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Making Training Stick: Follow These 3 Principles to Get the Most Out of Training

EverythingHR Staff | 02/15/2019 | Blog


For adults to apply what we learn from training – meaning: to change behaviors or apply new skills – we need a reason. We all know that creating new habits is hard. And when companies spend money for employee training, they want to see results.

So, how do you get those results?

As a training professional and instructional designer, I am constantly reminded of the importance of tapping into well-established adult learning principles so that training participants get the most out of training and they return to the workplace ready and willing to apply their new set of skills.

I am struck at how often training participants dread training and describe their past training experiences as “a waste of time” or “So boring. I didn’t get anything out of it.” As a training professional who is passionate about training, this hurts me to hear that they have received poorly designed and delivered training. When people are ignited, inspired and involved in learning, they want to learn.

It’s important to establish that presentations are not training. Too often, in our rush to get results, we treat behavior change and skill acquisition as filing up a tank in a vehicle. Misapplying a presentation to a training needed is like filling up a car’s tank with water rather than fuel.

Below are three core principles of adult learning to apply when designing and delivering employee training.

  1. Build on what they already know. Adults have experience and knowledge, so tapping into their own understanding of the topic will help them connect to the content more meaningfully. For example, in our Leadership Academy program, before introducing participants to new skills for better leading, we ask them to discuss their own experiences as a direct report, so they tune into what inspires them (and doesn’t inspire them) by the leaders they have had in their own lives. This helps them to tune into the learning as they can reflect on their own experiences and topic material connects to their own lives to help them to become the best leader they can be. The exercise comes up throughout the five sessions as they reflect own experience and how the learning points connect to their own experience.
  1. Allow them to see the potential benefits of gaining knowledge. Adults see the real value when they can answer this question, “What’s in it for Me (WIIFM)?” Every person has talents and experiences. When they see the connection of what is being taught in real and meaningful ways that resonate with them, they will want to apply the learning. This is so much different than doing something because we are told to do it. One of the most gratifying pieces of feedback I have ever received from a class participant was when he told me how he not only applied his skills to his direct reports, he also applied it to his personal life. He continued, “what I learned changed my relationship with my six-year-old son and that means more to me than anything in the world.” I call that a big WIIFM.
  1. Engage learners in meaningful ways. When the learning process engages trainees and provides them opportunities to connect the learning to their careers and lives, which can involve practicing, teaching to others, discussing how the concepts benefit their world, they will be excited to apply the learning content to their everyday. For example, in a knife safety class for restaurant employees, I have asked participants to tape two fingers together (on the same hand) and then tie their shoes. When they experience the difficulty of such a simple daily task, they quickly and immediately feel the impact of a potential workplace injury. This is far more impactful than providing a list of do’s and don’ts.

Vicki Halsey’s book, Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences that Connect, Inspire, and Engage, states on this topic, “A shift in focus will help you rebalance the learning equation, place the spotlight on the learners, engender active rather than passive learning, and change how you teach so you and the learners really do bring the best to the endeavor and bring out brilliance.”

However one conducts training, look for ways to involve participants with active, hands-on, interesting, and personally relevant activities. Such activities will keep employees talking about the topics so the messages stay fresh in their minds. Get them involved as players, not just observers, and you’re more likely to get the results that you are hoping for.


“Making Training Stick” is a series of articles designed to help employers maximize results from their employee training programs. For personalized assistance with your training needs, feel free to contact our training department at training@everythinghr.com.


About the Author

A training professional since 2000, Carol draws on her years of business experience. Her dynamic training style makes her training sessions vibrant, impactful, and fun for the learners. She provides training in both English and Spanish.

She has been an Employee Training Specialist at UCLA in the department of Environment, Health & Safety, the Office of Affirmative Action Compliance with Los Angeles County and for over five years with Employers Group. Carol has facilitated hundreds of classes and designed training curriculum on a wide range of workplace training topics. She is committed to implementing innovative and interactive methods to make training experiences meaningful for class participants.

Some of  Carol’s training topics include: Leadership Skills, Communication Skills, Customer Service, Harassment Prevention, Teamwork, Facilitation, and many more.

Interested in scheduling your company’s training with Carol? Fill out the form below to be contacted by a member of our training staff!

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