I am certain you have experienced this conundrum before: You’ve led participants through a training program, and all the indications are that they seem to understand the material. Many of them even ace the retention quizzes you’ve designed, so you know the learning has taken root, yet their behavior on the job hasn’t changed.
If you’ve found yourself in this scenario when implementing training programs, it’s because you haven’t truly captured the hearts and minds of your participants. Participants not only need to learn new skills during training, they need to understand “what’s in it for them.” Yes...WIIFT! That’s what leads to true behavior change. Below are the two elements every one of your training programs must embrace in order to capture hearts and minds.
Build Personal Conviction
In order to capture the hearts and minds of your participants so that they actually apply the skills and behaviors they’ve learned post-training, you must build conviction during your training programs. In everything we do as humans, we hold on tightly to our beliefs, and those beliefs become part of our identities. If you have participants who believe strongly in doing something a certain way, then having them engage in training programs that attempt to teach new behaviors may seem like a personal attack on their beliefs and convictions—and even themselves. Yes, training can be an emotional minefield!
The solution is simple: In order to change hearts and minds, you must build conviction. Okay, maybe not simple, but very, very doable. You can intentionally design your training programs to capture a person’s conviction from the start. Experiential learning—that’s it! You must create experiences that viscerally engage participants, making them feel personally affected by the need for and value of learning new skills and changing behaviors. When participants physically and emotionally engage in experiential training, they are in effect mirroring their current reality. Through an experience, you can demonstrate how new behaviors improve the current reality, allowing your participants to become far more open to changing their behaviors on the job. The result is that new skills are taught and that there is a conviction that those new skills have the power to change a person’s current realities for the better. It is widely accepted that the more senses you use in learning, the more of an impact there will be on you as a learner—learning by doing is the perfect example of this.
Model Behaviors Through Leadership
What happens if you design your training programs to teach new behaviors and build personal conviction, but the day after your training, participants see one of the leaders of the company engaging in behaviors that go directly against what your training just taught? Your participants wouldn’t feel the urgency to change their behaviors anymore, as they may be thinking, If he can do it, then so can I.
For better or for worse, employees look to their leaders to figure out what behaviors are acceptable in the workplace. That’s why it’s so important to not only get budget buy-in from company leaders but their ongoing support and engagement too. Your company leaders must understand that they are responsible for training outcomes, even if they have a team implementing them, and that not supporting training initiatives by refusing to change their own behaviors undermines the efficacy of training altogether. “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t work when it comes to capturing the hearts and minds of your people.
Keep in mind that when we say a company’s leadership must model the behaviors it wants to see in employees, we mean all levels of leadership: executives, middle management, and front-line supervisors. Often, however, you lose the hearts and minds of lower-level leadership as you rope them into modeling and motivating new behaviors learned by their supervisors during training programs. They may not understand the importance of the training and remain uncommitted to it, or they might not have the same communication skills needed to motivate their employees that higher levels of leadership possess. Investing in leadership training for all levels of leadership will ensure your other training programs are more effective. Leadership training teaches new skills and instills conviction, arming all levels of leaders with the tools they need to support their colleagues in new training initiatives.
What other strategies have you used to capture the hearts and minds of participants—and leadership—for your training programs?