Training People for Successful Change

Posted by Dave Kemp on September 7, 2015

Training

What’s really required when training people for successful change? My colleague, Alastair, wrote recently about the factors that lead us to reimplement projects, and I’ve written on how to gain engagement from stakeholders. But (and putting the technology to one side for the moment), you could argue that a good implementation boils down to just two things: getting users and other stakeholders genuinely engaged, and effectively training anyone impacted by the change in the new ways of working in such a way that the future not only looks like a better place, but one where they understand what they need to do, and how and why as well.

 

But just to make the implementer’s life harder, Engagement and Training are not the same thing. There’s an aphorism that makes the point: “Hire the attitude, train the skill”. And if you google “Maslov Engagement”, you’ll find models that map out levels of employee engagement, but say nothing about training the new ways. Of course, these dimensions are connected – a disengaged team is hard to train, for example – but you can map levels of engagement (for example, through Leadent’s Real Change Readiness assessment ™) to help you understand where your team is at mentally, and then from there identify what needs to happen to get their engagement, and what needs to be trained.

 

Engagement covers many factors, but here I want to pick up the training dimension, having been prompted to reflection on this by an article in Professional Manager discussing “The Way We Learn”.

 

Training, for maximum effectiveness and a successful implementation, usually does need to be more than an e-learning or passive lecturing exercise, especially where:

  • A change readiness assessment shows levels of disengagement.
  • There are process and business objectives changes behind any technology changes.
  • Technology changes are significant.
  • You want to be sure that field based staff who need to be out there, and who are not always easy to communicate to and with, have actually “got it”.
  • You want to be sure that the way we’ve always done it becomes the way we used to do it.

 

Good training is not just about what is taught, but how. Typical factors considered here include:

  • Delivery by eLearning or face-to-face?
  • Methods – mixing lectures and practicals?
  • Should you Tell or Sell the messages?
  • Are you training process, technology, or both?
  • Are you trading operational time and risk against the time for training?  What’s the optimal balance?
  • Should you deliver in a single course or multiple sessions? What time can be spared from business as usual?
  • How close to go-live is the most effective time to train?
  • Do you need a custom course, or would an off the shelf package suffice?

 

And it doesn’t stop there because it isn’t just about how you teach, it’s about how your delegates learn. The article from Professional Manager reminded me that gurus like Kolb, and Honey and Mumford (or indeed, ask any teacher) have posited that delegates have individual learning styles, and any given individual will be dominant in one style, and weaker in others. While we can often see the stereotypes when they’re sat next to us, remembering to consider learning styles when we’re building the course is also important, driving factors for consideration that should shape the course. For example, are delegates practical people; what knowledge do they have and need; how do the changes affect them and so on?  Does your Training Needs Analysis consider delegates’ learning needs, as well as the “what they need to know” list?

 

Now, I’d not recommend that training comes down to 1-to-1 sessions (let’s leave that level for line managers to pick up, and follow through where needed), but if we’re going to get the most out of our training, we should give some thought to the prevalent styles. How best can we shape the training to suit the needs and preferences of the delegates? How far should we go in helping them get to grips with their new world? What is the risk to your business if you don’t go far enough?

 

And it’s that last point that’s key. Ultimately, successful change depends on getting engagement and training right. If you don’t, you run the risk that the implementation fails, whether obviously, or in more subtle ways (The “silent yes”)

 

Good training mitigates that operational risk; it gets people to the new world on their terms as well as the project’s. It reduces the risk of fall back by engaging delegates on their terms, and, unfortunately for a part of our business model (see Alastair’s blog), you avoid the need for a rectification project to follow up the original one.

 

But all things considered, I’d echo Alastair – it’s better to get it right first time.

 

A final point. Getting it right – doing the right thing for users, and our clients in all senses, is key to our approach at Leadent. It’d be great to talk to you if you think that philosophy applies to you too.

 

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Dave Kemp

Dave’s workforce management expertise is rivalled only by the variety of organisations that he has supported through business transformation initiatives, including many in public services. Since joining Leadent, he has worked with the Environment Agency, University College London and Transport for London, as well as many utilities to help them transform their ways of working.