In today’s marketplace, training falls into two main categories: effectiveness training, designed to improve individual performance, and the training organizations do to achieve widespread change across the board. An individual can attend a two-day workshop to learn how to ask better questions or improve his presentation skills and then leave that training session with the tools he needs to improve his personal skills. But when dealing with widespread change – a new process for an entire sales organization to become more customer service focused, for example – results are not quite as easy or immediate.

And often, this kind of training is regarded by management as the vehicle to achieve change – not just one of the vehicles.

Many managers view a training event as a “quick fix” or an “easy way out” to improving widespread performance. At the same time, there is a perception by participants that the training is either punishment for poor performance or a reward for good performance. And both participants and managers see the training as an event rather than a component of the total change process.

To add to the confusion, training is rarely enforced by management.

Research shows that most of what is learned in training is forgotten within the first 30 days. And often, specific success metrics are not agreed upon upfront, leaving the true effectiveness of the training to very subjective terms.

For any change initiative to truly be effective, success metrics should be agreed upon upfront so that the organization can be measured both before and after to determine what, if any, improvements have taken place as a result of the training.

But this has to start at the executive level and requires the commitment of the entire organization. First, senior management should communicate the need for change upfront. Line managers should then communicate the plan down through the organization, reinforcing why there is a need for change and how it will be achieved. Then, before the training is rolled-out, participants should be engaged in the process.

Engaging participants from the beginning is a critical step because the sponsor of the training is not always in touch with the day–to-day operations of the organization. Before launching any new training initiative, interview participants for a dose of reality. Then, through case studies and examples, you can tailor the training to your specific organization and circumstances.

Finally, before rollout, managers should pull together to review the content, discussing any potential barriers to implementation. What will help us? What will hurt us? What could stand in the way of the training being successful?

Managers can make or break any initiative. They should be engaged before training is rolled-out to participants, and once the training begins, they should be there – observing how participants react. Following the training, managers must remain continuously engaged so that they can reinforce the training during the first 30-60-90 days.

Managers are key to success. Not only should they be involved with the support and reinforcement of the training, but also to share success stories both inside and outside of the team, to measure results, and to provide ongoing coaching.

To learn more about how to make training stick in your organization, e-mail Ian at isavage@nourgroup.com.

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