Jason O'Neill, Kepner-Tregoe

How many times have you attended a training course and at the end of the week thought to yourself “Wow, I learned some really good skills that I want to use when I get back to the office” and then Monday morning you sit down at your desk but have no clue where to begin?  This is an all too common experience in the business world, particularly in the context of “off-the-shelf training” or generic courses that are offered either to a broad audience by an instructor who just goes through the material like she has 100 times before.

While you want to avoid generic courses with no real-world content, customized training courses tailored for your company’s unique environment are available but can be more expensive and require longer lead times to prepare and conduct, than standard training offers. 

Regardless of whether you’re taking a customized training class with 10 people or a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with 5,000, it’s going to be a challenge when you step out of the classroom and try to apply the learnings to the day-to-day business environment.  Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to make the transition easier. Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of a training course:

1. Choose a provider that focuses on application – It doesn’t matter if the course is generic or custom, make sure the course content and instructors are focused on applying the new skills you’re learning to your business challanges, right in the classroom. Look for providers that dedicate time for this activity and whose instructors will coach you as you apply.

2. Plan ahead – Before attending a course, spend time considering the problems and opportunities that exist within your organization or team and how the content of the course might be used in your company’s environment. You could also have a conversation with your manager or some peers to see how they think your new skills can be applied effectively.

3. Translate as you learn – While the course is going on, make notes about how the things you are learning relate to the problems in your organization.  If you are having trouble “connecting the dots”, consult with the instructor one-on-one during breaks or at the end of a session and ask them to clarify how the concepts could be applied in your context.

4. Develop a written action plan – At the end of the course, it may be tempting to pack up your belongings and leave as quickly as possible.  Before you do, take a few moments to make some notes and outline an action plan (even include some deadlines for yourself) for how you will approach implementing your learnings from the course when you return to work. Organizing your thoughts while the content is still fresh in your short-term memory is a lot easier than trying to recall your ideas a few days later.

5. Seek help – The best training programs include contact information for course instructors and/or offer follow-up question and answer services either via phone or email.  Don’t be afraid to use these resources.

And if you still find yourself getting stuck on Monday morning, contact your training provider and inquire if consulting and/or implementation services are available (either directly from the provider or through a referral). Having a subject matter expert at your side as you try to implement change can significantly increase your probability of success. 

For over 50 years, Kepner-Tregoe has been helping companies boost their problem-solving skills. At KT, we understand that training by itself will not give your company the results you need. That is why we offer training courses that let you work on real-world problems and also offer structured implementation services and expert facilitators who can work side-by-side with your employees to ensure your investments in problem solving training are converted to real value for your organization.

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