Jason O'Neill, Kepner-Tregoe

Conferences, seminars and training courses provide a tremendous opportunity for employees to learn new skills, gain exposure to external perspectives, and acquire tools for making the organization better. The chance to step away from their normal job for a few days, to network, and learn can have a big impact on employee morale and the individual’s productivity. But what about when they come back to work? Often, this is where the difficulty begins.

The real value to the organization of investing in training comes not from the event itself but how the learnings and experiences are applied when the employee returns to improve processes and operations. An employee who comes back to work after training full of excitement and new ideas can very quickly fall back into old habits and lose the potential that the training provided them. This situation can be avoided with some simple steps to keep the employee engaged and use training as a springboard to implement change.

Spreading the word

Training provides a chance for employees to learn new skills and form new ideas with others of like mind. Upon returning to work, employees will often find themselves in an environment where others “don’t get it” and concepts that seemed simple in training are now difficult to explain. The reason for this is a lack of context.

In the training course, the students are in a controlled environment where everyone followed the same path of knowledge and activities. Back at work, each person has a different context and frame of reference. To overcome this, employees must recognize that their role has now switched – it is their job to share what they learned in the context of the work environment.

Most people find this easiest when they start early (while they are going through the training course) translating the concepts into the context of workplace processes, activities and behaviors. Be sure to ask your trainer to help you do this. Once back at work, the conversation about training can then become: “I learned xyz and that can be used to improve our situation here by…”

Untangling the technology

In a world where technology underpins almost every facet of daily life, implementing process change requires first untangling the processes from the tooling (normally software) that enables them. In the past, processes were the center of the workplace with people and technology playing a supporting role to enable them. Recently, the focus has shifted and many business processes are now dictated by the way technology works. This shift has created a significant constraint on how processes can be changed to leverage new ideas.

Employees returning from training need to understand what constraints their work environment has based on its use of technology and keep this in mind when framing the context for sharing ideas learned during the training course. Changes that seem like they should be simple may be much more complicated (and in some cases unfeasible) because of technology entanglements.

Respecting the legacy

The most difficult part of process change isn’t the process at all… its people. Humans are creatures of habit and introducing change can trigger a fear response and resistance.

It is tempting to think of change as a point-in-time event (changing from x to y) and comparing the proposed state only to the current state. Instead, consider that each change builds on all the changes that were made in the past and sets the stage for many more changes that will happen in the future. 

By adopting this perspective, the employee will be able to understand why the current environment is the way it is, think about how the change is likely to impact others, enable them to position their ideas to minimize fear, and make the message easier to accept.

Leverage the network

When an employee comes back from training, their focus shifts back to the work environment and the changes that need to be made there. In most cases, training events have provided an opportunity for the employee to network and develop relationships with others who are facing the same challenges in their organizations. Leveraging the network of contacts built at the training course, conference or seminar is a great way to share ideas and experiences about how to implement change back at work with people who are going through similar experiences. Get contact information for these folks and connected with them on LinkedIn so you can continue the conversation after the training is done.

Ask the experts

Mastery of the subject never happens at the training facility, but will come only from application, experience, and practice. Fortunately, some training providers offer resources to students after the class to ask questions, access supplementary information, connect with subject matter experts and in some cases, receive consulting services. 

Training providers are an excellent source of information and guidance. Many of them can help you implement process changes within your organization after the training course is complete. The employee should be sure to ask what services are available and not hesitate to use them.

Kepner-Tregoe has been providing problem solving training and consulting to companies across a variety of industries for over 50 years. Are you interested in leveraging this universal skill to level-up your workforce? If so, the problem-solving experts at Kepner-Tregoe are here to help.

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