Merge's Blog

What school teachers already know about employee training

classroomAs a leader, you recognize the value of investing in training for your employees.  A skilled workforce leads to improved performance and productivity, which means that your staff can do their jobs more effectively on a day-to-day basis.  When people understand their roles, they know how to achieve positive outcomes, and operate more productively.  When you equip your employees with the skills they need to embrace new techniques and procedures, you also maintain your competitiveness.  And when you invest in employee training, you positively impact employee morale and commitment, and eventually performance levels.  All of which means that you want your investment in employee training to not only be useful in the short-term but also last in the long-term!

What makes employee training effective?

So what does it take to make employee training effective?  What is it that ensures that your people are able to understand what is being taught AND influences them to take action?  The answer, not surprisingly, can be found in the education profession.  School teachers are well aware of the value of formative assessment tools to help students learn more effectively.  Essentially, formative assessment strategies are a range of procedures used by school teachers to progressively modify teaching and learning activities when working with students.  And these same tools can be just as powerful when it comes to employee training.  Here are four strategies that teachers use with school children that can be just as effective for leaders to use in the workplace with employees.

  1. Make sure that the goals for learning (and the criteria for success) are understood. Tell people what the expected or desired outcome is.  And if it’s possible, let your employees observe and study examples of different levels of work, so that they can differentiate between superior and inferior work.
  2. Give feedback that not only identifies deficiencies but also lets the person know how to correct and improve on the shortcomings.
  3. Ask questions that promote discussion and reflection, ideally in a group setting. Build upon what one person has said and encourage further dialogue on that or a related subject.  The research shows that when students are engaged, their retention and application goes up; true also of adults in the workplace.  Interestingly, the research also shows that the greater the “wait time” for responses to questions, the higher the quality of the learning.  So don’t be afraid of silence while you’re waiting for answers!
  4. If it’s appropriate in your work environment, use peer-assessment as a training tool. School-environment studies have shown that having students assess each other’s work has significant benefits:  more effort is expended in the work, and constructive criticism from a peer is more easily accepted.

While these four formative assessment tools come from the academic literature relating to school education, they clearly, at least in my experience, have immense applicability in the workplace as well.  But what have been your experiences?  Do you think these four strategies are applicable to adult training as well?  Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

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