To build sustainable change capabilities in an organization you need to do more than simply train people. As most of you know traditional training can lead to very poor learner retention rates and even more damagingly to very low application rates. So, the key challenge is to move change management from being training-led to being a consistently used business application. This does not devalue training, which remains a crucial activity. And, I certainly don’t want to encourage any more negative thinking about training. There are already enough decision-makers in organizations who think training is a cost and frankly not necessary if you have ‘good’ people. But I do think we have to continually develop the notion that learning is more than just training. And, that learning is vital if you want successful application in the business. Over the last 19 years we have developed 7 ways of doing just that.
- Design training so that people work on real issues. If people apply what they learn to a specific project issue, learning retention has been shown to increase from 25% after 90 days to as much as 65%.
- Only run workshops with people who have live projects to work on – either projects already underway, or those starting in the next 30 days. This ‘just in time’ approach drives commitment and real application from employees. If you have a culture of people volunteering for workshops, it’s important to put a strong filter into place to ensure that only people with current projects take part in the workshop.
- Build sponsorship for change management. Lack of sponsorship is the number one reason why organisational capability building initiatives are not sustained. You will need strong executive sponsorship and direct management sponsorship. Direct managers should follow up on training and require change plans to be submitted.
- Coach people who still need help to apply the skills and processes they learn. The success of training improves with reinforcement and ongoing assistance. You should also strive to motivate people who don’t have the will to apply the learning. If your organization designed its workshop to deal with tangible business issues – such as poor change management – then you cannot allow people a pass on applying what they have learned. Work with them to understand the issues that are preventing them using the material and help them apply the training. Set clear goals for application.
- Build change management methodology into other processes such as project management and business reviews. In other words, make it as easy, as you can, for them to practice good change management.
- Help communities of practice to form and flourish. Part of any knowledge transfer process is people beginning to take ownership of the methodology. They need help to do this. Peer-to-peer communities can be very effective at sharing knowledge and best practice.
- Train managers in change management. The practical application of change management needs to be part of every manager’s toolkit. In addition, every employee, regardless of level, needs to know how to help themselves and how to think with others in times of change.
All of this takes work and some investment. Fortunately that pales into insignificance if compared with the re-work involved in failed projects, the costs of additional consulting support and the potential loss of credibility of your employee development efforts. My take away from all of this is that you can develop people in your organization to execute change initiatives well but you have to help them learn how to do it. That takes more than a couple of days on a training course or an e-learning program.
If your organization is looking to close the skills gap, build sponsorship and maximise learning productivity, you may be interested in Roadmap Pro, our change management toolkit. It makes it quicker and easier for people to ‘learn-while-doing’ and rapidly builds your organizations agility to deliver change in a cost effective way.