Training is not an end to a means. It’s part of the journey.
When you’re going on a trip, typically you plan ahead and buy tickets, make reservations, and line up transportation. With training, you need to do the same thing. You must choose your destination before you plot your course. This is why you should include behavior reinforcement in your training design—it’s part of planning how you’re going to get where you want to go.
Here are some reinforcement strategies we used recently to create lasting behavior change when we trained 4,000 employees on a critical skill that was a stretching experience for many.
Once we’d trained the material, we created podcasts of key content from the program. Individuals could listen to specific topics when they needed a quick refresher. In virtual training, the podcasts were also used for people who missed a session, or didn’t quite understand a concept. Each podcast was between three and nine minutes long. Their short length made them a fast refresher that participants appreciated.
We all know we have to have executive–level support to build a program that will create opportunity for new skills to grow. Without this support, your attempts at reinforcing behavior change may fall flat.
Every two weeks, we scheduled an email reminder that aligned directly with one of the modules including key things they should be doing, thinking about or watching for. We included links to relevant podcasts. When you include a link, you can set up analytics to see which emails seemed to be most relevant and which podcasts garnered the most interest.
Online Discussion Forum
We used two types of online forums to foster discussion with participants during and after program completion. We created one group for each class where they got to know with each other and posted assignments for input from instructors. We also created a group for graduates to share experiences, pose and answer questions and continue learning. All materials and resources were hosted in the forum for easy reference. Supervisors and trainers use the forums to see what issues are occurring and identify new training needs.
Larger companies can use their intranets to create forums. Smaller organizations can create private discussion groups through social media sites like LinkedIn.
When we conduct virtual training, we typically do 90–minute sessions. At the end, participants receive an assignment to be complete before our next session. In a face–to–face training, assignments are due before a four to six week check–in. We’ve seen a 26% increase in sustained behavior change when learners have the opportunity to practice their new skills in real work situations.
Engage your managers. Have them use one–on–one meetings to review individual progress. If the trainees have learning gaps, managers can refer them back to the podcasts or training resources for a quick refresher. Encourage managers to devote 15 minutes of a team meeting to different topics from the program. Provide managers with content, exercises and instructions for easy execution.