How To Make Training (or Anything) Stick

We’ve been training employees on several new procedures and approaches recently in my workplace. But what’s been bothering me is the question of why some of these practices, which include really sound and important information, make it into our employees’ workdays, and why others don’t.

This question sent me back to Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made To Stick, to see if we were missing something in our training approach. In the book, the authors present six ways to make ideas “stickier”: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories.

So I went back to our training materials — part of the program was figuring out how to use key attributes of our company’s CRM system to better manager the sales team’s workday — to see if we’d missed some key element of stickiness, since the sales team had gone right back to its old and ineffective ways right after their training sessions.

After reviewing our training, I figured the material was simple (logical, short, and non-complicated); concrete (it demonstrated specific behaviors and steps); emotional (we demonstrated how it could improve workers’ performance and potentially their pay); and we were credible (we are viewed as employee supporters). We’d covered most of what makes something “sticky,” but still hadn’t changed the team’s behaviors.

What I found was missing, however, was simply a matter of follow-up. Once the training was delivered, we expected the sales team to immediately use the new procedures, and so we moved on to other things. We didn’t stay on top of the changes, or coach employees who needed help and ensure our new procedures were complied with. We trusted our employees to implement what they learned by themselves. That’s where we went wrong.

So we instituted a new, five-step approach to implementing training (and anything else we want to stick):

  1. Clear, simple and behavior-specific instruction, delivered in a meaningful way for the learner (we provide variable training delivery methods for our employees).
  2. Practical situations and examples given so the learner can see how to use the training and immediately see its result and impact.
  3. An implementation plan — specific information on how employees are to implement the training.
  4. A follow-up plan — a daily or weekly review of new behavior compliance through reports and employee contact (support if needed; applause if earned).
  5. A follow-up meeting or report to show employees the impact of the changes (and to build our own credibility for implementing change).

 

Between what the Heath brothers presented and our five steps, we are now getting training to stick. In a workplace where information and ideas move quickly, successful and “sticky” training is critical to get employees to implement new procedures right the first time — which is important, especially when there isn’t the time or money to try a second or third time.

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user woodleywonderworks.