Many organisations invest significant sums of money in training staff but then don’t reap the full return on that investment.
Managers incorrectly assume “you now know what to do so you will”. They expect equipping staff with knowledge is enough to ensure its application.
I see this happen often with respect to change management programs where it's assumed training is the answer.
There are two stumbling blocks with this assumption. The first is that having the knowledge to do a job or tasks means people have the capability to implement that knowledge. There’s also an assumption that staff have the enthusiasm to apply that knowledge, particularly where it involves changing the way they do things. Start by explaining why the change is necessary and ensure you gain buy-in before embarking on any training.
You need to provide support with regard to practical application of skills training. That can include incorporating practical elements of application within the knowledge training or subsequent workshops. Role playing or run-throughs are shown to be highly effective for skills application. Direct conversations by line managers or mentoring by someone who has the knowledge and experience in application are also useful tools.
Leaders have a role to play in positive reinforcement of new ways of working. If no one is noticing if a staff member is implementing their new knowledge then they are more likely to revert back to old ways of doing things. Some praise for adopting new ways of work goes a long way to reinforce the new behaviour or skill set. If other team members are enthusiastic about the new way of work then everyone is likely to keep trying the new way together.
Do your managers have the skills to observe and provide reinforcement? This is another assumption that can bring an investment in training of staff undone. Additional training of staff and managers does not have to be a significant cost, particularly in relation to the overall investment.
That’s why when embarking on change it is important to have a change management plan that analyses the current environment and ability for the uptake of new ways of work or knowledge. Look at the strengths of the organisation and barriers to change. Take action on these before jumping straight into skills training.
That assessment should also look at your organisation’s culture and readiness for change. Is your organisation one where staff can try to adapt their new knowledge and ways of work without fear of getting it wrong? People won’t immediately get new ways right and if there are more consequences for making a mistake than sticking to the old ways, then guess which path staff will choose?
Having a senior leader as champion for the change and new ways of work is essential. They need to be someone who understands that change is not always instantaneous. That person’s role is to ensure the culture and follow up activity maximises the return on investment of your new training.