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Successful Training: The Human Element

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The en masse training approach has been around for a long time. This is where all of the staff files into the firm’s conference room, or some hotel offsite, and sits together for two days to learn a lot of material on some topic. It’s the most cost-efficient method for the organization, and easier to execute than one-on-one training, but is it effective?

Adult learners have different preferences for taking in information; some are auditory, some kinesthetic and some visual, for example. In addition, another important component for adult learners to really learn and take in new information is to make the information delivered meaningful to them. They must understand the context for the information, and be able to apply it to their own lives – making it valuable and useful for them. Ultimately the goal of training is to change behavior somehow – to become better at something, or more efficient, or more effective. To make the change happen, the adult learner has to see why what they are learning is important to them, and make the connection with the desired behavior to come out of the training.

Training is necessary, and it’s an expensive endeavor for most financial services and advisory firms. In order to make training high impact, there are a few things financial advisory firms want to consider before they spend the money to train:

  1. Make the material relevant and timely. Can employees apply it to their day-to-day lives right away? Make sure whatever is being trained on matters to the audience. Asking what needs they have, or what they’d like to learn about – in advance – can be helpful in answering this.
  2. Know all you can about the audience. While you may want to use training to teambuild, having people with very different roles learning the exact same information in the same way does not make sense. The material should be geared to the audience and their needs, concerns and interests. To allow for this, you may need to separate learners by their learning level or job function to have the highest impact.
  3. Build in reinforcement at the beginning. To make behavioral change, adults need to practice a new approach 21 days in a row. Otherwise, most will fall back into old habits. What reinforcements can you build in at the outset so that the training continues and is practiced? Think about the ongoing learning experience before you even start the training. Having a reinforcement plan is key.
  4. Share information and new learnings in bite-sized pieces. Allow the learners to practice with it and use it somehow for their “real” lives. The more they can make the connection to what they are doing and how useful the information can be for them, the more willing they will be to try something new, or just to listen.
  5. Check for understanding. Whether it’s through a formal assessment process or just by querying the participants in the room, find out the knowledge level before, during and after the training. What have they learned, and specifically what is their plan to apply it? Don’t just tell them; seek the information from them to verify and validate.
  6. Have an ongoing plan. Too many firms believe in the “one and done” approach: They invest in costly training once and expect it will carry into new behaviors indefinitely.

Remember that for any training to work well, it needs to consider the human element. Bring it into your next training session to get the bigger bang for your training bucks.

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