How to Reinforce Your Employee Development Programs to Drive Success

An effective way to increase learning transfer and ensure new knowledge turns into lasting behaviors is through a reinforcing activity such as group coaching. And it’s just starting to get on the radar of innovative HR & L&D leaders that want their programs to have real lasting impact.

Megan K. Dittman
Principle Talent Consultant, MKD HR Consulting

As HR professionals we are concerned about the development of our employees. We know that developing our talent is key to organizational success, retention, and career satisfaction just to name a few. Most of the time our talent appreciates these opportunities, and even gives top reviews of the learning opportunity. However, what you may not realize is that this investment is unrealized without understanding the concept of the “forgetting curve.”  

 

The “forgetting curve” was first coined in a study completed by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885. What Ebbinghaus found is that the forgetting curve is exponential in nature; meaning that memory retention is 100% at the time of the learning activity, and then drops quickly after that unless were view it repeatedly. Within one hour, people forget an average of 50% of the information they’ve learned, at 24 hours, they forget 70% of it, and within a week, they forget 90%.[1]

 

There have been numerous studies over the years further supporting Ebbinghaus’s original study. One notable study in 2004 by Dr. BrentPeterson at Columbia University indicates that 25% of learning effectiveness comes from the learning event, 25% from preparation for the learning event and 50% from follow-up activities.[2]  Additionally, his study showed that 85 % of training budgets were spent on the learning event, 10% on preparation and 5% on follow-up activities. What this shows us is that organizations are investing an incredible amount of money in training but not getting the impact or return that could be possible because of where they are placing their dollars. We need to re-allocate our training dollars and rethink our approach!

  

Group Coaching serves as an effective post-training activity.

An effective way to increase learning transfer and ensure new knowledge gained turns into lasting behaviors exhibited, is through a post-training and reinforcing activity such as group coaching. As we know from the above studies, the real learning happens after the training.

To increase learning transfer, what trainees need is the space to process, further discuss, and work on the concepts to which they have just been exposed. Group coaching is an effective way to allow the trainees to discuss the theoretical and practical applications of the training they just received.

And it’s just starting to get on the radar of innovative HR & L&D leaders that want their programs to have real lasting impact.

 

For instance, a large manufacturing company that invests heavily in its future leaders has many functional leadership development programs. The Head of Supply Chain at this Fortune 100 company is concerned about what happens to her participants after the year-long rotational training.She said, “Once the program is over, we wish them well and they go off into the ether.”  However, she understands how group coaching is an effective way to put the training concepts into action with the help of a coach. She is also excited by the prospect of keeping these leaders connected to each other after the training program as they fine-tune their newly learned skills.

 

With group coaching the learning is multiplied.

The goal of group coaching is to engage participants in meaningful dialogue, and to develop new ways of understanding, feeling, thinking, and performing. This can lead to the active implementation of new ideas; novel solutions to complex problems; and more innovative thinking.[3]  In group coaching, a coach is placed with a group of 5-7 individuals that all have a common, shared, and high-level goal.In this example, the shared, common goal is to reinforce the training concepts.Ideally, the group meets with their coach bi-weekly in 90-minute sessions where they individually set goals for themselves that align with the training concepts.

 

The process is an iterative one and gains momentum as group trust and psychological safety increase. Strong group coaches are skilled in creating psychological safety in the group and at the individual level which is critical for the learning process. Creating this safe space allows the participants to feel comfortable reflecting and generating their own insights. After goals are set, members share their experiences, successes and struggles related to the topic, and then work together to ask powerful questions of each other to find practical solutions and options. The coach facilitates these sessions with the intent of helping each participant come to their own solutions and insights through the power of the group.  Ultimately, the coach serves as an accountability partner to the group driving lasting and sustained behavior change.  The participants serve as a support structure to each other buoyed by their shared experiences which provide the motivation and inspiration needed to make the change.

 

What is especially helpful in group coaching, versus 1:1 coaching, is the shared learning that takes place in the group.   Learning certainly occurs in-between sessions as participants put their individual actions into play, but it also occurs during coaching sessions as the coach facilitates a discussion around outcomes and learnings. In essence the learning is multiplied. This shared experience between participants also reinforces the understanding that others are likely facing the same struggles and challenges in applying their new learning yet could be taking different approaches. Some approaches may work better than others.

 

Case studies on group coaching have found that often the “aha” moments happen between sessions. Therefore, designing short homework assignments or partner connects between sessions to foster further reflection is important to maximize the learning benefits. During the planning phase, group coaches and L&D leaders should consider building the  program sessions with this holistic curriculum in mind.

 

To maximize your learning investment, don’t forget to consider the post-training activity. Now that hybrid work is the new norm, consider reallocating the travel portion of your training budget to the post-training activity; this will boost the return on your investment. Reach out to practitioners that specialize in group coaching programs to tailor a program to your learning needs. In addition, there are a multitude of technology platforms that exist to deliver these custom-made programs for your hybrid workforce as well.

 

Want to overcome the "Forgetting Curve" and discuss how group coaching could benefit your organization? Connect with Megan through her site at MKD HR Consulting.  


[1] Kohn, Art. “Brain Science: The ForgettingCurve – the Dirty Secret of Corporate Training.” 13 Mar 2014. Learning Solutions. https://learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1379/brain-science-the-forgetting-curvethe-dirty-secret-of-corporate-training

[2] Libby, Drake. “Corporate training is broken; so why are you still doing it?” TrainingJournal, 14 March 2014. https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/feature/corporate-training-broken-so-why-are-you-still-doing-it

[3] Brown, S. W., & Grant, A. M. “From GROW to GROUP…”

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