Training vs. Learning: How to Make Your Training Program Stick

"Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and diligence." –Abigail Adams

Each month, Fierce gathers together as an organization to share what has impacted us over the month. It's a time to reconnect and re-energize. This week our training department talked about their deep passion for how, at its core, Fierce is not actually a training company—it's a learning company.

So, what's the difference?

Training is an event—learning is an experience and an ongoing process of discovery.

Simply attending an event and being presented with content is unlikely to result in significant shifts in behavior, and it certainly won't present any big returns on your training investment.

In order for a training program to be successful, there are two primary ingredients needed: experiential learning during the training itself, and continual learning after the training has ended.

During the event, it's important for the training to be experiential and immersive. It's not enough to simply entertain concepts. Experiential learning engages all aspects of the participant—mind, body, and emotions. Fierce training achieves this by having learners present real-life issues, explore these issues on an emotional level, and use the content to reach a solution. Without the experiential factor, what could otherwise be excellent content just won't stick. True behavioral changes happen when the heads and hearts of learners are engaged, both in the classroom and beyond. 

The continuity factor is the other big differentiator between learning and training. The reality is that when organizations expect one or two days of training to magically transform their cultures, they're setting themselves up for disappointment: with no reinforcement methods in place, people will forget 90% of what they've learned after one month. It's true what they say—if you don't use it, you lose it!

Below are four actionable ways to continue your employees' learning post-training.

#1 Ask for Commitment

You can't ask someone to change their behavior and learn new habits if they have no interest in doing so. This is true regardless of the subject matter or whether a training is virtual or in-person. So, if you're presenting the idea of training, ask what type of training your employees want to receive and then get a commitment on how they'll use the training. Involve them in the process through coaching conversations. Allow them to tap into their own self-generated insights about their interests and commitments, and explore how a potential training program aligns with these commitments. We're all committed to something whether we know it or not, and effective coaching can help bring our inner unknowns to light.

Following any training, employees should always have either a mentor or close colleague they can talk to about their successes and challenges. For example, some of our clients ask each learner to pick an accountability partner and commit to reporting out once a month on how they are using Fierce and its impact. Each partner is responsible for sending the other's response to their Learning and Development department. Content won't stick without ongoing support, and candid conversations that help foster it will be a large part of post-training retention and success.

#2 Provide Examples for Application

Learning can be like one of those I Spy pictures, where you don't see the object until someone points it out to you, and then it becomes so obvious. Perhaps your learners want to take their new knowledge and flex their new muscle, yet they are drawing a blank on where they can do that in the "real" world.

Provide a specific list of meetings or pieces of the business that the training should start to impact. Be direct, open and clear about the goals of the training. Identify potential areas for improvement within your organization and how they relate, and communicate the specific indicators and baseline for the training program's success. This way, you'll know the learning is being applied to areas that matter to the business, and your employees don't have to re-invent the wheel.

#3 Identify Champions

There are always those employees that pick something up quickly or have passion around a specific type of learning. Identify who your champions are and leverage their enthusiasm and skill to keep the learning going. It's not about playing favorites but rather allowing those who are taking the material and running with it to blaze the trail.

Give them opportunities to share their wins and their struggles. Depending on their capacity and interests, delegate tasks that will put their new skills to work and continue to nurture their growth. By providing a platform for their voice, you keep the learning going for everyone.

#4 Choose a Training Program with Reinforcement Options

Not every training program offers technology or tools for sustaining learning after the actual event has ended, and we believe every training program should. One-off training without continual engagement with the content is a surefire way to a failed investment. Fierce uses Mindmarker, an interactive tool that reinforces learned concepts and measures behavioral changes. This tool can aid long-term learning and application of Fierce programs and models.

True learning is an experience, and putting it into practice is a process of discovery—sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed. And with each mistake, we deepen our understanding of the material and grow our capacity to make it stick.

If you're in the process of vetting leadership training programs, read our blog here by Chris Douglas, Fierce EVP of International Expansion & Learning, to learn everything you need to know before taking the plunge. 

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