4 methods we use to make organizational training effective

Only about 3 out of a group of 10 training participants would say the learning experience improved their performance. These are the results of a 2010 survey by McKinsey. That’s really not effective. For us it was important to find ways to increase that number for our clients.

Our approach in making training effective

We use a 6 steps process of instructional design, where we put the learner at centre. We learn all there is to know about his profile, interests and needs. Then we look at the work environment, the daily tasks as well as the long term objectives. The companies’ activity, its objectives, values and way of working is also of interest to us. With all this information compiled, we can create a learning experience suitable for the corporate learner.

Four training effective methods we used for developing our trainings are:

  1. Spread-out learning is more effective
  2. Consider the participants’ learning styles
  3. Make sure the development activity has a context
  4. Provide feedback

Let’s talk more about each:

1. Spread-out learning is more effective

When dealing with an extensive theoretical content we found ourselves needing to find a solution to deliver it. We didn’t want to just act as content providers. If people want to know more on assertiveness they can search it on Google. The issue there is that they don’t know which content is correct and the most valuable. So, we became content curators. We find the best content, arrange it design wise so it’s really appealing to read and send it participants.

They go over it and read it in their own pace. Then, during the training, we can relate to the information everyone already knows. We can discuss questions they might have. And more importantly, we can use training time together to learn how to apply it in their everyday work.

This is also called ‘distributed practice’, and has science studies to support it (see references). What we did is breaking up learning into short sessions. The first one is individual and gets you in theme. The next one is in the training group and teaches you how to apply. The third one is with follow up assignments.

2. Consider the participants’ learning styles

Depending on what model you prefer, you might know of sets of 3 to 9 different learning styles. What we usually refer to is the VARK model: visual, auditory, physical and social learning. We also use in experiential training David Kolb’s model that describes 4 styles: Accommodating, Converging, Diverging and Assimilating.

The idea is that we have to take into consideration as many as we can when designing a training. We do this in order to maximise learning outcomes.

3. Make sure the development activity has a context

“We don’t use this here” or “It does not apply here”. Our good content and interactive methods of delivery have no chance if the participants tell you this from the beginning. This won’t happen to us because we take one extra step before training. We analyse the context in which participants apply a skill.

For example, in our Toolbox workshops, we train empathy skills. We know the participants need it to be better able to manage client expectations. Theoretical content and all examples and practical learning activities refer to that case. We make sure participants understand why they are assigned a specific learning activity and how it should impact their performance.

4. Provide feedback

Feedback is crucial to training effectiveness. We always discuss about getting feedback from the participants but learners need it just as much. They need encouragement that what they’re doing will get them closer to a better them. They need to feel they’re not wasting time. Also, we have to link the learning to their personal and professional objectives.

For example, we implemented this in one training by presenting maturity levels for the trained skills. We teach them to understand each level and recognize it in them and others. That way they know if they’ve reached it and how it affects their work. It’s a constant feedback that makes learning more enjoyable.

  • Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology – study by John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan and Daniel T. Willingham, 2013
  • Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning – Di Stefano, Giada, Francesca Gino, Gary P. Pisano, and Bradley Staats; Harvard Business School Working Paper, 2014