Helping public servants turn training into impact
Training ensures our staff have the skills they need to deliver the best services for our customers. However, many staff face barriers when trying to use what they’ve learned in training. Behavioural insights can help managers address the barriers and empower their staff to apply the skills they have learned.
- The challenge: Skills learned in training are not always put into practice in the workplace.
- What we did: We worked with two NSW Government frontline agencies to learn how best to encourage staff to use skills from training in their regular work.
- What we learned: Training is more likely to be used when the behaviour is easy to do, the learnings become habits, and the work environment reinforces those behaviours.
- How can I apply this? The next time your staff need training, think about how you can encourage and reinforce that training in the workplace.
The disconnect between the training environment and the work environment means that training alone is unlikely to cause long term behaviour change.
There are a range of reasons that training may not get put into practice:
- Difficulty applying the skills outside of training scenarios
- Lack of confidence
- Few opportunities to use the skills in the workplace
- A belief that other colleagues are not applying the skills
What we did
We worked with two frontline agencies in the NSW Government to help them make lessons from training stick – and make an impact on their customers.
What we learned
Make it easy for staff to implement new skills
Managers need to set clear processes for staff to follow so that they know when and how to make decisions in unfamiliar situations.
- Rules of thumb. Turn the key take-aways from training into memorable rules of thumb for your staff. This will help people make the best decision in stressful or unfamiliar situations. For example, create staff email templates for common communications with customers. The rule of thumb can be: if you have to email a customer about topic X, use template X.
- Decision aids provide clear guidance on how to make decisions when faced with a complex choice. A simple chart with a ‘if a customer enquires about X, do Y’ type of branching diagram can help staff make the right decision quickly.
- Changing situational cues are effective at modifying behaviour. You can change a person’s environment to signal the appropriate behaviour. Example situational cues include posters with guidance displayed in the workplace. Posters and visual aids can prompt people to perform the correct behaviour in the setting where it needs to be performed.
Turn the skills learned in training into habits
Skills learned through training are unlikely to become routine practices if staff do not have the chance to use them regularly. Staff may want to use their new skills, but either forget or don’t know how to.
- Skills can be forgotten or neglected if they are not used frequently, so it is important to provide plenty of opportunities for practice.
- Training top ups. Staff may struggle to use each aspect of training, particularly if the session covers a lot of material. Refresher courses can help to reinforce learnings.
- If/then action plans help staff to plan ahead for instances in which they can use the skills, so they are ready to respond when the situation arises. For example, request your staff to fill in their own planned responses to a range of workplace situations.
Set up a supportive environment
Staff may be reluctant to practice new ways of working if they think that their colleagues are not adjusting their behaviour.
- Regular feedback from managers can show that leaders support the change in behaviour and gives them an opportunity to model that behaviour to their staff.
- Establish training buddies (or groups) who can check in on each other, share learnings, and motivate one another to apply what they have learnt.
- Report back at team meetings. This shows the team ways the lessons can be applied. It also helps to set expectations for correct behaviour.
How can I apply this?
When planning training, you need to consider more than just what happens in the training room. You can run an amazing training session but if people don’t put it into practice afterwards then it’s no benefit to your staff or customers.
Think about the next piece of training your staff need to do. How can you make it easier for your staff to follow through and implement what they have learned? What opportunities do staff have to practice their skills so they can use it when the time is right? How might you create a supportive environment where your staff can learn from one another and see what the correct behaviour is?
Want help applying behavioural insights so staff make the most of training?
Book a clinic with the BIU today.