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Lesson #1:

Training is a process, not an event. It begins long before participants enter the classroom(or engage in any other learning activity) and doesn't end until we see results on the job.

The process includes a needs assessment not only to identify performance gaps, but to also help create partnerships with key people who will be needed to support the use of training back on the job. This includes managers that will send people to the training.

It also includes designing the delivery of the program in a way that parallels how the participants learn best in order to reduce the training time and increase application. It also means designing the materials so that they engage the learner in a variety of ways and make it easy for the delivery to include a variety of involvement methods.

Of equal importance it includes designing the intervention so that on-the-job use is part of the process, not something that happens after the process is over. This means that an evaluation strategy has to be in place before the training takes place that includes

Level one: Did they like it?

Level two: Did they learn it?

Level three: Did they use it on the job.

Lesson #2:

There are multiple people involved in getting results from training. The most significant are the participant's manager, the participant, and the trainer involved in designing, delivering, and follow up.

All too often we overlook the manager. Yet, the manager will have more contact with the participant and more influence over the participant's environment than any one else. The manager can play a major role in preparing the participant to attend a training program.

Would it make a difference if you were attending a program and your manager said to you, "I understand there are five objectives in this program. From the standpoint of our department I'd really like to see you focus on number one and three. I'd also like to set up a time right now for the day after the program is completed to go over your action plan and look at what you want to implement in your everyday work."?

As trainers, we need to involve managers in the needs assessment process. They need to see that the programs being developed are programs that will help close performance gaps and bring them closer to achieving their department's goals.

Managers may have unique insights into the developmental needs of the people they manage. They can see to it that people are reinforced and supported for using new skills back on the job. They can also do a lot to see to it that new skills are not practiced. Managers can be barriers to the transfer of training as well as an integral part of seeing to it that training transfers. Managers are an essential part of the performance improvement process.

The trainer also becomes the bridge builder in a lot of ways. The trainer ensures that in every way possible the managers are part of the performance improvement process, especially when it includes training. They are among those interviewed in the needs assessment process, some of them may be on a training or performance improvement advisory board, more experienced managers may mentor other managers on how to coach and prepare people for training. All of these things can help to increase the application of training back on the job.

The trainer may also build bridges between managers and participants. One of my clients has trainers sit down with both managers and participants after the training and agree to a contract on ways to support implementation of the training for the next 30 days. The manager and the participant mutually agree to goals. Two weeks into the process, the trainer follows up with each by phone, and after 30 days, another meeting is held. This is reported to senior management. In this organization, managers share accountability for results from training along with the trainer and the participant.

Implementing these strategies increases the likelihood of transfer and gives the participant more reasons to focus on the training at hand.

Lesson #3:

The purpose of training is for people to leave impressed with themselves, not intimidated by the instructor. They should leave excited about what they can now do that they couldn't do before; and with more confidence in themselves, their knowledge, and their skills.

All too often instructors seem to be in competition with their participants. Sometimes one will feel a need to "hold back" information, just so that there will be an "edge" over participants. Training is never meant to be a competition between instructors and participants, nor, for the most part, between participants. Rather, it is an opportunity for each person to become more than they are...and know it!

Training is an opportunity to find out where I am right now in my knowledge, skills, and attitudes...compared to where I can be. It is also an opportunity for me to move forward in my development. It is a chance for me to become both more competent and more confident.

Now that I've given you the "what", here are some "hows":

Whenever possible, subdivide your class into groups of 5-7 people. Using small groups allows for more interaction. Many people feel more comfortable voicing opinions to their small group than to a larger one. As they gain confidence in doing this, it becomes easier to share thoughts with larger groups. Use group leaders in the small groups. By appointing group leaders, you give people an opportunity to lead for a short period of time. This helps them to get comfortable with a leadership role and also builds confidence. Rotate the group leadership. By changing the group leadership after various activities, you help to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience a leadership role. Build in time for people to reflect and record what they learn. Periodically, give people a short period of time to think about what they experience in the class and think about possible applications after the class is finished. By taking the time to record these ideas, they reinforce the fact that they are learning...and that what they are learning has a practical application. Provide time for people to share what they learn in the small group. One way to do this is to have a group leader and a scribe ask each person in the group to share one idea they've learned and record it on a group master idea list. Each person shares only one idea until every person in the small group has had the opportunity. If time allows, the process can continue for even a second or a third round. Doing this provides two benefits: when people have something new to share, they feel good about contributing; when someone mentions something they have on their personal list, they feel reaffirmed. Provide an opportunity for the small groups to share at least a part of their group master idea list with the larger group. This can be done using the same process as described in number five. The only difference is that the group leader shares one idea from the small group with the larger group that is then placed on a class master idea list. This helps build the confidence of the group leader who simply has to report the group's ideas, not his or her own. Encourage participants to provide each other with recognition. The instructor is not the only one who can show appreciation. Participants can be supplied with small dots like the ones used to code file folders. Whenever someone makes a contribution to their learning they can recognize that contribution by placing a dot on the nametag or tent of the participant. As this is done, the person gives specific feedback as to what the person did or said that they found useful.

