What Should You Do If Your Recognition Education Fails?

Most corporate training and education programs work very well. But now and then you get an educational program, whether in-class, online, blended, or via one of the many learning delivery methods, that ends up being a failure.

If you were following the Kirkpatrick Model and the levels of training evaluation, you might do a Level 3 evaluation to examine participant’s behaviors after the training. You want to find out the degree participants are now actively applying what they learned in the training sessions back on the job. 

You conduct a survey to find out what learning participants are doing or not doing with giving employee recognition. Now you find out that a majority of the learners are not doing much with the skills and principles they were taught.

What can you do to correct this problem? How would you handle the fact that your recognition education failed?

Analyze the Cause for Failure

Conduct a stakeholder analysis from the participant learners to their immediate supervisor and manager. Check in with senior leadersas well.

Did the training leader prepare a business case with the managers of the learners to show the impact possible from the training before conducting training sessions?

Find out what the “user” experience was of learners in taking the training and their ability to apply what they learned back on the job. Do a full Kirkpatrick Model Levels of Evaluation to collect as much data as possible.

How supportive were their supervisor or manager before they even went to training? Perhaps the training was being done at the wrong time and negatively impacted certain job expectations.

Did the supervisor or manager coach the employee on their return to work on ways to implement what they learned? Too often managers just ask how it went in the hallway without a sit down meeting to discuss what happens next.

Are learners being held accountable for applying the training before they receive a certificate of completion? The training leader often is the one to give certificates of completion at the end of the training session. Why not let mangers present the certificate, once the employee has proved themselves in implementing the learning?

Causes of Training Failure

Managers and leaders limit learning success by not building in opportunities for learners to practice and implement what they learned. Competing job demands prevent application of what they learned.

Managers and leaders need to create a modified work period that allows the employees to put into practice what they learned and give a performance management report on their success.

Managers and leaders need to set clear expectations to these learners for what they are supposed to do following training. You should expect employees to return and report back to their managers on progress made and success measures achieved.

Leaders should give their managers messages to support training programs and allow learners the chance to apply what they learned. Otherwise, a manager can’t encourage the transfer of learning desired by trainers.

Things You Can Do

In Tim Mooney and Robert O. Brinkerhoff’s book Courageous Training: Bold Actions for Business Results the authors outline several things you can to encourage learners to put what they learned into practice.

1. Look at all the stakeholders involved that support the training initiative: the learner, the training leader, their immediate supervisor or manager, and the leader above the manager. Think about how each one contributes or inhibits learning before, and after, the training session. 

Example: Has the manager sat down with the employee before going to the training session? What goals did the employee set? How will the manager monitor this after the training?

2. Educate those individuals not directly involved in training about the critical roles they play in supporting and encouraging transfer of learning back on the job. 

Example: Send out a role specific communication to everyone involved with the employee-learner and suggest ways they can help. Managers can follow up with employee immediately upon their return. Peers can take on some workload, if required, to allow practice time. Leaders need to request feedback on all training programs.

3. Work with all parties to set up the right conditions for the employees who received training to put skills and knowledge into practice on the job. 

Example: For interpersonal skills, like giving recognition, learners could maintain a journal to report experiences, measures of success, and general feedback. For skill-based training, give employees time to apply the learning.

4. Create a business case to demonstrate the impact that the training will have on strategic initiatives and/or key business performance indicators to enlist support of senior leaders. 

Example: Depending on available HR metrics gathered you could look at engagement levels, turnover levels, measures of employee recognition. Do a baseline survey prior to any training and a follow-up survey shortly after the training is completed. Show how improved levels of effective and meaningful recognition leads to a higher positive relationship strength between managers and their employees.

Always plan in how your recognition education will succeed with all the required players including the employee learner.

Recognition Reflection: How are you measuring the success of your recognition giving training?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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