As a training manager, you have to walk a fine line between, on one hand, meeting budget expectations and learning benchmarks set by company leadership and, on the other hand, delivering training that employees are actually excited to engage in. It can be a lot to balance, and you want to make a good impression on both sides of that line! Luckily, strengthening your credibility as a training manager goes hand in hand with strengthening your training offerings and how you present them to management and participants. Here are four ways to protect and improve your credibility while designing an exceptional training program in the process.
1. Focus on changing behavior for lasting results.
When you’re trying to get training buy-in from executives, you can improve your credibility by focusing on the end result: changed behavior. Training sessions are often framed as opportunities to learn new skills in a safe, supportive environment. Savvy training managers, however, understand that strategic training is not just about learning new skills—it’s about creating lasting behavior change. When it comes time to get budget buy-in from your company’s leaders for new training initiatives, frame your training not just as an opportunity for professional development but as a strategy for increasing employee productivity and effectiveness. Teaching participants how to improve behaviors, and supporting their behavior transformations after the training with retention programs, translates to on-the-job results. Higher productivity and effectiveness lead to higher ROI—an outcome that your leaders respect and expect.
2. Implement training that’s a proven success.
So, how do you change behavior through training? This is where experiential learning comes in. Through hands-on, discovery-based exercises, trainees “learn by doing” so that they’re able to learn new skills and practice them in one fell swoop. This approach to learning works: Studies have shown that with experience-based learning, people have a 70 percent recall of what they learned (compare that to just a five percent recall for passive learning methods). Plus, experiential learning not only is easier for trainees to remember, but it creates personal conviction—a necessary ingredient for true behavior change—by involving the trainees in the training itself.
3. Be clear that your training is more than “just a game.”
If your company hasn’t engaged in experience-based learning before, you may get some pushback—both from leadership and the trainees themselves. Sometimes, trainers may hear from trainees that they “don’t like games” or don’t see how a game relates to work. This viewpoint is understandable, because so many experience-based activities just feel like busywork with no deeper purpose.
Experiential learning, however, is different—because the skills and knowledge needed to change behavior are built into the experience itself. That usually becomes evident once the experience gets underway and trainees sink their teeth into the challenge. If you get pushback from someone who thinks a training “game” is just a time-waster, simply ask the participant to try the experience for a few minutes to really see if this is the kind of “game” that they dislike. They’ll soon become so engrossed in the real challenge at hand that they’ll forget their doubts.
4. Connect learning to real-world outcomes.
Improve your credibility as a training manager by ensuring that you’re focusing not just on the fun, immersive part of the training experience but also on what comes after: the debrief. In experiential learning, the debrief is when facilitators make the important connections between what participants just experienced in the learning activity and how that relates to their actual jobs. During the debrief, facilitators reveal that the same strategies that participants use to succeed during the training exercise can be used to succeed at work. For many participants, the debrief represents the “aha!” part of the training, where the value of the training clicks for them. While designing and implementing the fun themed part of an experiential learning session may be what gets many trainers excited, credible training managers know that the real magic for participants happens in the debrief. Keep your focus on creating a debrief that crystallizes learning for participants so that they can immediately apply that learning on the job. Your participants—and your executive team—will thank you.
In what ways have you felt like your credibility was on the line as a training manager? What did you do to sustain your credibility?