Lesson # 4:

The more the training is participant-centered, the better the results will be. Each person has a "best" way to learn, whether they know it or not. It may be on their own, but often is with a small group they can trust. It may be highly structured, or they may prefer to create their own structure. The more the training is focused on how the participant learns best, the faster the training can be delivered, the retention will be higher, and the on-the-job application will be quicker.

All too often, we focus on all of the other areas that affect training: the location, the delivery system (i.e., CBT, distance, classroom, Internet, Intranet, etc.). and we overlook the component that is central to all training, the participant himself or herself.

How does a person learn? Do all people learn alike? To answer these questions for yourself, ask ten people around you to name a favorite activity they engage in. The activity could be a sport or a hobby, anything that they are actively involved in. Then ask them what it took to learn how to do the activity they do. Did someone teach them, or did they learn as part of a group? Did they have a role model? Did someone mentor them or coach them? Did they learn from a book or tape--all by themselves? What you will quickly discover is that the answers will vary, and sometimes vary widely. Now ask them this question: If you were to start today to learn this skill or activity, how would you go about it? If it helps, they can assume that the same resources, plus any new resources not available originally, are available to them. To corroborate what you're being told, ask what steps they would recommend for someone new to the skill to learn it.

An instrument that I use often to help people look at how they learn is the "Personal Learning Insights Profile" (PLIP). The profile helps people to identify what their learning preferences are. Responding to the instrument allows people to learn three things:

The extent to which they like to learn individually, as opposed to being a part of a group. The extent to which they like to have very specific structure for what and how the learning takes place as opposed to a general structure with the how left to them. The extent to which they want what they're learning to have specific, practical use, as opposed to being general information that they may or may not have immediate use for.

This information has broad implications not only for training, but for coaching and other applications as well. It suggests to managers and coworkers what kinds of communication are most effective to help people work on projects. It tells me how to best coach people I may work with. It helps me to understand how I might request learning opportunities be structured for me so I don't find myself with learning resources which might be fine for others, but which actually hamper my learning, because they are not in synch with how I learn best.

It may sometimes look as though some learning methodology or delivery system is the silver bullet. What I've learned, though, is that one size does not fit all. Having multiple ways to master the same skills or acquire the same knowledge may actually be more cost effective because it can reduce the overall time any one person needs to gain mastery.

Do your own inventory. As you look at your own work place what are critical skills people need to acquire? How many different acquisition options are actually available to them? Are there enough? Should there be more? Even within training programs are there options given so people can learn, using their best skill and knowledge acquisition modes as much as possible? Paying attention to people's learning preferences can increase retention, reduce delivery time, increase on-the-job application, and increase satisfaction. Add this element to your trainer's toolkit today.

Lesson #5:

Training is not the only or best solution to every performance problem. Sometimes one-on-one coaching may provide a better answer (though the person delivering the coaching may need to be trained on how to coach). At other times it may be that there is a policy problem (for example, someone who actually gets punished for being productive by having to do someone else's work because they've finished their own).

We've developed an HRD Cube to help solve performance problems. The basic gist of it is that performance improvement can begin (and performance problems can exist!) from the job level (since individuals can perform multiple jobs in a company) on up through the entire company.

Another side of the cube suggests that there are three reasons for improving performance: 1. To close a gap that already exists between low and high performers; 2. To take everyone's performance to a new level even though no one is at an unsatisfactory level; and 3. To prepare people for future plans (developing skills and knowledge not needed now, but that will be in the future).

A third side of the cube lays out the fact that if one of the three opportunities for performance improvement exists, there are six possible issues/opportunities that might be investigated to improve performance.

First, there may be a procedural issue. For example, we look at shift 1 and they are producing 800 widgets a day, while shift 2 is producing just 500 widgets. If our knee-jerk reaction is "get shift 2 some training!" without investigating WHY the difference exists, we'd create a further problem. It turns out that the production line is shut down for 50% of the shift for maintenance. In reality, shift 2 is producing MORE widgets in LESS time. Trying to solve this "problem" through training won't increase the number of widgets because the issue is the amount of TIME available to produce. In fact, you'd be better off examining second shift's methods to raise first shift's performance. Another alternative would be to shift maintenance to first shift because, theoretically, their production would drop to 400 widgets, while shift 2 would increase to 1,000 widgets, a net gain of 100 widgets per day. We might also investigate why it takes so much time each day for maintenance and look for ways to reduce the downtime.

