How on earth do we get learning geared into the day-to-day?
After time away from the desk, the emails, messages, interruptions, meetings and other tasks all bombard the brain before we’ve even found a place for our training notes. We hop back into routines, reacting to incoming “noise” through inboxes and office buzz.
So how do we consolidate the cognitive efforts and secure whatever stimulated us yesterday?
It’s easier to get a bum on a seat than to bolt learning to the brain. But why?
Well, there are some psychological theories relating to learning but to apply any theory, we need mechanisms. So here are some we use:
1. Moving Key Points From “in principle” to “in practice”
We have to ask “Why would people want to?” to angle in on the participant’s perspective.
- A preparation pack which asks participants to think about actual events and concerns
- An email to the trainer in advance of a workshop, telling them in advance what their personal objectives are (this wraps into the preparation pack, above)
- For a big team, or dealing with difficult whole-team issues , a preliminary session with the management to bring relevance to the team’s training sessions
- A small number of outcomes – only 1 or 2 commitments (as a team or individuals)
- Less theory, more personal context – discussing what it’s really like for them, and being prepared to divert conversation away from the plan to adapt to their context
- Clear participant-engineered outcomes and actions, where possible, involving a team leader or line manager e.g. in the case of a team, a Team Charter
When participants identify their context, then the topic is perceived to have more value and they become more motivated. It answers “What’s in it for me?”
2. Mechanisms to maintain momentum and harbour habits
It’s said that it takes a daily commitment for 30 days for a habit to develop. So it’s easy to see how hard it is to engineer new activities within a distracting and busy office.
- A “Feed Back to Manager” form, whereby the participant has a template for commitments to simple actions to be discussed and agreed with, and supported by, their manager.
- Feedback slips – participants gaining peer feedback in the workshop which instils at the same time a good mechanism and metaphor to use at work
- Postcards to be posted back (preferably to home) to participants in future to remind them of something they wanted to happen or was vital to learn
- Nudges – 3 brief reminder “How to” bullets about sub-topics from the training
- Online surveys – which are anonymous, have reminders of what was covered and are reported to management to give insights and to inform future development planning
- Reminders at frequent intervals – by email, in newsletters, on-desk, or by post.
For continuity of learning and to embed principles explored, simple mechanisms help to further explore ideas, incentives and commitments, away from the formal or structured learning environment such as a workshop or an e-learning programme.
3. Taking learning from the training room to the wider team
Imagine this is a typical post-training chat over coffee-making in the office kitchen:
Simon: “How was your training?”
Kelly: “Good, thanks”
Simon: “Great.What was it again?”
Simon: “Oh right, I’d better watch myself then!”
<Both laugh and walk away>
Why not give them something to talk about?
- Newsletter/bulletin articles to the whole company
- Custom-written blogs by the trainer for circulation to the wider team
- Team meetings/forums – if they’re not in place already or to mould the existing ones to accommodate new practices
- Trainers advising and de-briefing the senior staff with qualitative observations and knowledgeable recommendations.
- Engaging and involving senior management, when present, as powerfully as possible to reach the desired result – sometimes as a peer, sometimes as a leader or a novel moderator.
- Encourage participants as educators of others, to present their learning back to their team or other teams and departments.
- For soft skills, providing broadly scripted examples of keywords and phrases and responses to events.
Simon could benefit. Kelly could share. The team could appreciate time taken to brief them – much training isn’t rocket science, so plenty can be absorbed without everyone attending. Not making training a more company-wide experience might be missing a mammoth trick.
But it isn’t mammoth effort to instigate insights, information-sharing and further inquiry into the lessons triggered in the formal learning setting.
These are just some of the ideas we use – feel free to share yours – do comment below!
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