7 Follow Up Techniques To Improve Your Training ROI
| By Patti McCarthy
Follow up your training and you will realise the potential ROI
In North Yorkshire they have a delicious habit of serving hot apple pie, bursting with fruit, with a slice of tangy, crumbly Wensleydale cheese. It is a match made in heaven and is often served up with a bit of local advice – namely that ‘pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze’.
Arguably, the same could be said for training which isn’t accompanied by any type of follow up. Training on its own (just ‘pie’) can be great, but add some good follow up to it and it can be really transformative and deliver a much higher ROI. Unfortunately, however, up to 80% of the subject matter taught at training sessions is lost within the first few weeks (depending on the type of training and the topic) and surprisingly few companies bother to try and embed the learning afterwards.
In an article on elearning.com author Jason Silberman suggests to speak to any learning officer within an organization and he/she will surely tell you that two of the biggest challenges they face are getting their employees to retain the knowledge they received during the initial training sessions, and beyond that to apply that knowledge to practical skills and daily tasks. I’d add a third challenge to this, which is getting employees to actually turn up in the first place! It comes as no surprise to me that follow up is so uncommon, it is so often such an effort to get people there at all and the work of the HR team in putting a training together is so often not valued. As an example, I was hired recently to deliver four half-day training courses, to help UK based employees work more effectively (and importantly, more enjoyably) with their colleagues in different countries. A real problem had been identified and there was a demand for ‘help’, but of the supposed 20-24 people who were to be in each group, only between five and seven people showed up for each session and even then, people left the training to take phone calls or to attend other meetings. Training was clearly not seen as a priority, the efforts of the HR team to source a suitable trainer were not appreciated and the HR managers did not have a mandate or the time to enforce attendance.
But which is the cause and which is the effect? Does training sometimes get a bad rap because it is not answering a real need, or because it’s boring or because actually half of the audience is not really paying attention and are pretending to make notes on their laptops but are actually just writing emails? Or, is it because there’s no follow up, so a few months down the track people can’t even remember what they learned on that course? I’m inclined to think that it’s the latter, as most people I ask say they can remember some great training courses which they know they enjoyed – but they can’t really remember what was covered!
Techniques to make your training stick
So, below are a few techniques to try, some of which can be put in place by the trainer and some of which need setting up internally. These include:
Before the end of the training session
- Buddy up: have every participant choose a ‘buddy’ to both keep them accountable and to share experiences with. It’s too easy to think that the problem is a result of personal failure and therefore not wish to raise it, making it hard to get a different outcome.
- Make action plans: get each participant to list just one or two very specific outcomes that they want to achieve and which the training can help them to accomplish. Set timing deadlines to these AND have them nominate someone (perhaps their buddy) to keep them on track.
- Identify an opportunity: the value of the training is reinforced if the employee can use it quickly and see its efficacy. Have each employee identify a situation when they are going to try out their new skill within the next 5 working days
- Get a commitment to meet and review: suggest that the group gets together in 2/3/4 weeks’ time and reviews progress. Have somebody be responsible for co-ordinating this.
After the training
- Offer coaching: particularly with topics such as intercultural coaching, it is vital that employees are given the opportunity to have another opportunity to learn a new approach or to recognise how their default response may be exacerbating the situation. Schedule two or three sessions of half an hour each, even if the exact time needs to be changed.
- Make sure that your group review sessions really do happen: bring in a box of donuts or whatever you need to do to ensure that people turn up and keep talking
- Provide a ‘help line’: instead or as well as providing some coaching, offer a ‘help line’ so that employees can contact the trainer for a quick piece of advice, rather than trying to work it out for themselves. If they get it wrong, they may be reluctant to try again.
Will follow up really help?
If you brush your teeth with your dominant hand every day, you find it easy to do – so easy, in fact, that you don’t even think about it. If you broke your arm, however, and had to start using your other hand, you’d initially find it really difficult and it would only be with lots of practice that you might become ambidextrous. This is the precisely how follow ups work, they force the trainee (hopefully, without needing to break their arm!) to keep on track, to focus on the change that is needed and to keep working at it until it becomes automatic. And at this stage, employers can feel confident that their money has been well spent.