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3 Factors for Improving the Success of Training Programs

Interpersonal skills training for employees is proven to increase productivity and the quality of collaborative work, but some organizations can find themselves disappointed by a lack of results following training sessions. Like any meaningful HR initiative, training that revolves around behavior or personality is not an instant panacea; training should be followed by diligent application by participants and their employers to fully unlock participants’ potential.

There are a number of models that can provide insight into why the same training initiative can work wonders in one organization while only making a small impact in others.  According to this simple model of behavior, the benefits provided by training programs only make up one third of the formula required for success.

Fogg Behavior Model

When an organization offers an interpersonal-skills training opportunity to employees, the underlying motivation of the company is to influence specific behaviors. The Fogg Behavior Model presents behavior as the result of three complementary factors: Triggers, Motivation, and Ability.

This can be applied to almost any post-training scenario.

Behavior = Triggers + Motivation + Ability

Put simply, a person must have intrinsic motivation, ample ability and an effective trigger for a desired behavior to surface. In the remainder of this post, I will dissect the three components of this equation, revealing key opportunities to increase training effectiveness along the way.

Ability and Personal Development

“Ability” can mean a number of things, but for the purpose of this post I will define “ability” as learned and practiced competence in performance, without considering natural talents and inherent strengths. Under this definition, all ability originates from external sources, such as the types of interpersonal skills training programs that TRACOM offers. For an employee to have the ability to work more effectively with others, that person must be exposed to curricula designed to impart that ability through a learning process. This is the simple part of the equation that most organizations already know, but problems can arise when this is the only variable of the equation that is addressed.

How to Increase Motivation

Unlike learned skills, motivation most often comes from within. An employee’s personal motivation to work more effectively with others comes from intrinsic beliefs, goals and desires – whether hard-coded in DNA or the result of life experiences and unique personalities. If a person has the ability to increase interpersonal effectiveness, but no motivation to do so, then all the training in the world cannot make that person more effective in a team.

Analyzing this variable, we begin to see why training programs can disappoint. Although motivation is intrinsic, it can be nurtured and encouraged through an organizational culture of creativity and growth, wherein employees expect equitable reward for personal and group achievement. Empowering employees to make decisions and allowing them to make mistakes, while holding them accountable for their responsibilities at the same time, can activate deep-seated motivation to excel within an individual. Aligning your organization’s tangible and intangible incentives with goals achievable through learned skills can ignite your employees’ motivation to put into practice the skills they learn in training programs.

The SOCIAL STYLE Model proves that different things can motivate different people. For example, a Driving Style employee may be motivated by opportunities to lead strategic initiatives and accomplish challenging goals, while an Amiable Style person’s motivation can be increased through opportunities to cultivate personal relationships.

Behavior Triggers = New Opportunities

“Triggers” refers to clear opportunities to put skills into practice in practical ways. According to the behavior equation above, a trigger is required to give motivation and ability a platform on which to combine and produce a behavior. For example, consider an employee who attends a conflict-management training course, who is highly motivated to put his new skills into practice. If this employee works in an environment in which conflict is stifled, he may never be presented with a trigger to test his new competence, and the new knowledge will eventually fade.

Of the three components in this model, triggers may be the most challenging to put in place. SOCIAL STYLE can be useful here, as well. For example, verbal encouragement and reminders can act as effective triggers for the Expressive Style, precise tracking and reporting systems can provide welcome triggers for Analyticals, and job duties that present challenging interactions can be a trigger for an Amiable Style person to put new skills to work. When thinking about triggers to put in place in your organization, ask yourself, “what experiences will employees be faced with that will unmistakably call for a trained skill to be put in place?”

Training that Works

The next time you find yourself planning for an upcoming training initiative, take some time to create a separate plan for each of the three components of behavior. If you’re reading this blog, you are probably already experienced in laying plans to provide employees with new abilities. Spend an equal amount of time planning the ways in which you can influence trainee’s motivation to put skills into practice, as well as providing daily triggers (opportunities) to do so, and you will tap into the true potential of training programs.

Dave Ingram is a Project Coordinator at TRACOM Group. His writing has been featured in The Motley Fool, The Houston Chronicle, NYSE Moneysense and Yahoo.

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