Sunday, September 30, 2001

Quality Assessment

Super Hero Training
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 5: autumn 2001
Becky Gunn, Sprint

Looking both ways, ensuring that no one was watching, he stepped into the phone booth and within seconds was back on the street taking flight with a graceful leap. Superman was on his way to save another child in distress.

Wouldn't it be great if we could step into a phone booth and transform our personal powers with a change of wardrobe? Unfortunately, for the average Clark Kent, changing the way we do things and demonstrating new skills takes time and practice.

It is a truth that we see every day with children. Few children are potty trained overnight and even the smartest of tikes can't tie their shoes after only one showing of loop-wrap around-loop. We don't expect children to learn without repetitive practice, and yet we aren’t so patient with ourselves.

As supervisors, we send employees to trainings and expect them to return with new skills and knowledge that they put into practice immediately. As training attendees, we often have the same expectations. We hope that a day's training will transform our lives. When we return to our programs remembering only 15% of what the trainer said, we blame the training.

Training often fails due to unclear goals on what participants want from the training and poor follow through after the training.

What makes training successful is practice. I once heard that "training is the place where employees come to practice their jobs." Truly effective implementation of training means that employees demonstrate the skills back on the job that they learned in training. A good training event should include 1/3 lecture and 2/3 practice.

Successful implementation only happens if supervisors are clear with employees on expectations of the training and follow up with employees after the training event.

The following steps mean an extra time commitment from supervisor and employee, but will increase training effectiveness tenfold.

1. The supervisor and employee meet for 15 minutes before an employee attends training to discuss the objectives of the class and how the employee might use the new skill or knowledge.

2. After a training, employees should write down one or two action items to implement back on the job.

3. This action plan is shared with the supervisor and time frames are added to ensure the plan is carried out. Note: If the action plan includes physically changing the program, then it may only have to be implemented once. If the action is to practice a different technique to discipline children or a different method of conducting transitions then time to practice these new skills should be built into the plan before the supervisor observes the new technique in action.

In an economy that demands we scrutinize program budget dollars, we need to ensure we get the highest return on the dollars we spend. For training dollars, that insurance comes when we supervisors and front line staff take an active role in implementing new skills and observing how they are improving our programs. At least this is the only solution I know until the super hero phone booth is sold at a retailer near you.

Becky Gunn has been in the training and performance field for 10 years. She has worked with Sprint as a Performance Consultant in the Information Technology Department, a Project Manager on the Program and Process Management team, and as a Process Consultant for the Process Design Center. She is also a Past-President of the ISPI (International Society for Performance Improvement).

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