Training that sticks beyond the classroom!

Talent development is one of the biggest issues and considerations for companies in 2016 and beyond. Retention of a highly motivated and skilled workforce positively impacts the productivity and bottom line of a company.  BUT, investing in development is costly and many times the behavioral changes aren’t realized. So the paradox that leaders face is, what is more costly - to devote valuable time and money for your employees’ development or to have a workforce that is not trained and developed?  No organization should have to choose between a skilled or unskilled workforce.

Two questions facing those who design, develop and/or deliver training are: how do we get the training to stick?  How can we make it become part of the way the organization does business? Corporate trainers have tried their best to create interactive programs that are customized for the audience with follow-up actions to keep the information alive and actively implemented. Unfortunately, if the information and approach is not sustained in the workplace by coaching and feedback, people will go back to their old practices and the dollars spent will be perceived as “wasted”. 

The old model for development was 90/10.  90% of development was viewed as training and 10% to all else.  Whatever “all else” meant?  The more progressive model has been 70-20-10.  This means 10% is decked to training, 20% to coaching and feedback and 70% to on the job experience.

Katherine Michael Associates has shifted the 90/10 model or paradigm.  We believe the 10% should be the actual training experience, either on-line or instructor led. And the 90% is composed of direct application of the information in the workplace with on-going feedback and coaching. So the shift in behaviors also includes a shift in the manager’s behaviors and interactions.  Feedback, coaching and knowledge transfer to reinforce the training become part of the supervisor or manager’s responsibility to provide on an ongoing basis. 

To implement this successful model requires people who manage talent to change or shift some basic paradigms about training:

1.      Training must be customized for an identified need.  It must contain information which is directly applicable to the workplace.  That information needs to be gathered through discussions with the appropriate people.  Not only management who see a gap and need should be part of the discussion. but members of the workforce who can help identify crucial areas and give pertinent feedback also need to be included.

2.      Select no more than 3-4 priorities or objectives to discuss in the training. These should be aligned with company and/or department strategic objectives. 

a.      The training needs to show the alignment and the importance of each person’s role in supporting the objectives.  This helps to answer the “why” we are doing the training.

b.       Trying to cover too much so that “we can get it all done in one or two days” results in information overload and lack of focus.  Better to have modularized training with more frequent and shorter sessions. Each session should show the linkage to the previous modules.

c.       Scheduling for this type of training can be a source of headaches and seen as interruption to getting the work done.  And yet companies which have implemented this approach see more engaged employees who view the training as part of their normal work schedule.

d.      The time between sessions may vary, but to judge the effectiveness of the new information as standard practice could be at least a month.   For some areas, the training would simply be quarterly.

3.      After the material is developed and ready for delivery, make sure the appropriate people will be attending the training session.  The management team needs to participate in the training.  If their presence in a class may seem to inhibit honest contributions by the employees, then consider having a separate class experience for the leaders. 

a.      But the management class needs to be the very same as what the other people will be taking. Many companies are of the opinion their leadership team only needs an abbreviated session. At times some of the managers need a refresher or exposure to the material as much as their employees.  Having the same experience as the workforce helps managers to be better coaches. 

b.      A side note, if there is a fear of recrimination for being honest in a class, then there may be a bigger issue about trust in the environment. 

4.      By the end of a training session, the 3-4 most critical elements for immediate integration in the workplace now become the team’s focus. If necessary, prioritize the importance of the elements.  These are the things that are going to be emphasized by the leader and monitored for successful implementation. 

a.      So a follow up discussion after the training session must take place. The leader needs to explain: WHY the change is important; WHAT the expectation is, and HOW the new practice will be monitored. 

b.      Participants need to give their input on how they will be using the information.

5.      Additional training and one/one coaching should be provided to assist and support those managers who have difficulty in giving constructive feedback and/or coaching their employees. Many managers are very good at focusing on tasks but not efficient or effective in guiding people to successful results.

a.      And even those who are good at coaching may run into some barriers. Using the Immunity to Change™ approach helps individuals and teams to understand why they may be resistant to the proposed change and how to overcome that resistance.

6.      The new 90-t0 rule applies to on-line training as well.  On-line training is usually delivered in a modularized format. As good as it may be, if on-line training is being used, it is absolutely necessary to have follow-up coaching with the people to make sure that they understand the material and how to use it in the workplace.

a.      And the managers should also take this on-line version to understand exactly what the people are seeing and learning.  