Second, there may be a policy issue. Let's say we're staying in a hotel while we train. Chris is our housekeeper and does a fabulous job. Chris has ten rooms per day to clean and instead of finishing at 4 p.m. is done by noon. At noon each day, the executive housekeeper says, "Great job," and then sends Chris to another floor to take two or three rooms for another housekeeper who is not as effective. Chris does not get anything more for doing this. At the end of six months, it is taking Chris until 4 p.m. to finish the ten rooms. If we think sending Chris to training is the solution, we're wrong. Chris is actually being punished for performance. The "reward" for performance is more work. Providing Chris with a reward for performance would be much more likely to return the performance to its former high level--or even beyond.

Third, there might be a recruiting issue. We may not be recruiting people with sufficient skills and abilities to perform the job under any conditions. A major fast food chain found that it had to develop educational programs in reading and math (and provided them at no charge in space leased from the New York City school system) in order to provide a pool of applicants that had sufficient skills to even learn how to perform jobs with the store. A major utility company found that 75% of its line repair people (the people who climb telephone poles) quit within six months of hiring and training. They started a two-week pre-employment training program that took potential new hires through all the job requirements, including climbing a pole in all kinds of weather conditions. They paid applicants a fee for going through this process. Only half the applicants accepted the job, but of those who did, 95% were still with the company two years later. The people being hired at first did not have enough information to know whether or not they were suited to the job and its requirements. The new pre-employment process helped ensure that they did. The savings to the company were enormous.

Fourth, there might be a placement issue. For example, some people just naturally work better alone. Placing them in a position that requires a lot of interaction with others will decrease their performance. Others crave that interaction and having them work on projects entirely isolate from others will cause their performance to suffer.

Fifth, there might be a coaching opportunity. When I was writing my first book, I was using my 40-word-per-minute hunt-and-peck system. One day my secretary was looking over my shoulder while I was editing. I changed a paragraph by adding several words. This caused the next line in the paragraph to be too long. I moved the cursor to the appropriate place on the next line and hit the enter key. This corrected the line length and at the same time created the same problem in the next line. I then repeated the procedure for several more lines. My secretary interrupted and asked, "Why are you doing that?" I explained and she said, "Why not do this?" She placed the cursor somewhere in the paragraph and hit two keys (I think it was control-Q). The paragraph instantly reformatted itself. I was impressed. My entire editing job was cut by 30%. I didn't need an entire training program (I'm not going to argue about taking a touch-typing course here!). I just needed some coaching on the right thing at the right time, and my performance instantly and permanently improved!

Sixth, there might be a training opportunity. Learning an entirely new skill (like touch-typing!) would require training.

Obviously, needs assessment and job and/or task analysis are needed to ensure that we are choosing the right option or combination of options in order to guarantee performance. Doing this affirms that we are providing training (and other solutions!) that is really needed to people who will understand the value and who have managers willing to support both the training and application of it back on the job.

Lesson #6:

Review and reinforcement is a key to every training process. Albert Mehrabian showed that if people are exposed to an idea one time they retain less than 10% at the end of thirty days. Yet, if they are exposed to the same idea, with interval reinforcement, six times over thirty days, retention is greater than 90%. We need to create opportunities for review and reinforcement of key content at least six times over thirty days. You can't apply it, if you can't remember it.

This means that content must be reviewed, revisited, and reinforced six times for it to anchor in our long-term memory. Another important piece to this, however, is that there must be an interval in between each review/reinforcement. For example, I might cover some content--then an hour later, refer back to it.

Three hours later, I might give participants an activity that reinforces it. Notice that each time I extend the interval of time between each review/reinforcement. I also change the method, technique, and processes for doing the review and reinforcement. Each of these changes provides participants with additional valuable memory hooks to help them really lock the information in.

One great example of this is embedded in our Creative Training Techniques course. The first morning, I teach participants the 9 steps to doing the Heimlich Maneuver using a visual technique called Windowpaning. During the process we cover the steps a number of ways:

They see me draw an icon They draw the icon I say a key phrase for each step They say a phrase for each step I add the phrase to the windowpane under the icon They write the phrase in their windowpane under the icon

Later in the day, we'll repeat the steps in order using the windowpane with the icons.

Still later, we'll repeat the steps in order, using a blank windowpane.

