Why Training By Itself Does Not Change Behaviors

by Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I work for a large financial services firm, and we are on our fourth round of training vendors to teach us how to be more effective at working with our clients. Each time, I have learned one or two new things, but nothing sticks. In fact, sometimes they have preached different things, so I am left conflicted. This time takes us out of the office and away from doing what we are paid to do. I am interested in expanding my capabilities, but how do I actually start doing things differently, and which way is the right way?

Joe F.

Training
Image source: Pixabay

Dear Joe,

Thank you for writing on one of my personal favorite topics: using training to bring about behavior or cultural change. We develop and deliver customized training, so I am very familiar with your plight. The problem is that training in and of itself doesn’t bring about change. If you think about the human condition in most firms today, there isn’t enough time to do all of the things we want or need to do. So, we default back to what’s easy, the same habits we have used over and over again. We leave a great training session filled with new ideas and motivated to do something different but then we get back to our desks, look at the emails we haven’t opened, start to return phone calls and lose all the new learning. It’s not that the skills trained were not good, or that the person learning them wasn’t smart, it is just that we can’t simply integrate a new idea without some other sort of support for the change.

This is not to say that training isn’t important – continued skill development is essential to keeping up with changes, new advancements and to staying cutting edge. There are a number of things that make training more effective. If you can personally integrate any of these or encourage your employer to do so, it will not only make the training more interesting, but you’ll actually find you change some behaviors.

  1. Be sure there are clear next steps. We were just reviewing a program this week a client firm is using and the “take aways” are pages and pages of things to do. No one can process that much information. If this is the case in your training, try to pull out the pieces that matter most to you. Create a series of clear and easy step-by-step changes you can implement.
  2. Include tools for reinforcement. A nice binder filled with pages and pages of information looks expensive and worthwhile, but how do you use it on a daily basis? If tools are not supplied, create your own – even if you have to resort to post-it notes, reminders on an app or a buddy system with one of your colleagues, find some way to provide yourself with reminders of what you want to do differently.
  3. Reinforce with other learning or training. There is so much available online and in articles for free. Find other resources to learn new ways to apply what you have learned or different ideas to enhance it. The more you expose yourself on a continued basis, the more likely the new behaviors will take hold.

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