It’s been many years now since my son learned to drive, but I still recall the first time he got behind the wheel with his learner’s permit to take the family on an outing. The destination was one he was familiar with. I calculate that he’d been a passenger in a car going to that destination at least 1,800 times before he attempted to make the journey as a driver instead of as a passenger.
Guess what? He backed out of the driveway and then turned to ask, “How do I get there?”
The previous 1,800 times he made the trip, he had been a passenger—and his job was not to navigate. He was completely unprepared, even though in my head he should know how to get there. My son had driver’s education training as well. I can tell you emphatically that those six classroom sessions did not prepare him to be a skillful driver. Only hundreds of hours of practice did that.
What does this story have to do with training and development, you ask?
We grossly overestimate employees’ abilities to execute tasks on the job that they haven’t done before… but they’ve seen done by others dozens or even hundreds of times. We overestimate the value that the formal training they receive will prepare them to execute in the workplace.
Companies, including our own, put a lot of energy into designing the formal instruction they give to employees. They may even do an excellent job of making that training highly interactive and hands-on, giving the trainee lots of practice opportunities during the training experience. I can tell you with 100% certainty, though, that even the best training will not fully prepare your worker to perform in the workplace.
You have to consider coaching. You have to plan for it. You have to design it into the learning experience and know that it is something you need to remain committed to for months, not hours.
Case in Point:
We’ve put our entire sales team through extensive sales training that started in 2015. The first layer was for our VP of Sales. She went through formal classes and then shifted into a blended approach of 1:1 coaching sessions followed by monthly 2-hour group training sessions. After she finished foundational training, the other members of her sales team began their training—with her providing ongoing coaching to them.
The results for us have been remarkable. We hit the Inc 5000 fastest growing companies in 2015 at 4049. If we applied again today, we would be at 3300 on that same list. Coaching was critical to helping us get there.
Coaching is required beyond the sales team. When you promote someone into project management or bring on a new employee, for example, you need to provide a lot of coaching for them to maximize their success with you. Here are three tips to consider:
1. Coaching needs to be a regular occurrence
It needs to be a regular part of how you build their skill set. A single sit-down session with a mentor is not enough to instill lasting behavior change. Regular meetings are critical, and virtual coaching can work just fine depending on the distribution of your workforce.
2. Coaching needs to be proactive… rather than reactive
I call reactive coaching “swoop and poop”coaching where the coach waits until you make a mistake and then swoops in to tell you what you did wrong and how to do better next time. Proactive coaching means you sit down together before a project begins and you routinely check in as the project unfolds. You discuss next steps together and you design checkpoints to assess how things are going and make course corrections. It takes time and it takes planning.
3. Coaching needs to be connected to the formal training you offer
Our clients have the most success when they incorporate the coaching into their formal training curriculums, typically as part of the post-training reinforcement phase. Make sure your formal training programs connect to the way coaches actually support your learners and vice versa.
When designed and implemented effectively, training can change behaviors and improve performance. But it’s a poor investment if it doesn’t get coupled with coaching.