I have been in the training business for over 35 years. During that time I have had tens of thousands of people in my audiences and training programs and I can tell you that one of my biggest frustrations during my career is ‘knowing’ that a very small percentage of people who are exposed to employee development programs apply and integrate what they learn over the long term. Companies invest millions of dollars a year and what do they have to show for it? Yes, many organizations have very sophisticated measurement devices, follow-up programs and accountability systems, but I believe these are in the minority.
There are a number of factors that determine whether an employee will learn, understand, embrace and apply new knowledge and skills. Some of these can be controlled by the organization, but many are the results of an employee’s beliefs, expectations, mindsets, attitudes and agendas which can’t be controlled by the training entity whether an outside outsourced firm or an in-house training department.
Effective employee development programs must be more than just putting 100 people in a room for a day and expecting them to change approaches or modify behaviors after a few hours.
Over the years I have developed a training concept and approach that can be described as curriculum based training rather than short term focused. Essentially it involves four stages or approaches to employee development strategies and each of these will be described in further detail in chapter two.
-The awareness level.
-The understanding level
-The integration level
-The mastery level
If you want your employee investment to return itself several times over, the only guaranteed way to accomplish this is by ensuring that any training initiative takes the participants through all four stages.
I can’t tell you how many half or full day sales, management, leadership, motivation and customer service seminars I have spoken at over the years where the client wanted permanent change in employee’s behaviors or approaches after only a few hours covering enough material that should have been multi-day course over a period of a year or longer.
Needless to say, over time, there were many disappointed clients, not in my material or delivery, but the long-term integration of the ideas and material their people were exposed to during this learning experience.
If you want a positive return on your training investment it is vital that you have a programmed learning strategy and approach and not a quick fix philosophy.
Here’s the problem. Due to any number of restraints organizations find it challenging to provide the right environment, material and approach to learning. There are logistical issues where employees are spread across the country, even around the world. There are financial constraints where there are many other areas of the business where it would appear that money spent here will yield far better returns. And, there are management mindsets that restrict learning due to their shallow beliefs about its value or benefits.
Your employees are your most important asset and resource. What good does it do to have the latest technology if your employees are under a great deal of stress, de-motivated due to management approaches or economic factors? Believe me, you can have the latest and greatest toys, software, products and services, but if your employees lack the creativity, initiative, motivation, skills, attitudes and empowerment I’ll guarantee that these resources will be under utilized.
If you want effective salespeople they need to be trained in the best available techniques and strategies. If you want productive managers, they need to be trained in practical, contemporary and effective management and leadership strategies and approaches. If you want dedicated and loyal support staff they need to feel that they are more important than the president getting new drapes for his or her office.
There are three ways to educate or train people.
The transactional approach –
A transaction is a single event, a one time interaction or a short-term approach. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you send your customer service representatives to a half day seminar on how to improve customer relations and increase repeat business. These people are exposed to appropriate and valuable material for a few hours with little interaction or participation. They sit there all morning – and learn. After lunch they are back to work dealing with many of the routine customer issues that the training was designed to help them with.
Now I ask you, if a person has spent ten, twenty or even only five years developing mindsets, attitudes, habits, routines, approaches do you think they are going to permanently change these because of a four hour seminar? Not likely.
The curriculum approach –
A curriculum philosophy is a longer term process where there are ongoing gradual incremental increases in the information is covered as well as some form of inspection or accountability.
Let me give you an example. If you took algebra when you were in high school, how did you learn it? Let’s say after your first 45 minute class on the topic of algebra the teacher gave you your final exam. Would you pass? Of course not. How do you learn algebra so that after three months of classes, three times a week you could pass the final exam?
Goes like this. Class, homework, next class two days later you discuss the homework, then new material followed by homework on the new material. Two days later the process continues. Three months later, you pass the exam. Now, let’s apply this to a corporate learning situation.
Put your salespeople through a one day training seminar on how to close more sales (the transaction approach) and then send them on their way. They might improve their ability to close for a few days or weeks, but I’ll guarantee that two months later if you gave them the final exam on closing more sales most of them would fail it.
See the difference?
As I said earlier, most organizations are unwilling or believe they are unable to take the curriculum approach to employee development, but they still expect the people to pass their exam – in this case keep on closing more business without any reinforcement, inspection or accountability other than end of the month sales reports and feedback on the results only and not the material that they learned earlier.
The value driven approach –
The value driven approach takes the curriculum approach to the next or highest level. One way to describe this would be by defining the difference between; information, knowledge and wisdom.
