After training, learners are ready to apply new skills but they may be reluctant to do things differently. This is especially true if they are surrounded by others—including managers—who are unfamiliar with their new skills. Managers need to understand, encourage, support and monitor ongoing application of new skills.
The performance system is a way of describing and managing all the cues people receive that influence what they do and how they work. Although the most important cues people receive may come from their peers, it is the cues coming from managers that we can most easily change. Managers need to create an effective work environment and remove any barriers that impede the desired behaviors. If the work environment makes it difficult to use new skills, training dollars are wasted.
Best practices for managers:
- Reinforce the expectations presented during the training.
- Demonstrate and model the use of the new skills.
- Consider adjusting job descriptions to reflect the desired behaviors.
Once employees begin applying the new ideas, managers need to continually encourage their use. It is important for managers to understand and communicate how the new skills can contribute to achieving the goals of the organization, the department and the individual. Managers need to close the loop by providing individuals with information to help them hone their new skills. One way is to integrate use of the new skills into regular job performance reviews.
If managers maintain an interest in the use of the new skills, so will the people they manage. If managers provide encouraging consequences to people for changing the way they work, people will put in the extra effort often required to achieve change. By helping employees to overcome job barriers and by paving the way for them to demonstrate their use of new skills, managers facilitate the transition from training to application and the integration of skills into the workflow. These efforts will accelerate the return on the training investment.
In this blog series we have drawn from KT’s experiences helping clients achieve targeted results through training. The following are examples of how organizations used the performance system to encourage and sustain the use of new skills in the workplace.
A telecommunications and wireless device company made several structural changes to align new roles and responsibilities with their vision. New teams were dedicated to supporting specific subsets of customers. Managers were given specific accounts and responsibility for coaching and training new Technical Service Engineers. The Technical Service Engineers were relocated close to their most important customers so they could provide onsite support during crises.
After training, a pharmaceutical company built the new ideas into their investigation SOPs and made using the new skills a job expectation. Providing training to Operations, QC and QA managers and to QA reviewers, ensured that investigation writers would get relevant feedback. By tracking the percentage of root causes found and time to closure, managers tracked the writers’ performance and the progress towards meeting compliance.
At a hospital group, the expectations for putting new skills to work started at the top. The senior leadership team were the first to be trained and all agreed the organization would benefit from adding KT methods to core competencies. Next, they began to train directors. For anyone to take the training, their director must have completed the training, so that people returned to a supportive environment after training. Because the KT rational thinking processes are one of four, core competencies, the CEO expects the teams to report on how they are using the core competencies on projects. Finally, proficiency in using these tools is a consideration in performance evaluations as well as assessments of potential for promotions, career development and opportunities for future growth.
Management at a computer chip/electronics manufacturer established triggers for use of the new troubleshooting and decision-making skills they had learned. Facilitators are expected to cross functions and sites to help others use the skills. The use of the new troubleshooting and decision-making skills are now a requirement for certain quality and program management positions within the organization.
Managers are the key to creating a performance system that encourages people to continue to use and improve on what they have learned. Employees benefit when it is clear that they are expected to use their new skills and will be supported and rewarded for doing so. Change is often difficult, but if the performance system—all the cues that influence what people do and how they work—support and sustain the new skills, training can help achieve organizational goals.