Most organizations view training as a singular event: people attend…people learn…people go back to their regular activities and, hopefully, use what they’ve learned. Rarely is there follow-up training, support, accountability, coaching, mentoring, or other activities that sustain the training beyond the classroom. Most organizations seem to rely on hope.
This may not be a big problem when the purpose of the training is to teach core technical skills that are crucial to the trainee’s day-to-day work. In this case, the employee’s job success is directly tied to learning AND using the necessary skills, which implicitly motivates the trainee and the trainee’s manager to sustain the training.
But, it can be an enormous money- and time-wasting problem when the training is not connected to core job skills or if the training is focused on “soft” skills. (soft skills = non-technical skills that generally relate to personal attributes, attitude, communication, and emotional intelligence. For example, a technical skill is how to use computer software efficiently; a “soft skill” is how to give an employee constructive feedback.)
Sustaining training can be challenging and complicated. It requires a proactive strategy, commitment, time, and ongoing effort on the parts of the trainee and the trainee’s manager. If the manager is not invested in sustaining the training, then it probably won’t happen. But if the manager is given the proper resources and support, and is held accountable for sustaining the training by his or her supervisor, then the likelihood of sustainability increases dramatically.
The payoff for all of this effort is huge! Imagine an organization in which the employees are similarly trained and in alignment about how to interact with each other, and everything is humming along like a well-oiled machine. Employees feel satisfied, retention rates go up, turnover rates go down, and productivity goes up. That’s what will happen when effective training is properly sustained.
What does sustainability look like? Of course, it depends on a lot of factors, but here are some ways to make training sustainable:
- Create an organizational culture that values and reinforces sustainability. This starts at the top of the organizational ladder and cascades down to all levels.
- Provide sustainability tools that managers and employees can access and use. For example, give trainees a reference card that outlines the key parts of what they learned AND teach them how to use it while in training. Or, offer employees a self-coaching guide that they can use to do self-assessments and skill-checks while on the job. Additionally, give managers a coaching guide so that they can check-in with their employees and coach them on the skills they learned while in training.
- Provide follow-up training opportunities. Offer mini-training sessions that focus on micro skills that will deepen the learning and create opportunities to refine the skill set that was taught during the original training.
- Post updates on the company’s intranet, newsletter, or email distribution lists. These updates could be best practices, success tips, or additional information that reinforce the original training.
In the absence of sustainability practices and tools (and an organizational culture that values sustainability), sustaining training can be so challenging and complex that it’s usually avoided. Unfortunately, training without sustainability is a waste of time, money, and resources.
What is one thing you do in your organization to sustain training?