I believe that the ability to learn and then apply that learning to the various experiences, opportunities, challenges and situations that we find ourselves in, is the one key thing that separates humanity from all other life forms on Earth.
I know people who are almost proud to say they have read only one book in the past year and I am blessed to know many people who can’t devour enough learning regardless of its source.
I love to learn, to understand and then to try and determine how this learning, regardless of its basis applies to me and my mission to serve others. Some people might ask, why bother to learn anything when all of your knowledge and wisdom will die with you? Great question. However, what if what you learned and used helped you have a happier, more peaceful and rewarding life while you are here?
There are many reasons to learn. The simple test is this – have you ever had a situation or experience where, because of your lack of learning, knowledge or wisdom cost you time, money, love, peace or happiness? If you can answer no then, you are right, why bother to learn unless some of what you have learned might help others who cross your path.
The purpose of growth is to develop wisdom. First there is information. Information is nothing more than ideas, principles, concepts, approaches, techniques etc. Each of us is bombarded daily with more information than we need or could ever assimilate.
Information is followed by understanding. When you understand how certain information applies to you, you are now in a position to take the next step to knowledge.
Knowledge is nothing but filtered information. You have decided that what you have been exposed to has relevance or importance to you in some area of your life. Once you have decided to integrate certain knowledge into your consciousness you then have the choice to take it to the final stage and that is the development of wisdom. Wisdom is where you apply the knowledge you have gained towards the circumstances, events or people in your life.
So as you can see there is a difference between information, knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge also means having access to information in your mind that you have been exposed to. Wisdom is knowing what is important that you have learned and knowing when and how to use this information. Many people today are amassing large amounts of knowledge, but seem to be lacking in their ability to select what is important and use it appropriately for inner peace and happiness.
Knowledge is a good thing if it is used.
The other thing I have noticed is that knowledge we once had – which was true for us at a previous time – is either no longer true for us now or no longer valuable. I submit that being able to do division problems in high school was a valuable skill. Now the ability to use a calculator can save time, reduce calculation errors and give us time for other activities.
I am not advocating a revolution against technology, information or the amassing of huge amounts of knowledge. I am, however, suggesting that if your knowledge does not give you wisdom, why bother?
The value driven approach ensures that once an individual has gained new skills, abilities, attitudes or mindsets that they use them consistently and appropriately. The value driven approach requires periodic review, inspection, reinforcement, measurement and accountability benchmarks. Without each of these people, will tend, over time, to default back to previous methods, approaches or more comfortable techniques. Let’s take a closer look at the four learning strategies;
-The awareness level.
At this level of learning employees have an awareness only of techniques, tactics, skills and approaches to be more effective in their roles. However, they lack the clarity and understanding to embrace the learning in a way that will allow them to put the information into practice in an effective way and for the long term. At this level, behavior will not change and you will have essentially wasted corporate resources and the employee’s time. They will be alert and attentive during any training session, but will lack the knowledge necessary to know how, where, when and why to use this new information. The awareness level can be described as sharing information only.
-The understanding level
At the understanding level, employees get it. They see the relationship between the information they have learned and its value, but they still lack the ability to apply what they have learned to their roles and responsibilities.
-The integration level
Knowledge if it is not used applied or integrated into current mindsets, activities, responsibilities or approaches is essentially useless information. Without a doubt the biggest challenge in any training initiative is to ensure that the new learning is used and used whenever and wherever appropriate for the long term. Applying new knowledge for the short-term only generally occurs when the following ten requirements are followed in any training program
-The mastery level
Mastery is the highest form of knowledge applied. This is where wisdom becomes the standard for learning and skill and attitude development. Mastery occurs when knowledge becomes wisdom and wisdom is utilized at every opportunity when the situation or circumstance warrants. Very few participants in a training session for a number of reasons that we have already discussed achieve this level of knowledge or information application. Generally speaking people who achieve mastery in their chosen field or endeavor have made mastery their goal and they have followed through with discipline, persistence and planning.
Tim Connor, CSP is an internationally renowned sales, management and leadership speaker, trainer and best selling author. Since 1981 he has given over 4000 presentations in 21 countries on a variety of sales, management, leadership and relationship topics. He is the best selling author of over 70 books including; Soft Sell, That’s Life, SOLD, 81 Challenges Managers Face and Your First Year In Sales. He can be reached at email@example.com, 704-895-1230 or visit his websites at http://www.timconnor.com or [http://soldbook.com]
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