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Identifying whether or not a training initiative is effective depends on how well learners are able to apply what they learned to improve job performance. Furthermore, without a significant and observable return on investment, training is seen as a waste of time and valuable resources. However, whether or not a learner is able to successfully transfer his or her knowledge to the workplace isn’t wholly dependent upon the learner. Instead there are many different types of influential factors that affect job training, and, in fact, most of them do not depend on the learner.
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Ten Influential Factors
One of the most important influential factors that affect job training is management support of training initiatives. It is critical that managers foster a climate conducive to learning, support the training initiatives, and encourage professional development. Without management support, there wouldn’t be designated funds for training programs, and workers wouldn’t feel comfortable using new knowledge and skills.
Legitimate Training Needs
The next factor that affects whether or not training is well-received and effectively transferred to the job depends on whether or not the training topic is a valid training need. The best way to validate a training need is to conduct a needs analysis. If a training topic is truly a training need, learners will be actively engaged and willing to learn the new topic and can readily apply it to the workplace.
Effective and Experienced Trainer
Whether coming from in-house or a consulting firm, a trainer must be able to communicate effectively, facilitate a conversation to ensure the needs and expectations of the learners are met, present material clearly and effectively, and make information interesting. An effective trainer also creates a safe and engaging learning environment, actively keeps learners involved, and can adjust appropriately when necessary.
Another factor that is critical to training success is a well-written learning objective. Learning objectives help the instructor guide discussions and help students understand what is expected of them. Students who understand what is expected are more involved and willing to invest energy in pursuit of a goal. To be effective, learning objectives must specify a behavior or performance that a learner should be able to complete at the end of training, a measurable criterion, and any conditions of performance.
Learner Ability and Motivation
To effectively transfer knowledge to the workplace, learners must have the ability and motivation to succeed. Learners need to have ample opportunities to use the training, and they need to perceive the benefit and validity of the training. Learners also need to feel that a change in behavior will lead to a valued outcome or job enrichment.
A learner must also be ready and willing to learn new information. A learner must identify the need to adapt one’s behavior and be able to learn a new skill, and the learner needs to have an open mind to be receptive to a new way of thinking and performing.
Learner Emotional Investment
Adult learners are especially notorious for needing to know why they need to know something. Adults need to see the immediate benefit of applying the new skills, which increases emotional investment and level of engagement. Furthermore, adult learners need to retain an emotional connection to prior experiences that relate to new information.
A trainer needs to ensure learners have an appropriate number of opportunities to practice new skills in the classroom. Allowing students to practice in a controlled, in-class environment fosters the appreciation for feedback and trial-and-error learning. Such activities include discussions, interactive demonstrations, job-instruction training, brainstorming, and case studies.
After students have mastered topics through in-class practice, they need to practice in a controlled out-of-class environment. These practice opportunities yield better retention, and learners have a mentor to provide feedback and guidance. Such out-of-class opportunities include modeling, job rotation, apprentice training, coaching, mentoring, experiential learning, and on-the-job training.
Appropriate Learning Environment
The final influential factor that affects job training is the appropriateness of the learning environment. A classroom needs to be flexible, so it can quickly and easily be rearranged. It needs to be isolated or removed from the workplace, so learners are mentally prepared to separate themselves from normal work activities. Finally, a classroom needs to be effectively lit, ventilated, and arranged to maximize learner comfort and minimize distraction.
As seen in the diagram created by N. Smith, there are a variety of room arrangements that are optimal for specific learning objectives and anticipated outcomes.
- Circle: no definite leader, group and team building, highly conversational, and maximum participation
- Semi-circle or u-shape: clear leader, demonstrates equality of membership, great for brainstorming, and enhanced visual contact for increased communication
- Square or rectangle: more formal, possible “head of the table" syndrome, less participation and communication, less visibility of those in the corner
- Rows: no flexibility, greater instructor control, limited face-to-face communication, and less discussion
- Scattered: less formal, more flexible, facilitates smaller group activities for break-away activities