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Practice leads to Proficiency – but does our training allow enough time for this?

This question of allowing enough time in workshops for what is most important has challenged me throughout my training career. It zoomed to top of mind a couple of weeks ago at Beryl Oldham’s seminar on training needs assessment for the New Zealand Association of Training and Development.

Taking a good look at what Beryl called “what IS” there (rather than what level of staff performance we “think” might or should be) is essential at the assessment phase.

But it was when she asked if we know “how well does training transfer from the artificial training environment to the actual workplace” that I really sat up. This has also been difficult for me as a mostly external trainer with no influence over the workplaces my trainees go back into.

It was here that Beryl emphasised the need for repeated practice in order for trainees to acquire proficiency. She asked:

  • do we allow enough time in the training for people to practice skills?
  • do we assess the criticality of various necessary skills?
  • do we allow more time for trainees to practice more critical skills – during and after training?

“If criticality is involved, they need practice, practice, practice,” she said. So, we need to include more training time to rehearse critical procedural skills. “If people have to do important things frequently, then they need to have regular routine practice sessions,” she said.
I can really see the application to environmental procedures, where non-compliance can have serious consequences for the environment – and the business.

We also need to train people’s supervisors or managers before they send their staff on the training. Campbell Sturrock  works in the civil construction sector as Team Leader, Business Improvement – which I think is a great name for an environmental team!  Campbell told me recently that the need for supervisor/manager training was a key learning for him. He said that in his view, supervisors are an essential part of supporting trainees’  new skills and making sure critical skills are regularly practised at work, especially just after the training so trainees develop capability and confidence. He said this also emphasises that the company really, truly, deeply believes this is important – a powerful signal to staff to take environmental procedures seriously.

As Beryl said, “The biggest reason that training fails is that we don’t follow up on the job.”

If we want to maximise the return on investment (ROI) of the time and money that bosses invest in training and the goodwill trainees invest in it, then we need invest properly in our training needs assessment and our assessment of the criticality of key skills – and program in that all-important time to “practise, practise, practise.”

Beryl Oldham is a Certified ROI Professional and a New Zealand Associate of Drs Jack and Patti Phillips’ ROI Institute. Find out more about her work here.

Find out more about Drs Jack and Patti Phillips’ ROI Institute here – and about their book “The Green Scorecard: Measuring the Return on Investment in Sustainability Initiatives” here.

Check out the New Zealand Association of Training and Development here. Look for similar associations in your own country – they offer wonderful opportunities for professional learning and development. Every environmental subject matter expert delivering any form of training should belong!