7.      Finally, when the changes have been implemented, managers need to follow through and recognize when the performance is meeting the new standards.

This approach is how to make training stick and to ultimately provide a highly skilled and productive workforce that contributes positively to the bottom line.

Organization Culture and the Unwritten Rules


Today many companies are undergoing “cultural” changes. An organization’s culture reflects the values, beliefs, and norms that characterize an organization as a whole.  These values, beliefs and norms create “unwritten rules” that guide and reward behaviors including negative ones. We usually don’t speak about these unwritten rules – we simply accept them. In fact, we may not even be aware of them, but it doesn’t take a new employee long to understand what is or isn’t acceptable.  And so the culture is sustained. 

No matter what change model you use, early in the process” unwritten” rules and/or policies need to be uncovered, examined and eliminated if they are not part of the new culture.

Examples of unwritten rules:

  •  There is a perceived difference in the way people are treated.
  • Not being held accountable is acceptable.
  • A negative attitude and spreading gossip are part of the way we do business.
  • We encourage silos.  Group or departmental goals are unilateral and rewarded from a vertical mindset. 
  • We let our history dictate how we will do things or interact with others because that’s the way it’s always been done.
  •  People aren’t expected to do critical thinking or make decisions, that’s management’s job.
  • Creative and collaborative thinking are discouraged.

Let’s use a generic 5 step change model to examine where it is best uncover and eliminate unwritten rules.

1.      Define the change - the desired end state.

a.      Create an urgency about the need for change.

 Different cultural surveys may provide the data (e.g. Denison Cultural Survey or a customized employee engagement survey).  These may begin to uncover some of the unwritten rules/policies/processes that govern the culture

 Market analysis, company performance, competitors’ successes or change, and economic factors may be some of the drivers for change as well.  Ignoring or minimizing negative information may be another unwritten rule. The message is, don’t ask, just believe that management knows what they’re doing.

b.      Develop a data driven description of the status quo and a clearly defined end result. Don’t go any further if you can’t provide a clear justification for the change and end state. Be able to determine the ROI (return on investment) from the change.


2.      Engage the team ( at times steps 1 & 2 are done simultaneously)

 Determine who needs to be involved from the beginning either giving input or making decisions about the change? If a formal culture survey is used, it is imperative that the results are shared with the employees.  It becomes a voice for the “untold” feelings or opinions and a catalyst for change that will be accepted.

If a formal culture survey is not used, survey both the management and other employees

  •  Ask: What part of our culture is working?  What gets in the way of being more successful? What dumb rule or policy needs to eliminated?  It is at this point that many of the unwritten rules begin. 
  •   Look for trends and/or similarities between the two perspectives.

 Determine the impact of the change.  Who will be impacted?  Will the impact be temporary or permanent? What will that impact be?

3.      Create a plan, communicate the plan and implement

a.      How will the change be communicated?  When? By whom?

b.      What are the expectations, roles and responsibilities of all?

c.      Will the goals of each department work in conjunction with and support other departments to reach an overall strategic goal?

d.      Create an implementation plan with input from all who will be affected.  Implement in strategic phases.

4.      Evaluate the change

a.      Evaluation is a continuous process during and after each phase. If corrections need to be made, make them and communicate the changes.

b.      Monitor results, communicate what works and what doesn’t.

5.      Reinforce the change and recognize successes

a.      Hold people accountable for behaviors and actions that support the new change.

b.     Continue to eliminate those unwritten rules as the transition continues.

c.      Recognize successes during the transition.

Unwritten rules and policies that create unintended consequences impede progress.  They create low morale and ultimately may be roadblocks to achieving goals and organization success.



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The Power of Strategic Questions

Warning: some of the following material may not be appropriate for everyone!

 The sentence above is how my book, Redefining F.E.A.R. begins.  The warning is about asking or rather not asking strategic questions.  I've asked questions all of my life.  This approach has both helped and hindered me in my career.  Although as a consultant, I find  queries that make people stop and think are not only powerful, but also may help reveal an underlying issue or paradigm.  Uncovering those underlying issues leads to awareness with the options to make a change or to do nothing.

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