Learning Transfer: Creating Short Soft Skills Training Programs
Learning Transfer: By Leslie Allan on September 30th, 2011
You may be tempted to run a short training program for your employees on some aspect of personal management or interpersonal relations. You know the type of soft skills training session I am talking about. It could be on customer service, team leadership, time management, assertiveness or emotional intelligence.
Managers are busy and employees are behind in their workloads. So, you are asked to deliver the training program in a one hour time slot. What do you say? Avoid designing and delivering such a program if you are at all concerned about your credibility and delivering a program that makes a difference.
Why? The way people manage their work and interact with others is the result of a lifetime of experiences. Their behaviors have been shaped by rewards and punishments over many, many years. Some of those influences no longer apply, but the behavior remains steadfast as if travelling down a well worn track. For you or anyone to expect to change those behaviors in a mere 60 minutes is a fantasy.
Saying “No” outright to such a request is not helpful. I always like to say, “Yes and …” In this case, you can recommend teaching one or two very specific skills in 60 minutes. These could be: setting personal goals, making a meeting agenda, dealing with interruptions, taking a deep breath in a conflict, and so on. So, you can say to the requesting manager, “Yes, and to make the training effective let’s decide on which two skills are the most important to improve with this short session.”
If the manager pushes back and insists on delivering more, ask them if they want the program to be useful to participants and to have an impact back on the job. When they say “Yes”, then reiterate that research and your own experience shows that training content needs to be chunked with lots of opportunity for practice if it is to have an impact back on the job.
You can also help focus the requesting manager’s attention on application back in the workplace by asking, “What is it that you want participants to do differently after the training?” “What do you want them to do more of/less of?” Then pick one or two behaviors that will be the focal point for the short training burst.
Managers asking for a mind-numbing brain dump in a one hour burst is also a signal to me that participants will most likely experience limited on the job support once they return to work. Help managers develop the support systems and practices so necessary for on the job application by asking them, “After the training session, how will you monitor and encourage the right behaviors?”
If they are struggling for an answer, offer your assistance with building performance monitoring and measuring systems, rewards for the right behavior and the feedback and coaching skills of managers and supervisors. I suspect that once they see how useful your one hour super sessions are, they will be crying out for more.
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