We are very excited to see the latest edition of Human Resources magazine feature our article on Training Transfer. CLICK HERE to view the article in Human Resources magazine.
A day of training needs to be more than a good lunch and the opportunity to network with other people. While training provides the opportunity to learn new skills, the degree to which those new skills are integrated into practice is a topic of debate for trainers, HR managers and CEO’s alike. Coaching, both before and after training, has been identified as a method of ensuring training transfer.
What is Training Transfer?
Let’s face it. Training is a considerable investment in people. The cost of the training course, along with food, venue and the loss of work output all adds up. As a result the outcomes of training have to stack up like any other return on investment that a business measures. It stands to reason that there needs to be a level of reassurance that the new skills learnt in training are integrated into practice. While the goal of training is to enhance the participants’ level of knowledge, attitude and skills, the degree to which they are then able to apply that new learning into their work practice is referred to as training transfer. The intention is that the higher the level of training transfer, the greater the improvement in job performance. The transfer process can be influenced by a number of factors including personality characteristics such as motivation and confidence; peer support, management buy in, training content and environmental factors.
However, it is coaching, both before and after a training course that is a key driver of ensuring that the transfer process is effective. Coaching focusses on raising self-awareness and self- responsibility through the development of individual objectives and personalised goal setting. It provides the opportunity to practice and reflect on the new skills alongside receiving feedback. The benefits are practice of the new strategies, using them effectively, greater long term retention, teaching the new strategies to others and greater understanding.
In one study in the U.S. the benefit of training compared to the combined scenario of training and post-training coaching was explored. It found that training alone improved productivity by 22% but when coaching was added, productivity increased by a huge 88%. In another similar U.S. study, participants were separated into two groups: one group received training alone while the second group received training with pre and post coaching sessions provided by their manager. The first group reported lower training transfer activities and higher perceived barriers to implementing the new skills. The second group reported higher training transfer activities and a more positive perception of a work environment which supported them to practice their new skills. The study recommended building strong trainer-manager-trainee partnerships in the phases before, during, and after training.
Alongside this, a further U.S. study compared a 13 week training course of 2.5 hour modules with an intensive two day block course which had a three week break between day one and day two. Both groups received coaching between the training modules. The findings demonstrated a greater improvement in emotional intelligence and skill level for the 13 week training course.
Coaching in Action – Cawthron Institute
This research formed the basis of a leadership development programme designed to incorporate a modular training framework with coaching at pre-course, during and post-course levels. The programme was developed in conjunction with Cawthron Institute (an independent research institute in Nelson specialising in resource protection and management, aquaculture and food safety and analysis). Participants are selected for the programme on the basis of their current leadership role, whether this is formal or informal; or on their potential as future leaders. Sarah Brown, Human Resources Manager at Cawthron Institute, believes that this process helps to give recognition to leaders. “It gives the message that we value the special role that people play in being prepared to stand up and be leaders for our organisation.”
The programme begins with an online Herrmann Whole Brain Thinking profile which identifies thinking preferences and assists with developing self-awareness. A pre-course meeting is held with the coach who is also the course presenter, the participant and their manager. Leadership goals are identified at this meeting. A link is drawn between the individual goal setting and alignment with Cawthron Institute’s organisational strategy and goals for leadership and culture. This process helps to create a sense of being part of the bigger picture.
The training course includes four half-day learning modules which focus on leadership topics. Coaching sessions are held with the coach and the participant after each module. John Whitmore’s GROW framework is used (Goal, Reality, Options, What) to guide the discussion and provide insight into the participant’s leadership practices. On-job assignments, which provide the structured framework for skills practice in the workplace, are debriefed. The assignments form a key part of the programme design and provide a focus for the coaching sessions. “I can’t overstate the value of on-job practice and individual coaching to the success of this programme and the general transfer of learning,” says Kathy Jamieson, presenter and coach in people performance and development at BDC. “Participants really appreciate the one-on-one time to talk about their personal leadership issues and the strategies they could apply to specific situations they face. Often there is no one right answer for a specific issue, but working out what approach fits the participant’s leadership style and situation, and what they are willing to try, is time well spent.” Participants record the outcome of their practice examples and reflections in their personalised learning journal with the opportunity to continue to refine leadership practices.
Finally, a coaching session with the coach, participant and their manager is held one month following the last training module where the learning goals are reviewed. The outcome is either a new or modified set of leadership objectives, or a continuation of the existing goals, dependent on the situation.
Creating a Training Legacy
Four series of the leadership development programme have been completed at Cawthron Institute with the 5th series underway. There is now a shared understanding of leadership behaviours and language amongst the leadership team and a maturing leadership culture. Dr. Roger Young was one of the first participants of the programme and now as a group manager he is responsible for recommending up and coming managers to attend the programme. “‘I found the individual coaching sessions particularly useful. We discussed specific leadership experiences and identified opportunities to try out leadership strategies in real situations. This course was a helpful reminder that everyone thinks a little differently. The preferred communication style for one person may not work for another person”.
Sarah Brown has the final word on what she sees as being the benefits for team leaders and managers. “They are well equipped to perform tasks associated with leading their teams well and to feel comfortable to engage with others when they need help. They develop an awareness of the mechanics of leading teams and the skills needed to do that well. In essence, they have the recipe: to stop and think, know what they need to do, have the skills to do it or engage others to assist where needed.”