Published: May 25, 2015 | Comments
One of the perennial problems training faces is how to link what people learn in training to actually doing things on the job. After all, if people’s job behavior does not change, what was the purpose of the training? Action Plans, also known as intention goals, are part of the answer for linking training to doing, and they can be done in lots of creative ways, but have specific ingredients to be effective.
Action Planning Ingredients
Good action planning consists of four ingredients—reflection, actions, accountability, and follow-up.
Reflecting on what was learned in the training
The individual takes a moment to look over notes and training materials, to identify what new learning occurred, as well as what information/skills the individual was reminded about through the training. Training is not always about new learning of skills and knowledge, as it can be quite effective as a reminder of things the trainee already knew.
The trainer can help with this reflection by doing a short activity at the end of each module or before each break that asks participants to look back over their notes and mark the 2 or 3 things that they most want to remember, or having them briefly “nudge their neighbor” and tell them 3 ways they can use what was just covered on the job, or some similar activity.
Reflection is an important step in cementing the learning and helping the participant review everything that was covered over a period of time.
Actions to implement learning after training is over
What will the learner actually do with what was learned? The individual learner should focus on a few actions that are specific and measurable, like any good goal, and should also indicate when the action will be taken. The when can be a specific timeframe (over the next 30 days, on the next workday, next week) or it can be a specific trigger (when an agent asks this kind of question…, when I am providing feedback one-on-one to an agent…, when I am preparing the next staffing schedule…). The learner has to set these actions for themselves, although a trainer can give an application assignment for the learners to incorporate into their work after training.
It is important to give time before training is over for each learner to set the actions they want to take. Too often, action planning is thrown away in a rush of activity and leave-taking at the end of training. Make it a planned activity at the end of training that, once completed, they have to share with someone else in the class and/or participate in a debrief discussion on their plans before doing the closing, the evaluation, and gathering materials to depart.
The action plan has been created, but does it just sit in a folder collecting dust or is it actually implemented? Learners need to hold themselves accountable for their plans, and they often have to devise their own accountability plan. Some ways learners can be accountable include:
- Sharing their plan with someone before leaving the classroom if they are going to have future contact with these people. Even if no future contact is anticipated, simply saying the plans out loud to someone else can create some small amount of accountability.
- Determining who they will share their plan with that they will have on-going contact with—a co-worker, a significant other, a supervisor, or other person that will then know the learners’ intentions and help hold them accountable for doing.
- As part of an application assignment, reporting back to the class, the instructor, or their boss, or submitting a report on what they did to use the learning.
- Using an email list or social media (such as a private group in Facebook or other corporate platform) for learners to report back to the class and the trainer how they have used what was learned in class—both successes and failures, since we learn from both.
In many ways, this ingredient is part of the accountability ingredient. Telling someone what they intend to do is much more effective if that someone follows-up and asks how the action plan is going. Having a follow-up class session and/or reporting back on an email list or social media are also effective follow-ups.
Additionally, the trainer can send out an email or periodic emails reminding learners of their action plans. In a corporate setting, trainers should always share with the participants’ supervisors/managers a high level overview of the content covered and examples of changes in behavior the supervisors should see so that they can follow-up with their employee.
If your employee attends training, have them report back to you what they learned and how it will be useful to them on the job, and then check back with them periodically to see if they are using what they learned. Allotting time in a team meeting for the participant to share their new learning/reminders with the rest of the team is also effective for keeping it present in the learner’s mind.
If everyone on your team goes through the same training, then allot 5-10 minutes in each of the next several team meetings to ask how they are using what they learned or do an enhancement activity related to the content. In ICMI’s Online Training Pass, the Agent courses’ Facilitator Guides contain suggested enhancement activities that can be used in team meetings.
Sample Action Plan Activities
Action Plan activities have lots of variety and creativity. Here are three different activities that you can use and add variety to your training.
3-2-1 Action Plans
This is a very simple action plan that is appropriate for training that is less than one-day in length.
On an index card or a piece of paper, have participants answer the following three questions:
3. What are three things that you learned or were reminded about today?
2. What are two things that you want to do with today’s material?
1. What is one thing you are going to do tomorrow?
Participants should share their one thing with at least one other person in the class. Also, they should be encouraged to share their entire plan with their supervisor or a co-worker in order to have accountability.
Job Stories or Triggered Action Plans
Participants create one or more job stories that have them using the training content in job situations by filling in the blanks below:
An alternative approach is to have learners answer the following questions
Goal: What goal(s) do you have for putting the learning into practice?
Situation: For each goal, what situation(s) will you be in when the need for a goal-related action arises?
Action: For each situation, what specific action(s) will you take when you enter the situation?
Again, participants should be encouraged to share their job stories with someone else to create accountability. Job stories are also a great way to report back to a manager about a training session.
Barriers and Enablers Action Plans
This action plan requires learners to think about what obstacles they will encounter in applying their learning, as well as what tools they have for achieving their goals.
Action plans, when effectively implemented in training, can help learners plot the way forward and develop their commitment to implement the learning.
They can begin at the very start of training when the trainer asks participants, “What do you want to get out of this session?”
Then they can develop progressively throughout the training when the trainer asks participants to reflect on the content just covered and interact with it in some manner.
Finally, they culminate in a small list of actions to take after training.
In order to bridge the gap between learning and performance, effective action planning activities will include reflection, action, accountability, and follow-up.
What is your favorite way to do action planning in training? Share them in the Comments below.