Basic skill for a manager: Reinforce what was trained in training

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In my previous post, I make the case that the manager is the most high impact trainer in any organization.  The manager has the ability to subvert anything that was trained merely through one comment or gesture.

But what about the opposite?  What if the manager reinforces what was covered in training? What happens then?

The answer: The employee performs according to the training.

Let’s assume, for now, that the training actually has something valuable in it.  That the people who created the training did the research, know what the proper performance ought to be, and trained a great class designed to help employees on the job. 

The employee leaves the training and now has to apply it to the work environment.

Here are the things that the manager can do to reinforce the training:

1. Ask the employee what he learned in training

How often has this happened?  Not enough!  If an employee goes to a training class, industry conference, safety briefing, or any other “learning”, this should be the first course of action.  It is unlikely that the manager attends all of the training that the employees attend, so now the employee has to share the content with the manager.  It’s the manager’s job to listen.

2. Ask the employee where he plans to apply the training

After learning the content of the training, the manager now needs to identify where she can expect to see the employee to behave differently as a result of the training.  The employee might actually be stumped in answering this (this is a sign that it wasn’t a good training, by the way) and the manager might need to press for specifics.  If it was a training class on using a new capital projects request software, then the employee’s answer is more obvious, “I plan to use the new capital projects request software when making a capital request.”  If the scenario is less applicable to a specific task, such as communications training, the manager may need to work with the employee to identify where he will be applying it.  Try to get as specific an answer as possible, something like “During meetings, I plan to listen more actively and try to understand the idea before saying whether it is a good idea or not.”

3. Look for those moments where the employee should apply the training

After the discussion about what was learned in training and where it is to be applied, the manager needs to actively look for these moments.  On many of the “softer” training classes (communications skills, presentation skills, personality styles) this can be on an ongoing basis, and the contexts are found frequently.  On the “harder” training classes, such as new software training, new process training, or safety training, then they may be more intermittent, but the contexts will arise.

4. Ask the employee to alert you when the training was applied.

Just as the manager can actively look for the trainee’s behaviors to change based on the training class’s context, the employee can point out when the new behaviors were applied.  If it was a presentation class, the employee can report what he did differently for this presentation.

5. Now positively reinforce the employee’s behaviors

If the employee actually does what was trained in training, and it actually seems to make the employee perform better in some capacity (such as adopting a new process, demonstrating a greater awareness of safety, fostering more open communication), then the manager needs to praise the employee for this.

Here are some sample phrases for how to praise an employee:

“I see that you performed on the job what was covered in your training class.  I liked what I saw and I think that this helps.” [Apply any additional details about what was seen and how you perceive it helps.]

“Good job in applying what was covered in your training class.  I can see the difference.” [Provide any specifics about what it was that was applied and what the difference is.]

“Thank you for taking what you learned in the training class and applying it to the job.  I appreciate that!” [Attempt to detail what it was that was transferred from the training class to the job and describe what the difference was].

The more specific and the more immediate this feedback, the better, as this makes the reinforcement stronger.

These sample statements for reinforcing the employees’ behaviors will help you enhance the training, make the training seem more worthwhile, and perhaps, just perhaps, help your team perform better.  The manager is the most high-impact trainer for this reason.

So if you send an employee to training, make it worth the while of both of you, and get the results of the training!

How often have you received reinforcement for a training class you’ve attended?  If you are a manager, how often have you consciously reinforced what was covered in training?

Related articles:

Managers are the most high impact trainers in an organization

Examples of providing expectations to your team

Examples of using expectations to improve your performance feedback

Performance feedback is a means to improve your expectation-providing skills

If you’re the manager, it’s your job not to act surprised

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


2 Responses to “Basic skill for a manager: Reinforce what was trained in training”
  1. davidburkus says:

    Good post. I won’t go into the damage that can be caused when a manager rejects training and says “That’s not how we do things here?” EXACTLY. If it were, you wouldn’t have needed the training.

  2. Thanks, David! The manager should think of training classes as an opportunity to amplify performance for the better. If the training was actually contradictory to what the job expectations are, then it’s the manager’s obligation to give this feedback to the department conducting the training. Either way, the manager needs to positively reinforce what was trained in training, or give corrective feedback to the trainers.

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