Still later, I'll have them identify several of the icons by pointing to one of the panes and asking, "What's this?" Afterwards, they identify the panes I did not ask for.

By now you get the point. We also incorporate a game and practical demonstration and skill practice. By the end of a day and a half, the participants will revisit this content piece more than 19 times. And the whole thing will not take more than 21 minutes.

In every course, there are major content pieces that must be mastered. Use these principles to help your participants anchor them.

Lesson #7:

Remember to reward performance using the principle of RIVR (Random, Intermittent, and Variable Reinforcement). Random says that we recognize, praise, appreciate, and encourage on an unpredictable timetable. Intermittent says that we do not reinforce every time the appropriate skills or knowledge are demonstrated. Variable says that the reward or reinforcement is not always the same. It may be a thank you one time, a small prize another, a symbol like a sticker, star, or dot to put on a nametag or nameplate another.

William James, the Harvard psychologist, said that the greatest need of every human being is the need for appreciation. However, if we always reinforce everything our participants do, we connect the activity with the reward or reinforcement. When they leave the training and go back to the "real world," it is very unlikely that the same kind and amount of reinforcement will be waiting for them. So, remove the reward, remove the behavior may be the principle that becomes operative. This is why the RIVR principle is so important.

When I was in my first year (Plebe year) at the U.S. Naval Academy, I had an experience that demonstrates the principle. I was returning to my room in the 7th wing of Bancroft Hall after classes. As I entered the wing, there were a couple of vending machines located before the stairs to the various floors. I noticed a candy wrapper on the floor, so I picked the wrapper up and threw it in the wastebasket. As I started up the stairs, I heard "Halt, Plebe!" I immediately stopped and turned to face the sound. It was a first class midshipman (senior).

He asked, "Was that your wrapper?" I replied, "No sir!" The next question was, "Did someone tell you to police (clean up) the area?" Again my reply was, "No, sir!" Then he asked, "Why did you pick up the wrapper then?" My response was, "Because it didn't belong there, Sir!" He took my name and company number (13th company) and sent me on my way.

Several days later I was called to Lt. Troyer's office (my company officer). He handed me a brief letter of commendation written by the first class midshipman that stated that he found it extraordinary that I would go out of my way to do something I did not have to, when the demands placed upon plebes by all the required things was so great.

You might be thinking, "I can't believe this guy is spending all this time talking about getting a letter for picking up a stupid candy wrapper!" Here's the point, however, since that time there have been few times I've seen a candy wrapper or other piece of paper lying on the floor, on a golf course, on a sidewalk or anyplace else it shouldn't be, when I haven't picked it up and thrown it away. I don't expect anybody to write a letter (and they haven't!). As a matter of fact, no one has ever commented since that time. However, every time I pick up a wrapper, it reminds me of how good I felt the time I did receive that recognition.

It also instantly shaped my perception of Disneyland the first time I visited there. I was walking up Main Street just after entering the park. I saw a wrapper lying on the street. As I started to pick it up, it was quickly swept up by a young man in white pants and shirt, a park cast member. While Disney calls itself "the happiest place on earth," it was instantly positioned in my mind as "the cleanest place on earth!"

More than 20 years later, whether I am visiting Disney World because they're a client, or because I am coming as a guest, that perception still is there. I take a little extra care when working with them, just because I know they care about giving their guests the best experience possible, down to the little things, like wrappers!

Beyond the random, meaning unpredictable, times of reinforcement and the intermittent, meaning not all the time, is the variable part of the principle. For me this translates not only into the size or significance of the reward or reinforcement, but also who provides it.

In every seminar that I conduct, whether it's Creative Training Techniques, Training for Impact, or a seminar we've designed for managers or salespeople of a client, you'll see that reward and reinforcement is variable in a number of ways.

First, the reinforcement or reward varies in type. It may be a dot placed on a nametag along with specific feedback for why the dot is being given. In other words, what did the person do or say that made a positive contribution to either the individual awarding the dot, or the class? It might be a $1 lottery ticket, a playing card that will be combined with others to get a favorable hand that can be traded for various prizes, an overhead transparency that can be used in a future presentation, a 3x5 card with a poem or a quote, a bonus handout, a star, a simple, verbal "thank you." The list is limitless.

Second, the reward varies by both giver and receiver. I quickly get participants recognizing other participants for their contributions. Recognition does not come from the instructor only. Back on the job, it is not just the manager that can encourage people on the team. Anyone can, if they pay attention and provide feedback when somebody does something right or something that goes above and beyond what's expected. Individuals can be recognized and so can pairs, small groups, and entire teams or classes.

