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Why is it so hard for people to apply what they’ve learned in training when they return back to their job? Studies show if training is not put to use, 90% of what was learned is lost within as soon as 30 days! That’s like losing 90 cents out of every dollar spent on training!

The most important reason for this loss of newly acquired knowledge or skill is the lack of reinforcement of what was learned once they return to their normal routine. As a manager/leader, we need to be prepared to reinforce training back in the job function from the day training is completed and the testing is done. From my experience, I’d like to share three tips I’ve found invaluable for helping my team retain - and actually use - the training they’ve completed.

First, find out what they learned. Do this by scheduling a conversation with your teammate as soon as they return from training. Ask them the following questions:

  • What was the most important thing you learned?
  • What do you want to do differently now that you are back at work?
  • How can I help support you?

Next, allow them to “change” their work habits to incorporate the new skill(s) obtained from training. How that manifests itself will be predicated on their answers to the questions you asked. When I worked for a bank and the first of my tellers went to training to learn a new system, she wanted to share her knowledge with everyone on teller row! So, I scheduled a special meeting to allow her to make a brief presentation to the team. I also made her the “super-user” at our branch. She became our resident expert on the new system and made sure that everyone on the team was using the system correctly. Not only did her behavior change – and stick – but so did that of the entire team!

Finally, figure out a way to incorporate the new knowledge and skills into their performance review. As the old saying goes; what is not measured is not managed. If it isn’t possible to change the formal evaluation process, you can make it informal. When I had a group complete a new sales training course, I created an internal contest to see who could increase their cross-sell percentage the most in the first month. The winner would receive recognition and a small prize. We tracked it publicly and reported progress in our daily huddles. By the end of the month, everyone had improved, and the new skills were cemented in their skillset.

The bottom line is this: Reinforcement of training requires your active participation and involvement of the trainees in the process. When you communicate, encourage and reward successes - you’ll be certain to see the behavior change stick!

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