So, let's be honest. We've all attended training or engaged in some sort of development activity, and then stepped back a few months later and wondered if it was really worth our time.
Perhaps you don't remember the material or haven't put new practices in place. Maybe you end up feeling badly about the experience - or worse, feeling badly about yourself.
Don't! It's not your fault.
Something was likely missing from the experience, inhibiting training transfer and robbing you of the chance to make your investment pay off. And that something was probably effective action planning.
How action planning can support learning transfer
Organizations, leaders and individuals invest heavily in training and development through traditional classroom-based workshops, elearning, webinars, apps, mentoring, experiences, and more.
But formal and informal learning efforts fall short of the full range of possible outcomes if we don't metaphorically cross the finish line by bringing the learning to life. Action planning is what does this, bridging insights and intentions to results.
Some simple strategies for engaging in reality-based action-planning
Despite our culture's bias toward action, too frequently we give short shrift to this critical element of learning and behavior change - one that takes little time and delivers big results.
Perhaps action planning is skipped or minimized because some have overcomplicated the process, advocating convoluted SMART goals for learning. But sometimes it's smarter to keep things simple and focus on moving forward versus pursuing procedural purity.
So, if you'd like to get more results from your investment in learning and boost training transfer, here are a few simple, strategies for engaging in reality-based action planning.
When you complete a formal learning event or informal development activity:
- Take just five minutes to brainstorm a list of your insights. Then post the list somewhere as a reminder.
- Ask yourself this one question: What do I want to do as a result of this new information/these insights?
- Identify no more than three steps you'd like to take. (Three is the sweet spot between overwhelming yourself and giving it so little effort that in either case you end up doing nothing.)
- Tell someone your plan. Having an accountability buddy - someone who knows and might follow up with you - who'll help you stick to it.
You can help improve learning transfer by gently guiding your employees' action planning efforts with these straightforward strategies:
- Develop the discipline of routinely debriefing learning activities with employees. It's as simple as getting them talking about what they learned.
- Overtly ask, "What will you do differently as a result?" and note the responses.
- Mark your calendar to follow up on the employee's action steps at appropriate intervals. (Even if they aren't making progress, this demonstrates your genuine interest and commitment, builds a stronger relationship, and enhances their engagement.)
- Spotlight and share success. During team meetings, invite employees to talk about their learnings, actions, and results. Publicly congratulate others when they take action on their plans.
Learning and development professionals
Increase training transfer and encourage action planning by incorporating the following practices into your work:
- Leave 10% of allotted training time for action planning. Create a sacred space for people to reflect, consider options, set intentions, and determine how they'll act upon them, before they return to the breakneck pace of the workplace.
- Treat action planning with the same respect, dignity and significance as other content. (Be honest... this is where you always steal training time when a workshop is running behind.)
- Provide appropriate, thought-provoking prompts to focus energy and action.
- Encourage people to share their action plans with others. Research suggests that public commitment-sharing increases the likelihood of follow-through.
The business benefits of learning transfer
Given the pressure to innovate, adapt, and meet fluid customer demands and constantly changing market conditions - and do it all better, faster and cheaper than before - learning has never been more important. And action planning is a powerful tool for translating essential learning into new behaviors, new practices, and new results.