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Why Bridge the Gap Between Learning and Results?

By Holly Parks

Why Bridge the Gap Between Learning and Results?

Many years ago we hired a new marketing person to help us promote our public seminars. I’ll never forget the comment she made about her experience with training. She said, “Training is a waste of money. People go to the seminars and learn all kinds of stuff, then go back to work and its business as usual.” Imagine my chagrin at hearing those words! Training doesn’t work. In my heart of hearts, I had to admit she was right – training is a waste of money, if, and this is a big IF, it isn’t reinforced and

Taking those words to heart, we began the process of exploring the components of a successful training initiative, one that would give our clients a greater return on their investment. The end result was our Bridging the Gap model. We determined through discussions with our clients that training could be a one time event or it could be part of the organization’s strategic plan. As part of the plan, it had a greater chance of having the kind of impact our clients wanted: improved sales, bigger market share, greater talent retention, more satisfied clients, more productive employees etc. The process is simple yet it takes time to do it the right way.

First, it is important to understand why training is even necessary. One of our clients determined that while they were their industry’s leader, that lead was tenuous if they didn’t stay ahead of the curve. Their focus was to provide superior customer support such that they were the industry gold standard. They looked at what they were already doing and what they needed to do to stay the leader. We worked with them to identify the skills required to do it. The end result is that the training fit a strategy they had and therefore had more meaning to all involved.

The next step is to determine where the skill levels are within the group to be trained to choose the right training for the right people at the right time. Assessing the current skill levels can save an organization a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on unnecessary training. We worked with one client to determine the right training by assessing their leadership skills. It was determined that the training they thought they needed wasn’t necessary and would in fact be a total waste of money. Instead, we worked with them to develop a program that honed in on the two most important skills that had the highest opportunity for growth.

If part of the plan is to change the culture, this will also play a part in determining the right training. In this case, training everyone on the same skills can help make that shift. Several of our clients have adopted the counselor process as a way of doing business and providing quality and consistency. They have trained all their customer interfacing personnel in the process so everyone is on the same page when working with their clients.

Development comes next in the form of training. We like to launch the training with some kind of communication from the senior executive most connected to the outcomes expected from the use of the new skills. They will answer who, what, where, when and why and stress the importance of this training to the success of their initiative. When participants see their leadership involved, they take the training to heart and give it the attention it requires.

The pre-work described above and the training itself are only 50% of the reason for training’s successful outcomes. The other 50% comes after the event itself. What managers do to reinforce and support the training has a greater impact than was once believed. It makes sense though. The average adult needs to hear something seven to ten times before they intellectually “get it”. Remember, I said “average”. There are those who get it much faster and those who need more. But that is only the knowing part.

In order to successfully do it, the average adult needs to practice it ten to 14 times before they feel secure enough to make it an everyday practice.

In our classrooms, they will get to practice it two to three times. That leaves another eight to 12 times that they will need to practice to reinforce the learning. Managers can work with their employees to practice those skills and provide encouragement and feedback to make improvements. Some of our clients make the reinforcement and coaching part of the performance requirements of their managers. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many managers do not coach at all. When managers are coaching properly, they usually meet or even exceed their goals because their people are doing what they need to do reach those goals. They have higher retention because their people feel valued. Everyone enjoys the success

The final step of our Bridging the Gap model is measurement. For many years, training was treated like a non essential expense. Training managers were taxed with proving its value to the organization and typically it was one of the first items cut from a budget. Today, there are ways to measure the impact the news skills have within an organization, whether it be better sales, greater market share, higher retention, more loyal customers, or industry leadership. We can measure anything from new knowledge gained to behavior changed to organizational impact.

We have worked with clients on all six steps and on one or two steps where they have the other steps in place. As with anything, it takes a little more time to do it the right way, but in the long run it takes less time and reaps a greater return on your investment.

How do your plan for results?

Published: May 16, 2014


Holly Parks

Chief Operating Officer

Holly bought out Bob’s partner in 1988 to become an owner in Strategic Enhancement Group. She has over 35 years of experience in business. Prior to joining SEG, Holly ran the operations for companies as diverse as paper converting to packaging to computer value added reseller. Her role with Strategic Enhancement Group is to set and execute the strategic direction for the company. Holly majored in political science with minors in French and Spanish at Western Illinois University. Along with Bob, Holly has been recognized with the highest awards given by Wilson Learning.

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