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Last updated: 14.10.21

How to create training that really changes behaviour

Why does training need to change behaviour? It used to be that training was arranged to provide knowledge, and obviously, that is a big part of it, but is knowledge enough by itself? Not exactly. It’s the behaviour change that will really make a difference; it’s the proof that the learner has gained the skill, expanded their role, and really taken on board what they’ve learnt. And it isn’t just beneficial to the employee; any new skills inevitably help drive a business forward too. But if the training doesn’t change behaviour then it’s wasted working hours – for both the employee and the business – and a lost opportunity.

But to achieve this, the training has to be designed to allow for, and encourage, the change. But how? For starters, you need to take accountability. This means abandoning the belief that learning is a ‘tick box’ exercise and moving away from focusing solely on the number of learners completing the course regardless of the actual impact. Instead, you have to put the learner at the front and centre of the training. Do that and you’ll start creating training that has the impact you want, an impact that the business can gain from.

Here are six tips to help you do just that.

1. It’s all about the learner’s needs

If you take away anything from this article, take away this point: to get training to change behaviour, address the learner’s needs. The way to discover these needs is through analysis. Don’t just assume you know what they should be learning – find out. Talk to them. Ask them what they’re trying to do, what they can’t do efficiently or effectively and then create or curate a solution that will meet their needs and provide the tools, insights, and information they require to fix their problem.

If the training meets the learner’s needs then it will be relevant. And the importance of relevance has been highlighted by the pandemic, when training which focused on what was relevant was hugely popular. That is what makes it appealing, which in turn will help drive the behaviour change. If they need and want it, then they will use it.

2. The 3 C’s: compelling, constructive, convenient

Three words to strive towards are compelling, constructive and convenient, and there are numerous ways to get there. Bite-size learning ticks the convenient box as it allows the learner to dip in and out as and when they need to. Informal learning is another approach – this can be a collection of resources they can browse through that will meet their challenges. Though, if taking this approach, consider carefully how the resources are collated, as it can be overwhelming and unhelpful if they aren’t easy to navigate.

Making sure the training is relatable and relevant meets constructive, as it will truly help them get where they need to be. It also helps tick the compelling box, as anything that is relevant and useful immediately becomes more compelling. But compelling can also be met by considering how it’s designed and built – is it interactive, interesting, or challenging?

3. Consider your pre- and post-training approaches

Don’t underestimate the power of these. L&D professionals can get so caught up in the training part that they forget about the other two important aspects – pre-training and post-training.

This could be a whole piece in itself (and, indeed, we’ve done an article in our report The Importance of Investing in your Learners) – but essentially in pre-training you work to get the learners on board. You can address their barriers – common examples are a lack of time, or belief that it isn’t relevant – as well as build up their intrigue around the training itself. It’s a great opportunity to get them excited and convince them that it’s for them. It can also be a time for them to ask any questions or concerns they may have about it. Overall, this part of the training can be extremely powerful – if they’ve bought into it before it happens, they’ll be more likely to go in with an open and ready mind and actually complete the training.

Post-training, however, is all about cementing and embedding the learning. We want to beat the forgetting curve! To do this, there must be time set aside to make sure the learner has understood the learning and can apply it to their role with confidence. There are different ways of doing this, and it’s best to use a varied selection. You can have manager 1-2-1 meetings, use quizzes, share success stories and carry out exercises to make sure the training is being applied to their role – there’s nothing like ‘doing’ to help with learning!

4. Use new technologies where relevant

Some training (but not all) will benefit from some of the latest technology, such as AR, VR and 3D graphics, which simulate real-life situations. They can be used very effectively in a number of different topics from customer support to complex equipment training. These technologies allow the learner to learn, fail, and make mistakes, as well as repeat, repeat, repeat – all in the comfort of their own home, workplace or educational environment. It’s the repetition and learning from mistakes that makes them so effective as it really helps embed the learning. We’ve done a great article on how to utilise these technologies, which you can check out here.

5. Make it part of something bigger

Though training is helpful to the business and helps develop skills it needs to keep moving forward, your employees are more likely to buy into if they feel it’s part of something bigger. The younger generation especially like to know that it will help their career progression, and that it is something that is truly beneficial to them; therefore, don’t forget to highlight those benefits too.

6. Ask for feedback

Lastly, aim to continuously improve your training offering. It’s not a one-off thing. Talk to the learners and see what worked for them, what didn’t and then you can take those findings and apply them to your next training piece and make it even better next time.

When creating training, L&D professionals need to keep an eye on the bigger picture. It’s only when they look into the effects and see that the learning is influencing both the employees’ work, and the businesses’ organisational metrics and results, that they will really see the value of putting in the effort needed to create training which truly changes behaviour.

To discover more tips and insights into developing a compelling and behaviour-changing L&D programme, download our Evolution of L&D reports: Creating Training to Suit the Learner and The Importance of Investing in your Learners.

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