revamp Training to Improve Learners’ Performance” Fergal Connolly urges L&D professionals to focus on their learning design in addition to the learner and the learners’ ecosystem. Doing so will change behavior and make a difference in the organization’s success.
Learning DesignWhen considering how you may design your learning to help more effectively change behavior, consider “what [learners] need to be able to do,” explains Connolly.
Give participants ample time to practice what they need to be able to do and provide feedback on how they’re doing. “It’s about engaging intensely with real tasks and problems that learners actually face rather than talking about them. When participants leave the training, they will be well-equipped to continue using the new behavior because they have practiced it in a safe environment,” Connolly writes.
Consider the training course and how you will prepare learners and their managers for the necessary change in behavior. Remember that it’s important to keep strategic business objectives top of mind when designing learning to change behavior.
Learners“People need to know why changing their behavior is important. They need to understand what they will be able to do if and when they change—as well as the benefits of doing those actions,” notes Connolly.
After explaining what participants will learn during the course and how it will benefit them, their managers and teams, and their organization, introduce learners to a learning action plan that they will use after a training course.
To develop the learning action plan, participants reflect on what they have learned and what they will take forward to do differently, why they want to do so, when they will do it, whom they will need support from, and how they will achieve their goals. Crafting this plan helps provide accountability and follow-through.
Learners’ EcosystemWhen L&D professionals consider their learners, it’s imperative that they remember that the course participants likely will return to different work environments. One learner may have been encouraged by their manager beforehand with an encouraging “I look forward to hearing about what you’ve learned” send-off. A second learner may—implicitly or explicitly—be told to hurry back to the work and emails that will be mounting in the learner’s absence. As well, learners will have varying levels of support when it comes to their peers, tools and systems, and senior leaders.
How can your L&D practitioner influence these factors? Working with learners’ managers prior to and after the training is key. Just as you prime the learner by getting them excited before the training course—for example, by letting them know of past learners’ positivity about the learning experience and how the course will make a difference in the learner’s work and career; you can also prime the manager by showing how the training course and new behavior can lead to a more productive team. Working with the manager after the training can include holding conversations about opportunities for the learner to try out new behaviors or simply asking the manager if they have questions or need your support.
If you’re able and it makes sense to do so, facilitate a course with multiple members of the same team so there’s a peer network of support after the training. If that’s not possible, create a buddy system for learners so they have support as well as accountability.
Leader Buy-InLeaders are a vital part of the learning ecosystem, and they deserve a special call out because of their importance.
When you think strategically about learning and strive to align training with business goals, leaders will take notice.
Connolly advises: "A training request aligning with a company goal doesn’t mean a training event must happen. First learn what employees need to do to help the company reach the goal, who needs to perform the new behavior and in what situations, and how to measure the improved performance behavior. If you can’t find those answers, it’s unlikely that a training solution will do anything to move the needle."
In those instances, seek other approaches. Leaders will thank you for not wasting time on a futile training.