Getting the Most From Training Programs
Managing Your Learning
We attend training programs for all sorts of reasons. We might want to upgrade our skills, learn new things, or take longer-term training to change careers, or earn an advanced degree.
The method of learning can range from face-to-face training in a classroom to various online formats (like our Bite-Sized Training sessions) and other computer-based training.
The main reason for all training is to learn something new or improve a skill. But what determines how much you learn and how successful the training is? Often it's the effort you put into it.
You can't rely on the instructor to deliver a program that exactly meets your needs. And you can't rely on the person who designed the training, or the person who suggested that you attend in the first place. You must be responsible for your own learning.
This article helps you make the very most of your training opportunities.
Determine Your Training Objectives
Think about what you want to gain from the program. Certainly you'll learn skills you need to do your job better, but what other benefits are there?
- Will the training improve your current performance?
- Will it open new opportunities for you, or will it give you a new competence that you need?
- Will it provide necessary credentials or credibility in your field?
- Will it advance your reputation and expertise?
- Will successful completion of the program affect things like compensation, project assignments and promotions?
- Will you gain self-confidence?
When you're clear about why you're attending the program, you can be a more active learner. Rather than let the training lead you, you'll know what to ask for (and hopefully get) from it.
Aside from skill development, face-to-face training courses can provide excellent networking opportunities. You're likely to have contact with people you might not otherwise meet. This includes people from other departments, from other companies, and with different backgrounds and levels of experience.
With any type of training, you gain access to subject matter experts. Developing relationships with instructors helps you build a great source of future support and information.
Determine What Type of Training to Attend
There may be many training options available to you. Traditional, face-to-face classroom training is popular. However, this limits your ability to choose when and how to get the training. Therefore, many people use self-directed training that's delivered more conveniently. Options here include distance learning, computer-based learning, and online learning. The better the course suits your needs and fits your schedule, the more you'll probably gain.
Here are some factors to consider:
- What are your time constraints?
- What are your learning preferences?
- Are you sufficiently self-motivated to complete a self-directed course?
- How well do others rate the course?
- Does the course meet your needs and expectations?
- Is the course content reliable and relevant?
- Will completing the course earn you the recognition and/or credentials you need?
- Will you be able to get the time off or work coverage needed to complete the course, and will you be able to access the resources you need to complete it?
- What ongoing support will you need? Do you need specific resources to be able to use the training? For example, learning a new software program won't be very helpful if you don't have access to the software at your workstation.
A Decision Matrix Analysis can help you determine which option best meets your training needs.
Make the Most of Your Training Time
Take an active role in your learning. The instructors won't know what you need unless you tell them.
- Participate – With face-to-face training, ask questions and participate in the sessions. With online training, participate in chats and forums. Participation is a great way to improve your learning experience, and it gives you an opportunity to express your ideas and get immediate feedback. You can often learn as much from other students as you can from the trainer.
Communicate with the instructor – If the course isn't meeting your needs, speak to the instructor. Be prepared with a list of things you want to learn. If your needs are beyond the scope of the course, ask for resources you can consult on your own. If it's cost-effective, you may even consider asking for one-on-one training.
Self-directed learning options may not have as much flexibility as you need. Do what you can to make sure your needs are met, and remember to consider this when choosing the type of training course to attend.
- Use learning tools – Learning tools can maximize your focus and retention. SQ3R is a great technique for learning written material. When taking notes, mind maps are a highly effective way to create connections that you'll remember. You'll find many other learning tools on the Learning Skills menu.
- Look toward the future – You may want to ignore parts of the course that don't seem immediately relevant to your current position. But remember, developing skills for the future is an important part of any training course. You don't know what you may want to do, or be asked to do, at some point in the future. If the course designers (who are subject matter experts) believe that information is relevant enough to present, it's probably something you should know. Keep an open mind, and make a conscious choice to learn as much as you can from the course.
Plan for After the Course
Learning is strengthened by doing. If you simply attend a course and don't make an effort to apply the skills and ideas you learned, you'll forget a lot of what you've learned. To get the most from any training course, make a plan to use the information immediately – and repeatedly.
- Tell your boss what you learned and how it will help your performance.
- Consider giving a presentation to your team about what you learned.
- Seek opportunities to use your new skills and knowledge on the job or in the community.
- Provide feedback on the training course to your boss and/or the training organization. Include what you enjoyed and what you didn't like, and offer ideas on how to improve the course in the future.
- Teach your new skills to others. Training or coaching others helps ensure that your skills remain fresh in your mind.
- Look for follow-up training opportunities. Keeping your skills up-to-date is essential in today's ever-changing work environment.
Training programs provide an excellent opportunity to improve your skills and performance. If you simply show up and do the work, you probably won't make the most of the opportunity. By taking a more active role in your training decisions, and by knowing what you want to get from the course, you'll maximize your learning and understanding.
Think about your training goals, and make sure you find the right type of course for you and your organization. Remember that effective training goes beyond the program itself. Actively use the skills and information immediately after completing the course, work with your boss to find ways to apply and share your knowledge, and take responsibility for your learning.