Steve Willis is a Master Trainer and Vice President of Professional Services at VitalSmarts.
One of my year-end activities is tallying up the total number of training days I delivered (one way to ensure my fingers are ready for any math challenge that comes my way). It gives me a sense of how many individuals were impacted by these sessions as well as of my own learning experiences with the different groups.
This year, as I was right in the middle of reflecting and pondering—in a state of really “deep think” about the year’s experience as a whole—I received an e-mail from a work colleague. Attached was a Wall Street Journal article titled, “So Much Training.” As that was exactly the topic I’d been contemplating, I opened it straightaway.
It wasn’t until I was about three paragraphs in that I realized that, due to the heavy meditative haze I’d been operating under, I’d misread the title. There was a second half that I had overlooked entirely: “So Little to Show for It.” And as you might guess, this second phrase was more indicative of the article’s content.
The article explores why many organizations aren’t realizing the full potential of their training initiatives and makes the point that, in order to receive the full value, what happens before and after training is more important than what happens during training. While this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard this, because I was in the middle of my review exercise it hit me in a different way. It got me thinking of the degree to which I helped and hindered the groups with which I worked.
In training terms, I’m the “during” guy, not the “before” or “after” guy. I arrive to deliver a training session or two, and then I’m off to another organization. But just because I’m not responsible for the “before” and “after” doesn’t mean that I should focus solely on the “during.” I can talk with those who are responsible—ask them what needs the training fulfills in their organization, provide them with learning objective worksheets they can distribute to the managers of those who will participate in the actual session, suggest ways to measure achievement of learning objectives across individuals, recommend post-training practice strategies, etc.
And as the “during” guy, I think there’s a lot I (or anyone in this position) can do in the session that can help support (not replace) “before” and “after” activities. I have activities to use (have the class take two minutes to brainstorm common tough situations they face), commitments to extend (have participants set a date and time to follow up and practice with a partner from the class), questions to ask (“Where and how do you think you’ll be able to use this skill?”), and tools to offer (introduce the contract cards as an easy-access review or checklist).
As you prepare for your 2013 training sessions, consider what you can do to change the title of the Wall Street Journal article to “So Much Training, So Much to Show for It” for your organization.