One of the most important challenges learning professionals experience is the transfer of training to the job. Some suggest that as little as 10% of what is learned in a training class is transferred to behavior change on the job. Learning professionals intuitively understand this problem and many make concerted efforts to solve it in a variety of ways, including role plays during class and reinforcement activities following the training session in order to increase retention.
Role plays are designed to give learners a chance to practice the new skills they've learned. In a safe environment, learners can make mistakes, the class can discuss each role play and learn from each other. The thought here is that by practicing the skills, students will retain more. Another prescription to the training transfer problem is to conduct reinforcement activities after class — perhaps two weeks or a month after a training session, learners are brought back together to discuss what was learned and how they have been applying it. Role plays and follow-up reinforcement activities are fine, and I believe they are useful, especially in sales and customer service training. However, in terms of practice, they stop one step short, and that last step is to actually perform the job in class.
Last week, I spoke with a sales training vendor who was bragging about how much application is designed into their training classes, implying that it was one of the things that made their training so good. So, I then asked whether they called on clients while in the training. The answer was no. I responded that in the sales training that we conduct at the Knowland Group, we actually call on clients while in training, and I mean “while in the training class.” The vendor responded with sort of a “wow.” I am not suggesting that our training is so great because we call on clients in class, though I think what we do is very good and I'm proud of it. My point is that many learning professionals want to build more real-life practice in class by designing role plays. I wonder how many of us do the real job in class. It is one thing to conduct role plays or simulations, but it's another level entirely to perform the actual work in class.
So I ask you … do you conduct actual work in your training programs? Do you call on clients while in class? Is the final assessment in your training whether or not a learner can perform a work task to an acceptable level of performance? Comment below, let us know your thoughts.
Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.