The Importance of “Complete” Training

How do you know when training is “complete?” What tells you that someone has learned something to a level where learning transfer (the transfer of knowledge from one person to another) is successful and they can replicate what they were taught? Is it when the training period has come to an end? Is it after the trainee has filled out their survey? Or is it something else entirely?

It is very common for training to end when a course finishes its final minute. A trainer schedules the session to run from 10:00-11:00 and other than a survey or simple assessment, nothing is done to check that training was successfully accomplished. There are several problems with this:

  1. Failure to verify learning transfer prevents you from determining the success of the training.
  2. Failure to check for behavioral or performance changes prevents re-teaching while material is still fresh in the minds of the trainees.
  3. By only assessing learning transfer at the end of the training session you fail to determine if knowledge was stored long-term, or heard and forgotten.
Three people sharing a laptop during training

02-28-05 © Tomaz Levstek

I was recently teaching a group of people some key principles about peer training.  We analyzed the importance of attitude, clear communication, proper demonstration, and assessment. I focused the assessment on the “show me” step that I talked about here. It was interesting to watch light bulbs pop on over heads all around the room as I discussed how important a final step is. But what I left out was follow-up. Training that doesn’t cause some change in behavior or action is wasted time. There needs to be follow-up to ensure the training was effective and implemented.

From a business perspective this follow-up verification step is critical to determining the effectiveness of both the learning objectives and the business objective of the training. Once that is evaluated, it is easy to analyze the return on investment the training created. In a sense, this verification step is an assessment of the assessor and far more effective than analyzing surveys to see if training worked.

Here are some ideas to assist you in gauging the success of the training:

  • For smaller groups: meet briefly with each trainee and check for behavior changes from the training. Depending on the material presented this may require the trainee to demonstrate something, or could simply be a question-and-answer session where you look for changes in behavior.
  • For larger groups: schedule a short follow-up session with the whole group, with additional trainers present.  Break the trainees up into small groups and discuss the training and changes it stimulated.  Use this as an opportunity to re-teach any issues or questions that arise.
  • Provide the an overview of what the trainees learned, and ask the management to watch for and report change
  • Have the trainees perform a self-assessment before and after the training occurs and analyze the differences
  • Give the trainees a pre- and post-training exam
  • Observe the trainees in their work and watch for behavior/performance changes
  • Interview the trainee’s peers to determine the training outcome
  • Have the trainees train someone else in what they learned to reinforce the material and provide accountability

A note of caution: Be careful to allow enough time before you assess the success of the training.  The goal is long-term change, not short-term.

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