Sustainable Learning – Is It Possible To Get Training To Stick?

Posted 31/05/2017

There is a real challenge in the world of adult education, even when it relates to the ambrosia that is Procurement training. How do we get the training to stick? 

This isn’t a new subject, but it is useful to reflect on one of the core challenges of education, which is making it relevant for both the participant and the organisation. If we can do that, then we are far more likely to have an excellent long term outcome which delivers significant value for the business. 

Although this sounds easy, there’s a number of steps which seem to be essential to get the absolute maximum return from our training budget - and it involves more than just turning up for the 3 days. 

Our starting point is to know how well our potential trainees understand the subject area (and for the sake of relevance, we’ll think about Category Management here, although we could equally well focus on SRM or Negotiation or other procurement skills). We can do this using a well- structured competency assessment framework, which describes the skills and knowledge gaps in the organisation . 68% of leaders in our survey of category management competencies agree they do this. 

Once we’re clear on gaps, we can identify a cohort, and persuade their managers to set some expectations: not for the training, but for their future achievements which will utilise the knowledge gained in the training. This sets the foundation for on the job learning linking to training interventions which 60% of leaders recognise this as being important. 

Of course, the training needs to be interesting, engaging, relevant, and preferably delivered by experts who can lace the theory with a wide range of illustrations and stories which bring it all to life, together with exercises, case studies and the odd prize (step forwards, the Future Purchasing training team!). Within all this, getting participants to think about application and relevance to their own roles is a significant contributor to getting the learning to stick. Interestingly, our survey shows that only 45% of leaders (and an astonishing 21% of followers) think that their training is excellent

However, we’re not done yet. Once people are back in the workplace, we need them to engage with the training content, and that’s where coaching in the use of learned tools and techniques comes in. If we can get experienced coaches, either internal or external, to help with the first real application of the learned approaches, we get far better understanding and higher value outcomes for the business, massively improving the initial effect of the training activity. 67% of leaders agree with this, while only 42% of followers do. This gives some insight into the performance gap in delivery that opens up between leaders and followers. 

From here, we can also look at sharing best practice: once we have case studies available to show how good technique, tools usage and insight development works, we should be sharing that to reinforce the tools and techniques learned. 57% of leaders and 28% of followers do this. 

The final part of this is to develop a good understanding of the performance delivered by this training cycle. Understandably, as very few manage to properly integrate all elements of the learning cycle: only 24% of our survey group of over 300 businesses thought they did this well. The approach described by Kirkpatrick, to measure the impact of learning both in the classroom environment and within the identifiable changes of behaviour in the workplace and through delivery, is critical here to make sure we don’t focus on the wrong stuff. 

Training budgets are significant when there’s no clear outcome other than participants who have enjoyed the experience. True sustainable learning comes from embracing the entire cycle, and following the steps above gives a far higher degree of business benefit than just hoping that the training sticks. 

For further reading from one of our principal consultants, Alison Smith take a look at "How managers can ensure their teams get the most from attending workshops". 

Otherwise give me a call to find out how we can make your learning sustainable.

Tagged by topic: Category Management , Learning and Development

  by Alison Smith

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