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How to Make Training and Development a Power Agent for Change

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Does this sound familiar? With high expectations, you sent your employees or yourself to a training or personal development program. Six weeks later you're not sure if it was worth the investment. What went wrong?

In an ever-changing business environment, it's important that you and your workforce are prepared to handle whatever happens. Very few people will question that concept - so where's the problem? Why doesn't training seem to work for so many people? Most people are sold on the idea of training but aren't really sure how to make it work for them. Let's take a look at 10 factors that will help you get lasting results from training.

1. Conduct a thorough needs analysis.
Make sure that training is the answer. Conduct a thorough needs analysis first. Often the obvious cause is not the real reason for a deficiency. For example, doing skills-related training when it's not a skill problem won't fix anything long term. It will also harm your credibility with your employees and can lead to lower morale.

2. Don't sign up for the next fad.
OK, you know training is the answer. Get the solution for your needs, not someone else's. Make sure a program will satisfy your specific objectives.

3. Don't sign up for every fad.
Don't change your focus with the seasons. If you didn't get results from the other programs, this year's latest and greatest probably won't work either. Again, analyze what you really need. If the other programs didn't work, ask yourself why. Ask yourself what you would be doing differently starting a new program.

This brings us to...

4. Get support.
If you're looking to change a process or behavior, make sure the ones who count in your organization have signed on for the change. To get lasting results, you need people who will back up the training in their positive words and positive reinforcement of new behaviors or processes.

5. Consider delivery.
Once you decide that training is the appropriate solution, concentrate on how you'll bring it to your organization. Here are some questions you should ask: how it is to be conducted? Lecture, discussion, hands-on? You'll want to make sure training is interactive. People learn by doing. How large will the group be? A larger group makes it difficult for much interaction and can also intimidate people from participating fully. Keep number of participants low, perhaps under 12 -15 people. This way, no one gets lost in the crowd. Everyone can equally benefit.

6. Consider the individual.
If you've decided on an in-house solution and there are will be several sessions, consider mixing people and personalities to create synergy. Remember the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. Participants learn from each other. Give plenty of opportunities for discussion.

7. Set class times for maximum learning.
Avoid scheduling training for outside of business hours if possible. Remember people don't work in a vacuum. They'll get more out of the program and concentrate better if they're not worried about children, parents, spouses, pets, etc. If necessary split the difference. For example, office hours are 9-5 and the training class is 2 hours: start at 8AM. If you must schedule outside the regular shift, give everyone plenty of notice.

And finally...

8. Open your mind.
Prepare for the class. What is it about? What are the objectives? If you are an attendee, arrive early for the session if possible. Turn off the cell phone and ignore the beeper. Focus your thoughts on the session ahead.

9. Practice makes perfect.
New skills must be used immediately for best on the job retention. Making a habit is like breaking one. Help this process along by following up with a short training class 2-3 weeks after initial training. One shot training will not give you the results you desire.

10. Reinforce.
Back on the job; make sure that the environment is conducive to implementing the ideas or behaviors learned. Finally, give support and recognition where due.

Training and development can be powerful agents for change in your organization. Used correctly, training and development ensures a return on investment. Used sloppily or incorrectly, you will waste time and money. You'll also waste something even more important: your potential.

Jo Ann Kirby is president of KRG Communications Group. She has 20 years experience in sales and sales management and an extensive background in training and development. Her background also includes extensive b2b telesales management experience. Jo Ann has been published in The Toastmaster, NAPPS Network and Commerce magazines. More can be found at

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