5 Ways to Reinforce Training in the Workplace
Reinforcement makes learning stick
By: Craig Robbins
Reinforcement – a process used to make learning stick – is of critical importance in today’s dynamic work environment, where people are finding less time to engage in meaningful learning and professional development. According to a recent whitepaper, “Modern Corporate Learner” by Bryan Austin, today’s professionals can only dedicate 1% of their time to training and development on a weekly basis.
Learners today don’t have ample time to learn, let alone apply what they’ve learned following a formal training event. They don’t have the attention span to pay attention while they’re learning, and according to numerous studies, the amount of information learners retain is shrinking as well. The MASIE Center, a think tank which studies learning and technology, shows that employees only complete 15% of learning programs they’ve been assigned. And learning “chunks” are becoming smaller and smaller as our attention spans shrink to extreme lows. “Short” online courses used to be several hours in length, but in today’s corporations the word short is used to describe videos that are less than ten minutes in length.
Despite this, organizations worldwide are spending more than $355 billion annually on employee development (of which about $160 billion is spent in North America). Learning and development still has a vital role to play, and the upward trend in development spending is rapidly growing. Perhaps this is because the more corporations spend on training, the busier employees become and the faster they lose the knowledge they’re supposed to gain and retain.
Here are five ways to reinforce training in your organization:
Mentoring Formal training doesn’t prepare learners for all the slight nuances that exist when trying to put training into practice. Questions arise that can only be answered by people who understand the context in which the training takes place. A good mentor can leverage their knowledge and experience to help guide learners through various situations while understanding the specific obstacles they’re likely to face. Mentors provide general support, advice and guidance to enhance long-term development. A few benefits of mentoring include:
1. Confidentiality. The confidential nature of mentoring allows learners to ask questions and cite examples they may not feel comfortable discussing in a training environment.
2. Cost. Managers and leaders at all levels should be able to mentor their teams without adding additional costs. This is a basic responsibility for anyone holding a management or leadership position. While many leaders are unprepared to effectively mentor others, there are helpful resources available that strengthen these skills
3. Engagement. Unlike the experience of sitting through a class or watching a video, mentoring is an engaging experience that relies on teamwork and communication. Mentoring drives up employee engagement which can lead to numerous other benefits.
On The Job Experience Nothing reinforces learning like On The Job (OTJ) experience. It’s important to create learning experiences that occur naturally throughout the workday. The best way to create OTJ learning experiences is to build a strong learning culture. Employees who are part of a strong learning culture are able to identify learning opportunities at every corner. OTJ learning experiences provide the following advantages over any other form of learning:
1. Realism. On the job experiences are real. Nobody invented the scenario, scripted the conversation, or created the possible outcomes in these situations. They present an exceptional learning opportunity that training simply can’t match.
2. Leadership. On the job experience builds leadership character. Training can provide leaders with basic concepts and best practices around leadership, but it isn’t until someone experiences the emotions that come with leading others through challenging situations that true character is developed.
3. Impact. On the job experiences have negative and positive outcomes that impact the organization and its people. In training, the impact is often simulated. With OTJ experiential learning, the impacts are real and the situations are taken more seriously.
Microlearning Quickly becoming the go-to learning solution, microlearning is specifically designed to accommodate the work environments and learning styles of today’s professionals. Microlearning incorporates “bite-sized” learning experiences, like 3-5 minute videos, immediate on-the-job coaching, and longer online courses that are 15-20 minutes in length. By taking a microlearning approach to reinforce training, you’ll experience the following benefits:
1. Time. Time is our most valuable and least abundant resource today. Save time by seamlessly integrating microlearning experiences and resources into the workday.
2. Flexibility. Because microlearning resources typically come in “small chunk” form, you can pull together resources from a variety of places, blend everything into an overall learning strategy, and implement that strategy quickly. Microlearning offers flexibility that simply doesn’t exist with more complex learning programs.
3. Agility. In addition to being flexible, microlearning allows your organization to be agile. You can quickly stop certain things that aren’t achieving results and start down new paths just as fast.
Reinforcement Programs Some organizations are opting to develop a formal reinforcement program that systematically ensures reinforcement takes place. These programs build in specific learning touchpoints, feedback loops, and other elements that all reinforce the learning process. Reinforcement programs should incorporate:
1. Feedback. Feedback should be sought at regular intervals following a training event to both remind learners of key concepts and to solicit feedback that can improve training.
2. Content. Whitepapers, micro videos, articles, podcasts, etc. provide a fun, simple, and engaging way to reinforce training. A reinforcement program will incorporate content and ensure it’s distributed at regular intervals following training.
3. Mobile. Meet your learners where they spend their time. According to “Modern Corporate Learner,” the average employee unlocks their phone up to nine times per hour. This creates a unique opportunity to meet learners where they are – on their mobile devices. When they open their phones and tablets, provide them with engaging content through your intranet, e-mail, text or app. If you can find ways to make learning more accessible and mobile-friendly, your employees will be more engaged in continuous learning.
Technology Don’t try to reinforce learning via your training and development team alone. Technology can do a lot of the work for you. From apps to online content, technology offers a range of solutions to boost your reinforcement program including:
1. Checks. Checks on learning can include short quizzes, questionnaires, or gamified group discussions. These checks will quickly assess how well information is retained while also reinforcing key concepts and engaging learners in a fun and interactive micro learning experience.
2. Apps. Mobile applications can include mobile software programs, mini LMS courses, and digital content. Many learners today also turn to search engines and resources like YouTube to find topics of interest and to learn quickly.
3. SaaS. Using cloud-based software as a reinforcement solution has many advantages. Cloud-based software can connect your entire organization, enable peer-to-peer learning and development, and retain information that’s being discussed.
In today’s high-velocity work environment, it’s essential to reinforce learning. Mentoring, OTJ experience, microlearning, reinforcement programs, and technology can all support your efforts to achieve continuous learning that’s reinforced through a number of strategies.
Reinforcement must become a continuous seamless process built around a strong learning culture at the core. All trends and statistics show that time and attention are shrinking while the amount of information employees need to know and retain is on the rise. This creates the need for a rapid learning process that’s built around concepts of microlearning and reinforcement. This is the only way (in today’s dynamic workplace) to make learning stick!
More on Talent: How Free Training Can Fail Employees Looking for Information >>