Most of the rewards that I structure for classes, and in the workplace, are based around standards. Whoever achieves the standard, gets the reward or recognition. This creates a win-win environment rather than creating an environment that says that first or best or fastest gets all the rewards or recognition.

Lesson #8:

Evaluate early and often. Regardless of the platform used to deliver the training (classroom, CBT, Intranet, distance learning, self-paced, etc.) provide an evaluation form early so that participants know what they are being asked for feedback on. Find a variety of ways to solicit feedback early in the delivery process so that if the intervention (in this case probably training of some type) is missing the mark, it can be adjusted to meet the needs without wasting too much time.


Here are some quick tips . . . and in a bonus at the end of the article you'll find a sample evaluation form from one of our Creative Training Techniques seminars.


In multiple-day classes, do a start/stop/continue 3x5 card. Ask participants to write down something they'd like to start that would help their learning; something they'd like stopped and something they'd like continued. Collecting and reviewing these cards can tip you off to some adjustments that will really help. Provide participants will the evaluation form early. In a two-day class, I distribute it the morning of the first day. This makes them aware of what they're being asked for feedback on and allows them to complete it when they choose. For example, by noon the first day they've probably made up their minds about the facility being used. Give people a chance to evaluate everything that impacts the training. We use four items at least: the instructor, the content, the environment, and the participants. Each of these four can have a big impact on whether or not learning takes place. The instructor's attitude, availability, and knowledge are important, but so is the temperature of the meeting room, equipment that works, adequate breaks, etc. Content delivered at the right level is important, but so is its practical uses on the job. Participation and cooperation in the learning process by each individual and their co-participants can also play a major part in the effectiveness of the training delivered. Use numbers, letters, and open-ended sentences. We use a Likert scale (for example 1-5, low to high) to get feedback on the usefulness of the content, availability of the instructor, etc. Letters help us to get feedback on things like pacing: (circle one) TF (Too fast) TL (Too slow) JAR (Just about right), timing: TL (Too long), TS (too short), JAR (Just About Right), and level: TB (Too Basic), TA (Too Advanced), JAR (Just about Right). Open-ended sentences allow participants to tell you why they provided the numerical and letter rating they did so that you're not making assumptions. For example: The reason I rated the instructors availability the way I did was: _______________________.

Applying these techniques to your evaluation processes can make evaluation a tool that improves the results that you deliver, both in the classroom and on the job.


Lesson #9:


Evaluate more than the instructor and the content. These are key, of course, but so are the way individuals participate in the training and the environment in which the training is delivered.

So now we're looking at four things to evaluate at the end of training:

the instructor, which could include things like openness to questions, availability, knowledge of the subject, interest in participants, etc. the content, which could include things like relevance, the level at which it is delivered, applicability to the job, opportunity for skill practice, the amount of time spent on each content piece, the pace at which each content piece was covered, etc. the environment, including things like the amount of space in the meeting room, seating arrangement, temperature control, sleeping rooms, food, breaks, etc. the participants, including things like the evaluator's participation, other participants' participation, self and others' commitment to developing and implementing an action plan, etc.

All of these things will give you a much clearer picture of the effectiveness of the delivery phase of your program.

Lesson #10:

Action planning is key. If participants do not develop an action plan for how they will transfer the skills/knowledge to the job when the training process is completed, the chances are they won't have that opportunity when they get back on the job.

The best way to do this is to have them list action ideas as they go along in the training. From time to time give people several minutes to stop and reflect on what they've learned and how they can use it back on the job. Play some reflective music in the background as they do this.

After several minutes ask them to share their ideas in small groups of five to seven. Ask someone in the group to make a master list of all the groups' ideas. Anyone who likes an idea they hear can add it to their own list. The point is that we can learn from one another.

The final step in this process is for each group to share one of their ideas with the other groups. This step can be repeated several times.

If you start this process early in the session people will start to list ideas as they come to them on their action idea page, rather than always waiting for reflection time. This process allows people to start taking ownership of the knowledge and skills being presented. They move beyond the classroom to application on the job.

It is important that participants do something about applying the content within 48 hours of the training's completion. You might have participants think about something easy they can do immediately, something that might take some planning and preparation and, finally, a high payoff action that might require longer term planning. This keeps them thinking about - and applying - what they've learned for a longer period of time after the class.

Consider, too, offering some additional information, such as a bonus handout, for people that write you a three paragraph letter between 30 and 45 days after the completion of training. Paragraph one states: here's what I learned in the class. Paragraph two: here's how I've been using it. Finally, paragraph three: here's what the results have been.

Published: Mar 10, 2009 12:45pm by tess23.

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